Justice Anthony Kennedy, who authored the Supreme Court’s landmark June ruling on marriage equality across the U.S., said that public officials should step down instead of doing something they saw as “morally wrong,” seeming to refer to Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, SFGate.com reported Tuesday. Davis had refused to issue marriage licenses to homosexuals on religious grounds even after the ruling.
At an event at Harvard Law School, a student asked Kennedy whether officials were bound to follow the “new insights” by the justices on abortion and marriage issues. “The rule of law is that, as a public official in performing your legal duties, you are bound to enforce the law,” Kennedy told Harvard Law School students, without mentioning Davis’ name, according to the SFGate.com.
The 79-year-old justice also said that he felt for officials who faced “difficult moral questions” when their religious beliefs clashed with legal authorities. Such a clash “requires considerable introspection,” Kennedy reportedly said.
“But certainly, in an offhand comment, it would be difficult for me to say that people are free to ignore a decision by the Supreme Court,” Kennedy added, stating that the officials have the duty to follow the law.
“Great respect, it seems to me, has to be given to people who resign rather than do something they view as morally wrong,” Kennedy said, referring to three German judges who resigned instead of following the dictates of the Nazi government.
However, Davis’s attorney said Tuesday that Kennedy and other justices should resign after issuing the ruling, according to the SFGate.com.
“I think it’s a two-way street, that justices who don’t follow the Constitution ought to resign if they can’t do their job,” Mat Staver, president of law firm Liberty Counsel, which represents Davis, reportedly said. “I think the Supreme Court does not have unlimited authority and that five justices cannot say what they want to if it’s not based on the Constitution.”
The 50-year-old Rowan County clerk made headlines in America after she denied marriage licenses to gay couples citing her Apostolic Christian beliefs. Davis was also imprisoned for five days in September after being held in contempt of court.
Davis held Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear responsible for her legal problems and filed a lawsuit against him over the issue. Beshear had sent a directive to Kentucky’s 120 county clerks telling them to issue licenses to same-sex couples, after the Supreme Court’s ruling. Davis argued in a court filing, that the directive forced her to defy the court order and spend jail time. Beshear has twice requested a judge to dismiss the suit.