At first blush, the case of Kim Davis, the county clerk who
has been jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples,
would seem to be all about that highly charged subject. But I believe there
actually is a more important lesson to be learned, one that is instructive for
every public official, as well as every citizen.
Kim Davis is the county clerk of Rowan County, Ky. Based on
previous court decisions, the governor of Kentucky ordered the state’s county
clerks to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Ms. Davis refused, took
her appeal to court, and lost. She still refused to issue marriage licenses to
same-sex couples, and, as of this writing, has
been jailed for that refusal.
To be more precise, Ms. Davis has been jailed for failing to
comply with a court order. She has been found guilty of contempt of court.
Incarceration is one of the well-established punishments for contempt; nothing
new here at all.