Matt Bevin will issue an executive order “right away” that will take county clerks’ names off of marriage licenses in the State of Kentucky, thereby absolving Kim Davis and other county clerks opposed to marriage equality of any legal responsibility to, in their minds, endorse same-sex marriages.
Kim Davis is currently suing the current governor, Steve Beshear, in an attempt to get him to issue a similar executive order.
On its face, this seems like a reasonable enough compromise. Same-sex couples get their marriage licenses and we never have to hear from Kim Davis ever again. She can do her job without her (bigoted) religious faith getting in the way. But there’s a reason why Beshear has been refusing to issue the executive order that Bevin is so eager to sign: It completely undermines the concept of public officials being prohibited from exercising their faith in a public capacity.
In effect, Kim Davis has won the biggest victory she could have hoped to win. While it would have been impossible for her to continue to refuse marriage licenses to same-sex couples (or all couples, for that matter), she has effectively used her religion and her capacity as a public official to change government policy in a manner in which she approves. Kim Davis made no bones about the fact that she was an activist. Her activism is now being rewarded.
To be clear, it’s being rewarded indirectly. Matt Bevin stumbled into a highly-improbable win in the Kentucky gubernatorial race, and Kim Davis wasn’t the reason why he won (he lost her county). But her activism has made public accommodation of religious beliefs that need not be accommodated, and are in fact antithetical to the very concept of a public sphere in secular liberal democracy, a priority for this Republican administration. And likely many others.
Activists set the agenda, and elections have consequences.