In a renewed surge of opposition to marriage equality, right-wing voices have rekindled the debate that has simmered since the Supreme Court’s landmark Obergefell decision legalized same-sex marriage eight years ago. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito have openly criticized the ruling, offering what some see as an open invitation to revisit the issue.
Kim Davis and the Liberty Counsel
The legal group Liberty Counsel has taken up this invitation with enthusiasm, using the case involving Kim Davis, a Kentucky clerk who gained notoriety in 2015 for refusing to issue a marriage license to a gay couple. Davis, despite her claims of religious freedom, was eventually held in contempt of court and ordered to pay $50,000 to each of the aggrieved individuals, David Ermold and David Moore.
A Persistent Crusade
Davis has faced a series of legal setbacks in her persistent crusade against same-sex marriage. Her initial refusal, citing “God’s authority,” was not upheld by the courts, including the Supreme Court, which led to her spending five days in jail. Yet, Liberty Counsel’s leader, Mat Staver, remains undeterred and aims to take Davis’s case all the way to the Supreme Court, buoyed by Justices Thomas and Alito’s recent expressions of concern.
The Path Forward and Questions Ahead
Staver sees potential in the Respect for Marriage Act, signed into law by President Joe Biden, which he believes could serve as a vehicle to challenge marriage equality. The Act, according to Staver, returns marriage license decisions to the states, potentially enabling them to deny licenses to same-sex couples. However, questions linger about whether existing same-sex marriages would be protected and whether the Act’s provisions would extend to interracial marriages.
As the composition of the Supreme Court has evolved since Obergefell, the possibility of overturning the decision looms larger. The key question now is whether there are enough justices willing to hear the case, as four are needed to accept an appeal—one short of a majority, yet alarmingly close for advocates of LGBTQ rights. The battle for marriage equality appears far from over, with legal challenges poised to shape its future.
In a renewed legal battle over marriage equality, Kim Davis and the Liberty Counsel have ignited a contentious debate. While the Supreme Court’s composition has shifted, questions about the future of marriage equality persist.