The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously denied a petition of writ of certiorari in Davis v. Ermold on Monday. This case referenced the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. 

Kim Davis is a former county clerk in Kentucky who was responsible for issuing marriage licenses in her county. Because she is a Christian, she believed doing so would violate her religious conscience. She lobbied for amendments to Kentucky’s law to protect the free exercise rights of those who oppose same-sex marriage. Davis eventually had to choose between her job and her faith.

Even though both Associate Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito agreed with the denial of certiorari, Thomas wrote a statement pointing out the consequences of the Obergefell decision on people like Davis. Alito joined Thomas’Thomas’ statement. 

Thomas first blasted the Obergefell decision because it had no basis in the text of the Constitution.

“(T)he Court read a right to same-sex marriage into the Fourteenth Amendment, even though that right is found nowhere in the text,” he wrote. 

Thomas added that several justices warned about the threat to religious liberty the Obergefell decision presented.

“Several Members of the Court noted that the Court’s decision would threaten the religious liberty of the many Americans who believe that marriage is a sacred institution between one man and one woman. If the States had been allowed to resolve this question through legislation, they could have included accommodations for those who hold these religious beliefs,” he wrote.

What’s worse, Thomas noted, is that the majority opinion written by retired Justice Anthony Kennedy set up many of these conflicts.

“(T)hough it briefly acknowledged that those with sincerely held religious objections to same-sex marriage are often ‘decent and honorable,’… the Court went on to suggest that those beliefs espoused a bigoted worldview,” he wrote. 

The Obergefell decision said such views are “demeaning” to gays and lesbians because it teaches they are “unequal.” The dissenting justices in the Obergefell decision, Thomas wrote, predicted” ‘[t]hese . . . assaults on the character of fair-minded people will have an effect, in society and in court’… allowing ‘governments, employers, and schools’ to ‘vilify’ those with these religious beliefs ‘as bigots.'” 

“Those predictions did not take long to become reality,” he asserted.

Thomas continued:

“Davis may have been one of the first victims of this Court’s cavalier treatment of religion in its Obergefell decision, but she will not be the last. Due to Obergefell, those with sincerely held religious beliefs concerning marriage will find it increasingly difficult to participate in society without running afoul of Obergefell and its effect on other antidiscrimination laws. It would be one thing if recognition for same-sex marriage had been debated and adopted through the democratic process, with the people deciding not to provide statutory protections for religious liberty under state law. But it is quite another when the Court forces that choice upon society through its creation of atextual constitutional rights and its ungenerous interpretation of the Free Exercise Clause, leaving those with religious objections in the lurch.

“Moreover, Obergefell enables courts and governments to brand religious adherents who believe that marriage is between one man and one woman as bigots, making their religious liberty concerns that much easier to dismiss.”

Thomas then stated with this case, “Obergefell was read to suggest that being a public official with traditional Christian values was legally tantamount to invidious discrimination toward homosexuals. This assessment flows directly from Obergefell’s language.”

He noted that practice continued in other cases. “Since Obergefell, parties have continually attempted to label people of good will as bigots merely for refusing to alter their religious beliefs in the wake of prevailing orthodoxy,” Thomas wrote.

In closing, he wrote that only the Supreme Court can provide a remedy. “By choosing to privilege a novel constitutional right over the religious liberty interests explicitly protected in the First Amendment, and by doing so undemocratically, the Court has created a problem that only it can fix,” Thomas concluded. 

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