We judge our enemies by their actions and our friends by their intentions.
Recently, we have seen a positive change in the treatment of the LGBT community under the law. Still, there are others in governmental positions that disagree with policy changes. Indeed, we have many recent examples of government officials refusing to do their jobs and being variously applauded by some while despised by others.
Most recently, there is Kim Davis. Understandably, hers is different because she defied a court order requiring her to do her job. Thus she went to jail for contempt until her cooperation – or lack of interference – was promised. Kim Davis received a well-deserved rebuke from the justice system. Even the great George Takei has gotten in on it, posting http://the-daily.buzz/do-your-job/?ts_pid=2&ts_pid=2 to his Facebook page about people who still do their jobs.
Why are people singling out Kim Davis? Easy – she is the person du jour who is an example of people refusing to do jobs because of personal objections. Nevertheless, Kim Davis is not unique. In fact, Kim Davis is not unique to the issue – there have actually been people working for the government who refused to do their jobs. Their jobs were to defend anti-gay laws and they either refused to do their jobs or actively worked against their client’s interests.
In 2009, the election of Barack Obama to President left an Illinois Senate seat to be filled. Governor Rod Blagojevich, just out of jail from a corruption charge, appointed Roland Burris to take Obama’s Senate seat. Jesse White, the Illinois Secretary of State, refused to “rubber stamp” it due to his personal objections. He lacked authority to do so, though the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that White’s approval was not necessary.
Even on the gay marriage issue we see this. California’s now governor Jerry Brown was, in 2008, California’s Attorney General. In November, 2008, California voters approved Proposition 8, which limited marriage in California to a man and a woman. As Attorney General, Jerry Brown’s job was to defend the laws of the State of California, including Proposition 8, against challengers who sought to invalidate it.
In December, 2008, the Attorney General’s brief stated, “Proposition 8 must be invalidated because the amendment process cannot be used to extinguish fundamental constitutional rights without compelling justification…” Not only was this an example of a government official not doing his job, this was an example of a government official doing the exact opposite of his job. His job was to defend the law. He not only did not defend the law but argued actively against the law.
Kim Davis made a public appeal to God’s Law that was higher than statutory or Constitutional Law. The Attorney General’s Brief in opposition to Proposition 8 argued that there was “Natural law” that was of greater authority than statutory or Constitutional law. The California Attorney General’s office sought to torpedo the law that its job was to protect. And they lost.
This is the unfortunate side of politics and public perception. Kim Davis is rightfully regarded as pariah by many for intentionally failing to do her job. Jerry Brown was elected governor of California despite his refusal to do his job.
We as Americans don’t have problems with people who do not do their jobs. We only have a problem when people don’t do what we want them to do. Would those who rebuke Kim Davis for failing to do her job hold Jerry Brown with the same contempt? Would those who held Jerry Brown with contempt for failing to do his job view Kim Davis in the same way?
Jerry Brown’s actions were no different from Kim Davis’ actions. Indeed, Brown’s actions may have been worse – he did the opposite of his job. In some ways Kim Davis’ were worse – she ignored a court order. But Jerry Brown came out on the winning side of a policy debate. Kim Davis is on the losing side. Kim Davis is mocked. Jerry Brown was not.
Let’s start looking at people’s actions. Whether you agree with Kim Davis or not, her actions were inexcusable. And whether you agreed with Brown or not, his actions were inexcusable.
I happened to agree with Brown’s policy. I simply detest the way he went about it. Same with Jesse White. And Kim Davis. They all thought they were doing the right thing. That’s not enough. Their feelings betrayed their responsibilities.