Tag Archives: U.S. Constitution

Feds trump states on gay marriage


The issue over whether a county clerk in a particular state has the authority to deny marriage licenses to gay couples brings up the time-honored debate over states’ rights.

Rowan County (Ky.) Clerk Kim Davis stopped issuing marriage licenses because she opposes — on religious grounds — sanctioning same-sex marriages.

A federal judge found her in contempt of court and threw her into a jail. Davis is appealing her incarceration to the Kentucky governor.

Does the state have the right to deny a marriage license to a gay couple? Here’s my view on it.

The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees equal protection under the law to all citizens. The U.S. Constitution is the governing framework for the federal government. The Constitution, therefore, is the pre-eminent law of the land.

The U.S. Supreme Court this year ruled, thus, that same-sex marriage is a protected right under the Constitution. Therefore, states must follow the law as prescribed in that document.

So, when someone takes an oath to “uphold the Constitution,” he or she is bound by that oath to perform the duties of his or her office.

The federal law, in this instance, trumps state law.


JFK speech worth revisiting


Man, I do love the Internet.

Most of the time, anyway.

I love it particularly when I’m able to find resources that remind me of where we’ve traveled and give me a clue of where we might be headed.

While working on an earlier blog post about the rogue Kentucky county clerk who’s in jail for refusing to do her job, I found a speech delivered in Houston on Sept. 12, 1960 by then-U.S. Sen. John Kennedy.

He was running for president and he wanted to clear the air over questions about his loyalties should he win the election later that year. He did so with typical JFK eloquence.

I encourage you to read it. Here it is:

JFK speech

But he spoke as well to a grander vision. He spoke to the need to get past notions that our government must adhere to certain religious doctrine.

He said: “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference; and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.

“I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials; and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.”

He said that the “separation of church and state is absolute.” Imagine that. Some so-called “strict constructionists” — even some in the media — keep yammering that the Constitution doesn’t declare there to be a separation and that, therefore, the separation doesn’t exist.

Well, it does exist. It exists in the very First Amendment which declares two things about religion: that no citizen shall be deprived of his or her religious freedom and that Congress “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

The implication is as clear as it can be: We must keep religion out of government and, thus, we must keep them separate.

Sen. Kennedy sought to quell the concerns of those who worried about what might happen were we to elect a Roman Catholic as president. He went much further in seeking a time when a candidate’s religion is of zero consequence.

The individual who wins an election takes an oath and pledges loyalty to the U.S. Constitution and to the laws of the land.

That’s how it’s been in this country since its founding.


Clerk goes to jail for violating her oath


The Kim Davis story is driving me batty.

She’s now in jail because she won’t perform the duties as county clerk that are required of her. She took an oath to perform them. Now she’s saying she cannot because her “conscience” won’t allow her to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.

A judge found her in contempt of court and threw her into the slammer.

Mike Huckabee has entered the fray by declaring that Davis’s jailing proves that the government has criminalized Christianity. The former Arkansas governor and current Republican presidential candidate says Davis is within her rights to invoke her “religious liberty” by refusing to follow the mandate set down by the United States Supreme Court.

Huck is wrong.

Davis’s religious liberty is not being challenged here. She is free to pray as she wishes. She is free to attend whatever church she wants. She is not free to flout the oath of office she took that says she shall uphold state and federal law.

The federal law now includes a decision by the Supreme Court that says gay couples are entitled under the U.S. Constitution to be married. But then Huckabee dismisses that ruling, declaring on Davis’s behalf that, by golly, that decision merely comes from “nine unelected federal judges.”

Davis, as county clerk in Rowan County, Ky., is required to follow that law.

She hasn’t done so. She’s now in jail.

She needs to quit. Or … she needs to be removed from office.

Let’s put this story to bed. It’s gone on long enough.


Read your oath of office, Mme. Clerk


Kim Davis took an oath when she became a county clerk in Kentucky to uphold the constitutions of her state and her nation.

The oath, I’m quite willing to suggest, didn’t include any exemptions for her religious faith.

Thus, it becomes imperative that she fulfill all the terms of the oath she took.

But she’s refusing to do that.

Instead, she’s refusing to grant marriage certificates to gay couples. She cites her religious belief opposing gay marriage and the U.S. Constitution’s protection of religious liberty.

I get that Kim Davis’s Christian faith is important to her. Mine is important to me as well.

But she took an oath to uphold the law. What’s more, the U.S. Supreme Court this year has ruled that gay marriage is legal in all 50 states. That includes Kentucky.

To their credit, Potter County Clerk Julie Smith and Randall County Clerk Renee Calhoun declared they would issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples who request them. I also would have applauded either or both of them had they resigned if their religious faith interfered with their public oath.

Davis should resign from her office, as some county clerks have done around the country. She cannot serve in an elected public office without carrying out all the duties that the office requires.




Birthright citizenship: tough to eliminate

baby citizens

A part of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says this:

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.”

It’s clear, yes? Everyone born in this country is a citizen of this country.

Why, then, do some Republicans — maybe most of them — want to amend the Constitution to single out those who have the misfortune of being born to individuals who are here illegally?

GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump wants to end the “birthright citizenship” clause of the 14th Amendment. He’s led the amen chorus on that one. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has joined him.

But as Eric Greider of Texas Monthly points out, some Republican presidential candidates are standing for the Constitution. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry is one of them; so is U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida; same for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

What do these men have in common? They all have been elected in states with substantial Latino populations, which of course is the audience being targeted by those who want to repeal birthright citizenship.

If we get rid of this citizenship provision, we will have to amend the Constitution. Don’t conservatives generally stand foursquare behind the nation’s governing document?



Trump continues to confound

So help me, I was certain that Donald Trump sank his presidential campaign when he made light of John McCain’s heroic service during the Vietnam War.

It didn’t happen.

I was certain that he would implode during that first Republican joint appearance with nine other “leading” GOP candidates.

That didn’t happen, either.

Then he got into that public feud with Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly over that ghastly remark he made about the source of “the blood.”

Hey, no problem.

Trump said “I’ll build a wall” to keep illegal immigrants from entering the U.S. through its southern border. Yep, he’s going to do all this all by his ownself.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on this stuff.

The latest poll numbers show that Trump is putting some distance between himself and the rest of the GOP field — which comprises some serious, intelligent and accomplished individuals.

What in the world is happening here? Have we become so celebrity conscious that we (meaning the Republican Party’s most faithful voters) place celebrity above actual knowledge of things, such as, say, the limits of the office at stake?

Trump is sounding like someone who wants to take singular control of the federal government. All those first-person singular references to all the action he intends to take suggest he doesn’t understand that the U.S. Constitution inhibits the power of the presidency.

Checks and balances, Donald?

The current president, Barack Obama, has used his own executive authority rationally and in accordance with the law … and yet we keep hearing from GOP leaders about the “lawlessness” they insist pervades the Obama administration.

Just wait’ll they see what a President Trump might try … not that it’ll matter to them.

And yet the man continues to set the pace in a field of highly qualified GOP contenders.

What in the world gives?


Birthers now targeting Sen. Cruz

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) speaks during the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, on Aug. 10.

Ted Cruz wants to be president of the United States.

Is he constitutionally qualified to run for the office, let alone occupy it?

That is the question of the moment.

The birther movement has returned. This ought to be fun.

The freshman Republican senator from Texas was born in Canada. His mother is an American citizen; Daddy Cruz is from Cuba. My understanding of the U.S. Constitution tells me that Momma Cruz’s U.S. citizenship makes him eligible, regardless of the fact that he was born in another country.

But what the heck. That apparently isn’t quite as clear as it seems.

Mom and Dad Cruz might have become Canadian citizens prior to young Ted’s birth. The question that needs to be answered is this: Did Ted’s mother surrender her U.S. citizenship if she became a Canadian citizen?

If she didn’t, then there’s no problem. If he did, well, then Sen. Cruz has a problem.

This problem has dogged Barack Obama ever since he emerged as a possible presidential candidate prior to the 2008 election. Those on the right insisted he needed to prove he was born in Hawaii and not in Kenya, where his father was born. If we apply the same logic to Cruz’s citizenship — that he earned U.S. citizenship merely because his mother is an American — then such a question never should have mattered as it regarded Barack Obama; his mother was an American, too.

The birthers are back.

They’ll pursue Ted Cruz with the same passion they pursued Barack Obama … I’m quite sure.

Why is Obama’s faith an issue?

“… but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

— U.S. Constitution, Article VI

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker got a question the other day about whether he thinks President Obama is a Christian.

His answer? “I presume he is … I’ve never asked him about it.” Then said he takes “the president at his word” that, yep, is he’s a Christian.

Walker wants to succeed Obama as president of the United States. He’s one of 17 Republicans seeking the GOP nomination; four Democrats are running, too.

I keep wondering, though, why this question keeps coming up about the current president’s faith.

Hasn’t he stated time and again that he believes Jesus Christ is his savior? Hasn’t he attended church services with his family? Hasn’t he made the declaration that he is a Christian?

The issue ought to be moot. The Constitution says we shouldn’t set a religious standard for candidates seeking any “office or public trust.”

Why can’t these individuals answer such ridiculous questions in a straight-forward matter? Perhaps something like this:

“Thank you for the question. Let me answer it in two parts.

“First, the president is a Christian. He’s stated his faith repeatedly since taking office and I believe him.

“Second, the question is not relevant to any discussion about those who hold public office or those who seek public office. The Constitution says there shall be ‘no religious test’ for candidates. I happen to support the Constitution of the United States, which is crystal clear on the place of religion in politics.”

I really don’t blame Walker for keeping this issue bubbling. The blame belongs to the media who keep raising it.

Enough already!

“Four more years!” for Obama?

There can be no doubt about this: Barack Obama’s critics went ballistic when the president said he could win a third term in the White House if he had the chance to seek it.

He reminded his hosts in Ethiopia today that the U.S. Constitution prohibits him from seeking another term. But then he said he’s been a “good president” and well might win in 2016.


Ah, yes. And he’d say anything about it if he thought he’d lose? Hardly.

The 22nd Amendment was enacted in 1947, spearheaded by a Republican congressional majority that was alarmed by the four elections won by Democratic President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. They feared an “imperial presidency.” An earlier Democrat, Grover Cleveland, sought the office over the course of three consecutive elections, but lost his bid for re-election to a second consecutive term in 1888; he would come back four years later and be elected to a second term.

I am not at all thrilled about the term-limits provision for presidents, although I understand that the stress of the office has persuaded almost all the men who’ve held the office to bow out after a second term.

Still, Barack Obama isn’t the only recent president to look wistfully at the possibility of a third term.

Republican President Ronald Reagan said as much as his second term came to an end in January 1989. Twelve years after that, Democratic President Bill Clinton also mused aloud over whether he could win a third term.

I don’t recall President George W. Bush ever broaching the subject in public, given that the economy was collapsing when he left office in January 2009.

Whatever the motive for bringing it up this time, President Obama well might have been talking way past his audience in Africa and sticking it in the ear of his foes back home.

I’m quite sure they heard him … loud and clear.

No takeover is imminent

Jade Helm 15 is about to commence in Texas.

Despite what some nut jobs have put out there, the U.S. military is not about to take over the state and hand it over to international spies.

Do not listen to the goofballs who actually persuaded Gov. Greg Abbott to order the Texas State Guard to “monitor” the activities of the Army, Navy and Air Force special forces who’ll be conducting the exercises.


It’s going to be all right.

The exercise was announced some months back and the Internet then jumped to life with conspiracy theories about what it all meant to some individuals and groups. As the Dallas Morning News blogger Jim Mitchell notes, one of the nuttier notions involves the Alamo: the United Nations declared the old mission a Unesco World Heritage Site, which apparently sealed it for some. Anything that involves the U.N. has got to be bad news for Texas, they feared.

The founding fathers didn’t get it perfect when they drafted and then ratified the U.S. Constitution. One thing they got right, though, was to build in a checks-and-balances system that’s designed to prevent one branch of government from getting too powerful.

President Obama knows all of this. So does the Pentagon brass. Even the federal judiciary, which has come under fire lately because of some controversial Supreme Court rulings, understands it. Congress knows its place, too.

Let the troops come to Texas to conduct their exercises.

It’s going to be OK. Honest.