Cicilline calls Kentucky clerk jailing justified

Photos: Civil rights activists celebrate Supreme Court decision » (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Congressman David Cicilline, one of seven openly gay members of Congress, said Friday it was appropriate for a federal judge to jail a Kentucky clerk for failing to issue marriage licenses to a gay couple.

Kim Davis was jailed Thursday after she defied a court order to process the licenses. The judge would have released her but she said she would interfere with her deputy clerks from processing the licenses, as well.

Davis said her religious beliefs don’t allow her to endorse gay marriage.

“The reality is we live in a country of laws and when the Supreme Court makes a determination, even if we strongly disagree with it, it’s the law of the land,” Cicilline said during a taping of WPRI 12’s Newsmakers. “Government officials and state actors in particular can’t just decide which ones they’re going to follow and which ones they’re not.”

Critics of the judge’s order have said it impedes on religious freedom, and some Republican presidential candidates have expressed support for Davis.

“I actually don’t think that argument is being made effectively,” Cicilline said. “The reality is everyone is free to exercise their own religion, but what this decision says is marriage equality is the law of the land – this is an elected official, a government official who is refusing to comply with a lawful court order saying issue a marriage license.”

In July Cicilline introduced a bill he calls the Equality Act, which would extend anti-discrimination protections in the Civil Rights Act to gay and transgender citizens. He has acknowledged it will be an uphill battle to pass the bill in a Republican-controlled Congress, but argued there is strong public support for the policy.

“The interesting thing is the polling shows the vast majority of Americans think this is already the law because it comports with our values, that we think discrimination is wrong,” Cicilline said. “Under existing law there is actually no federal protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.”

“In the majority of states … you could be married on Saturday, post your Facebook pictures on Sunday and be fired from your job or kicked out of your apartment on Monday,” he said.

Tim White ( twhite@wpri.com ) is the Target 12 investigative reporter for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter: @TimWhiteRI

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