James Yates and William Smith Jr. paid $35.50 and filled out paperwork early Friday to become the first couple to get a marriage license in Rowan County since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage June 26. More couples soon followed.

With Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis in jail on civil contempt charges for defying a judge’s order to resume issuing licenses, deputy clerk Brian Mason ended the office’s two-month license ban by politely serving Yates and Smith on Friday, even congratulating them and shaking their hands afterward…

Marriage equality protesters shouted “Love won!” outside the Rowan County courthouse as Yates and Smith emerged. Across the sidewalk, a crowd of people who support Kim Davis stood mutely, save for one man screaming quotes from the Bible about Sodom and Gomorrah…

“We don’t hate nobody,” Joe Davis said. Gesturing to marriage-equality demonstrators nearby, he said, “We just want the same rights they have. They say, ‘We’re gonna make you accept us whether you want to or not.’ Well, we don’t want all this forced on us.”

The attorney also reiterated that Davis “cannot affix her name or her title, under her authority, to a marriage license. … That is for Kim Davis a heaven or hell decision.”

Discussing the marriage licenses that have been issued to same-sex couples since Davis was put in jail, Staver said they are “void,” because they did not come under her authority.

“They are not worth the paper that they are written on,” Staver said…

Staver spoke of the strangeness of seeing an elected official wearing prison orange. But he also said, “Kim Davis is content with wherever she is. She has no remorse.”

Staver said there are “easy ways to resolve this.” Officials could change state law and state documents so that marriage licenses in Rowan County won’t be issued under Davis’ legal authority, Staver said. The method may be as simple as an executive order from Gov. Steve Beshear, he said.

“It would be a reasonable accommodation if her name and authority were taken off the licenses,” Staver said…

“God’s moral law conflicts with my job duties,” Davis told Bunning Thursday. “You can’t be separated from something that’s in your heart and in your soul.”

Catholic doctors who don’t want to perform abortions should have a right to refuse. And hospitals that want to fire them for refusing should have that right. You cannot demand a religious accommodation that is essentially refusing to do a core part of your job. Comparing Kim Davis to the many people who have been persecuted for their Christian beliefs is absurd. The choice for early Christian martyrs was to reject their faith or die. The choice was not: reject their faith or lose a good job as head priest at the Temple of Jupiter…

The judge made absolutely the right choice, much as I rue the necessity. Rule of law is one of the most important things between us and barbarianism. No, it is never perfect, but it is better than the alternative. It has to be preserved no matter which side is the target. Conservatives who applauded the Hobby Lobby decision and now applaud Kim Davis should take a long, hard think about how they’d feel if President Obama took a bold stand for freedom of conscience by slapping Hobby Lobby with fines in open defiance of the Supreme Court. If you think that only the other side has to obey laws they don’t like, then you are not in favor of the rule of law. You are in favor of law as a crude tool for the raw exercise of power — and when you are in a minority, as the opponents of gay marriage are, then you should carefully consider where this is likely to end up.

Unfortunately, the sheer volume of the culture war makes it hard to ask those questions. It’s much easier to ask “my team or yours”? And where that ends up is absurd results like a county clerk going to jail, instead of quietly going to work somewhere more suited to her religious principles.

It also must be added that no one who engages in true civil disobedience can presume to avoid punishment. This is how civil disobedience works. If there are thousands of Kim Davises ready to go to clog America’s jails for their beliefs, they might change the world, as other civil disobeyers have. But the trip to jail is part of that package.

Moreover, civil disobedience is properly the tool of the citizenry, not of those entrusted by it to execute the law faithfully. There exist exceedingly rare circumstances in which public officials can and should resist rightful authority that is exercised wrongly. But to condone official lawbreaking as a routine matter, whenever any individual bureaucrat’s conscience dictates, entails the acceptance of consequences that no good citizen can accept…

Davis’ sympathizers might have a point when they argue that mushy, nonsensical rulings, like the one that forced same-sex marriage on all 50 states, undermine respect for the rule of law. But they miscalculate badly in asserting a legal right to “undermine it back.”

Huckabee’s claim that the practice of Christianity is being criminalized is a major theme of his candidacy, but he has always been careful to couch this contention in figurative terms. “I think it’s fair to say that Christian convictions are under attack as never before,” Huckabee declared in April. We are moving rapidly toward the criminalization of Christianity.” With the arrest of Davis, Huckabee’s contention that Christianity is being criminalized has taken on a more literal dimension.

This is base, ignoble exploitation. It is beneath a candidate running for the highest office in the land. It fosters the delusions of those not acquainted with the precepts that serve as the foundation for the rule of law in this country. It exacerbates a sense of victimhood, some of it real but much of it imagined, by a substantial minority of voters in this country who are justifiably anxious and frustrated by the heavy-handed fashion in which Barack Obama’s administration has governed.

The correct response to the grotesque disrespect for the legal process that this administration has displayed over the last six years is not to emulate its behavior. There is nothing honorable about providing those who believe, with reason, that outward displays of Christianity are increasingly frowned upon and discouraged a false hope that this condition might be remedied by a strongman in the White House. To foster that misapprehension is reckless, an abuse of the voters’ trust, and a display of contempt for the voting public’s collective intellect.

Davis’s actions are reminiscent of Alabama Governor George Wallace’s infamous “Stand in the Schoolhouse Door.” In 1963, Wallace, who had declared “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever,” literally stood in a doorway at the University of Alabama to block two black students from entering the school, despite federal laws. Of course, this was nothing more than a political show for the cameras and segregationists. After jabbering on about states’ rights — as shallow an argument as it had been a century earlier during the Civil War — Wallace eventually stepped away, a small man pushed aside by the resolve of a nation struggling to be just…

Davis is just the latest in a long, infernal line of fanatics to contort their so-called faith into an excuse for hatred and division. Religion has been misused to justify the Crusades, slavery, apartheid, the Holocaust and — more recently — terrorism and extremism around the world. If faith is a comfort to some, for people like Davis it’s a cudgel to scold and threaten anyone with whom they disagree.

The legitimacy of Davis’s protest is inseparable from the illegitimacy of the court opinion that made it necessary. And it is this very illegitimacy that means she should neither resign nor comply. Instead, she has chosen the proper response: resist.

Resignation in response to the Court’s ruling would have represented an unacceptable surrender. Indeed, from the perspective of the ideologues, it would have provided them with a complete victory — with the twin benefit of changing the law and cleansing public service of the devout. Resignations hand over the lever of power to the truly lawless, to those who will engineer social change by any means necessary…

Yet while lawless leftists live in the White House and run for president, Davis goes to jail. Davis’s draconian sentence is instructive. A judiciary secure in its reasoning and constitutional authority would see no need to deprive a peaceful woman of her liberty — especially when her resistance doesn’t deprive a single American of his constitutional rights, real or judicially fabricated. Other legal mechanisms exist to hold her accountable, including fines, impeachment, and — of course — the next election. But Davis goes to jail — shortcutting Kentucky’s own enforcement mechanisms — partly to save gay couples a few minutes’ driving time but mainly to defend the dignity of a court system that long ago forfeited any integrity.

According to CNN, when the news broke that Judge David Bunning had ordered Davis jailed, the crowd outside the courthouse incongruously burst out into a chant of “Love won! Love won!” I understand why the visceral response of gay-marriage supporters would be to cheer the jailing of Kim Davis. But in what Orwellian world does the desire to punish her represent a victory for love?

The jailing of Kim Davis is unnecessary. The governor of Kentucky, Steve Beshear, could have easily used the state Religious Freedom Restoration Act to authorize conscience exemptions for marriage clerks, essentially putting the burden of issuing the license on the office, not the individual. Five of six deputy marriage clerks have told the court they are willing to offer same-sex marriage licenses. Davis is unwilling to delegate authority to the clerks to sign the licenses with her name and seal, but that is a technical detail the governor or the legislature could easily overcome.

Free Kim Davis now. Our reaction to her jailing will tell us something important about the future of this country.

If she remains locked up at taxpayer expense, the only reason will be that Democrats want to use gay marriage as a club with which to beat traditional believers — and that Republicans are too gutless to act to stop them.

As far as I can tell, there are only three unassailable Constitutional rights left in United States: The right not to be “discriminated” against. The right to have an abortion. The right to have a gay marriage. In the eyes of a liberals, nothing—not the freedom of association or religion or anything else mentioned in the First or Second Amendment—will ever supersede these consecrated rights. The rest? Well, it’s malleable, depending on the situation

There are many ways to show disdain for law. In America, we have a city council in Denver that advocates shutting down businesses like Chick-fil-A because the CEO once took a public position against gay marriage. That kind of abuse of power and contempt for the Constitution doesn’t get national play, because it’s the right kind of contempt. In this country, illegal immigrants can march in the streets to protest their station without any genuine fear of being rounded up and expelled. They are celebrated. The president ignores the legislative process and gives millions amnesty. We have cities that ignore federal drug laws because they find them oppressive. As Sean Davis points out, when California passed Prop 8, which banned gay marriage, a number of officials refused to enforce the law. But not one elected official has been hauled off to jail for any of these stands.

Yet, a Christian struggling to come to terms with the implications of a decision that changes over two hundred years of law that SCOTUS only reached a couple months ago—and our progressive president only embraced a couple of years ago— is now hauled off to prison. In the end, the state is creating martyrs. Christians will have no choice but to take more obstinate positions in the culture war—battles that could easily have avoided if a judge exhibited more compassion and came to an accommodation. There are around 125 other marriage clerks in Kentucky who could issue licenses to gay couples. And they should.

The rule of law is a virtue defined by the consistency of its exercise. When lawyers can pore over the system and conclude some officials can get away with disregarding the laws of our titanic central government, even though their negligence is a clear betrayal of their duties to their constituents – some of whom were raped and murdered as a result of that negligence – and the President can just make up the law as he goes along, while arms of the federal bureaucracy abuse their power to manipulate our very political system without consequence, but this one obscure functionary in Kentucky goes immediately into the slammer for her act of defiance, we can only conclude the rule of law is in horrible shape and we have a crisis on our hands…

We all know what the real difference between these various cases of official lawlessness is: power. The ugly political genius of Barack Obama was realizing that most of the restraints on executive power boiled down to polite, gentlemanly agreements. He calculated that the only real consequences for pushing the envelope were media disapproval (not an issue in his case, no matter what he does), the occasional court defeat (and he’s had quite a few), punishment by angry voters at the next election (a possible consequence that can be managed by skilled politicians with hundreds of billions of dollars to spend on intimidation and vote-buying) or the dead letter of impeachment.

Obama’s view of the presidency, made very explicit after his 2014 midterm election drubbing, is dictatorship not limited but sanctified by elections: no matter how many laws he twists or ignores, he can’t really be a dictator, because he rules at the sufferance of voters who could have “fired” him in 2012. They didn’t, so his nearly unlimited coercive power was ratified for four more years. He is audibly and visibly frustrated by every suggestion that he presides over a branch of government equal to the legislature and judiciary…

By all means, let’s have a vigorous national discussion about the Rule of Law, the misbehavior of our elected officials, and the importance of duty as a restraint upon the ambitions of those with power. It can begin with Kim Davis, but it must not end with her.

When Kim Davis, the Rowan County, KY, clerk was hauled off to jail for refusing to give marriage licenses, a White House spokesman said no official is above the law. Hillary Clinton cheered on Twitter. The left went wild. “Where is your god now?” one person tweeted…

Hillary Clinton using a private email server is no big deal to the left. Every changing story is met with acceptance. The Democrats’ immigration plans have included trying to pull a fast one on a judge in Texas and the left applauded. The IRS can leak confidential donor lists of conservative groups and harass the same groups. Political opponents get awfully convenient “random” audits. Again and again, the left gets to ignore the laws it wishes to ignore while the right must comply…

When all these things happen, we have moved beyond a nation of laws to a nation of men. When we have a nation of men, power is everything, policy is fleeting, and laws are meaningless. People with enough money can get preferential treatment. The more powerful a person is, the more he can escape punishment. Eventually, some men can decide to grab power by any means necessary and, without laws that can withstand the sway of men, get a pass at unconstitutional means used to grab power. The constitution becomes a worthless relic.

At that point, the citizens will clash beyond the ballot box. We see that beginning with random killings of police and random killings by police. It will only get worse. No one should want it and no one, myself included, does want it. But how much longer until we have another civil war?