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Noah Feldman

Kentucky Clerk's Contempt Is Different

Conservatives see a parallel to Obama and others who choose not to enforce certain laws.
Appealing to a higher authority.

Appealing to a higher authority.

Photographer: Ty Wright/Getty Images

Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who refused a federal judge's direct order to issue marriage licenses, was freed from jail Tuesday. But some conservatives have questioned why she was there in the first place, comparing her stand with that of President Barack Obama, who says he won’t deport some immigrants in the U.S. without legal authority; with the noncooperation of "sanctuary city" mayors with federal immigration authorities; and with the refusal of California Governor Jerry Brown to defend Proposition 8 when it was challenged in federal court.

These public officials, the conservatives point out, refused to follow the law. Yet they are not only free, but also lauded by liberals. This charge of hypocrisy requires a serious response.