This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #0004, on the subject of Just Do the Job.
There has been an increase in “self-driving” features on new automobiles. The popular one is the car that parallel parks itself. I remember that parallel parking was one of the most difficult parts of the driver road test, not only when I took it but for several of my sons. People failed on that frequently, and here in New Jersey we joke that you know you’re from New Jersey if you could negotiate a traffic circle before you could parallel park. What, though, if you take your road test in one of these self-parking cars, and when instructed to park you simply activate the car’s self-parking feature and remove your hands from the wheel so it can do what it is designed to do? Would the instructor be obligated to pass you, or to fail you?
Bear in mind that most people who receive their standard passenger vehicle drivers license are unable to drive a standard transmission. I was unable to do so when I got my license, and had only the vaguest notion of the purpose of that extra pedal. I learned eventually, but know many people who drive all the time and cannot drive “stick”. It is not really required that the driver is able to operate every motor vehicle in the class; only that he demonstrates the ability to drive one such vehicle. Further, note that our laws creating opportunities for the handicapped permit them to obtain licenses operating vehicles specially equipped to accommodate their specific disabilities–hand controls for accelerator and brake for those without the use of their legs, for example. In these United States, driving is for many a necessity, the only way to go to work, to obtain household supplies, to reach medical care. We attempt to facilitate the right for as many persons as possible.
So if a young driving license candidate uses the automatic parallel park feature on his father’s new car, should he pass, or fail? There is no evidence that he can park without that feature, and honestly the first car he buys for himself is unlikely to have it. Yet he did manage to park the car, and there is no proof that he could not have done so without that “assist”.
Yet how far can this be permitted? If a candidate arrives in a Google® self-driving car, so that all he has to do is give voice directions to an onboard computer which will operate the car using its sensor array, onboard maps, and computer uplink, does the fact that he can direct the car adequately to complete the driving test, without ever touching any of the controls himself, mean that he qualifies for a license?
What if he is blind?
Yes, certainly there are vision test requirements which must be met before one can take the road test, but if cars are made able to drive themselves with their own superior “vision” installed, that could well become “discriminatory”.
Now, imagine that you are a local motor vehicles agency test certifier: it is your job to test candidates for driver licenses, and to sign a form certifying that this candidate is qualified for a license. Remember, as I previously said concerning licenses:
…a license is government permission for someone to do something which would be illegal without a license….a license both permits specific categories of conduct and imposes certain responsibilities on the licensee….a license is a means by which the government regulates specific conduct, both to prevent conduct it wishes to discourage…and to encourage conduct it desires….
In the case of a license to drive, the signature of the test certifier asserts a belief by the certifier that the candidate is sufficiently skilled at driving as to be permitted to drive on the public roads unsupervised. It is therefore the certification that the candidate is qualified for the license.
I have of late seen many Internet images with the suggestion that there are people who do not agree with their jobs, or did not expect that their jobs would require them to do certain things, but they do the jobs anyway because these are the jobs. They are of course aimed at the Kentucky clerk who will not sign her name to marriage licenses for homosexuals (and to avoid being charged with discrimination, she will not sign her name to any marriage licenses). Yet this is the heart of the problem: the clerk does not believe that couples incapable of becoming biological parents can be certified as “married”. It is her job to make that determination, the determination of whether a particular couple is qualified for such a license; the voters placed her in that position for that purpose (among others–it is not the entirety of her job). She is undoubtedly expected to refuse such licenses to persons who are not qualified–incestuous relationships, bigamous marriages, applications from minors, cases of coercion or duress. Her signature on the license is not “just doing her job”; it is certifying that she is persuaded that the applicants meet the requirements for marriage as she understands them.
That to some degree puts her in the same position as the motor vehicle road test supervisor who is asked to sign a form stating that this blind person has passed his road test because he happens to have come in a car capable of driving itself based on his verbal instructions. It may be that this person has passed all the legal requirements technically, but in the opinion of the person required to make that certification the candidate is not qualified.
There are certainly arguments that Kim Davis should just sign the licenses, based on the fact that the candidates are fully qualified under the laws of her state; there are also arguments that she should not sign them, because under the constitution of State of Kentucky such marriages are unlawful. This is what is called a conflict of laws issue, and technically the Supreme Court decision requires the State to amend its constitution to comply with the Court’s ruling–but until it does, that constitution is a valid basis to conclude that her personal assessment that these persons are not qualified for a license is also legally supported. It is a weak argument, but in law it remains an argument made stronger by the fact that her oath of office (which I have not specifically read) undoubtedly requires her to “uphold” and/or “defend” that state constitution.
So stop saying that Kim Davis should just do her job. She is doing her job: she is assessing whether applicants are qualified to receive marriage licenses as she understands them. She is refusing to certify licenses for persons she believes are not qualified, and so as not to be discriminatory about it she is also refusing to issue licenses to persons she might believe are qualified. You might think that these people are qualified, but she does not, and she is the one who has to certify that they are. It is, as she has said, her name on the form.
In addition to the articles linked in this post (Homosexual Marriage and Miscellaneous Marriage Law Issues), the author has also written In Defense of Marriage, Christianity, Homosexuality, and the E. L. C. A., and blog posts in both the Law and Politics and the Bible and Theology categories bearing the Homosexuality and Marriage content tags.
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