As recently as a few weeks ago, the name “Kim Davis” would have been difficult to Google as there are probably many women named Kim or Kimberly Davis. But now our entire country is talking about one Kim Davis, the clerk from Rowan County, Kentucky who stopped issuing marriage licenses two months ago to all applicants because issuing a license to same sex couples was in contradiction to her Christian belief system. She was jailed for contempt of court because she refused to comply with the instructions of Federal District Court Judge David Bunning to issue the licenses. She also continues to insist that she has no intention of resigning from her position.
Ms. Davis who was appointed to her position last year has literally gone from obscurity to international fame. She has become a polarizing figure lauded as a champion for religious freedom by some and denigrated for her opposition to same sex marriage by others. Ms. Davis’ story is important because it is about so much more than just the question of whether personal religious opposition is an adequate defense for refusing to execute tasks or sign off on documentation which affirm same sex marriage.
First of all, Ms. Davis’ sudden celebrity is a story unto itself. When the Supreme Court legalized same sex marriage with a five-four vote on June 27th, the vote was viewed a victory for gay couples in that they would now have the legal right to marriage. But we were also indirectly told that the legal recognition of same sex marriage was not a threat to the sanctity of traditional marriage between a man and a woman. The polarizing reaction to Kim Davis shows that the Supreme Court’s action is a threat to traditional marriage in that anyone can be demonized for not accepting gay marriage as a “normal” choice.
We need to remember that homosexuals represent about 3% of the population, yet we are now in a situation where our culture is pressuring us to accept the preferences of 3% of the population as normative of the population at large. Kim Davis refused to do that and was criticized for speaking out. Interestingly enough, although over 50% of the US population supports same sex marriage, a recent Associated Press poll revealed that the public is split on whether state or local officials who have religious objections should be required to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples. 47% said they should be required to issue the licenses and 49% said that they should not be required to do so.
Kim Davis’ story is also emblematic of how poorly thought out the national roll-out of same sex marriage implementation was. While Rowan County did find a work around to Ms. Davis’ standoff by having her deputies issue the same sex marriage certificates, Ms. Davis’ legal counsel Matthew Staver, who is also Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, claims that these licenses are void because they were issued under her authority without her authorization. While, the Rowan County Attorney Cecil Watkins said that these licenses would be valid without Ms. Davis’ signature, Kentucky Law currently states that the license must contain an authorization statement from the county clerk issuing the license.
Matt Bevin, the Republican candidate for Kentucky governor, has proposed creating an online marriage license form which would negate the need for a county clerk’s signature. However, the current Kentucky Governor Steven Beshear, a Democrat who is not seeking re-election, does not want to call a special legislative session to change the way marriage licenses are issued while he is still in office. Consequently, any changes to the process won’t happen until at least 2016.
The aforementioned issues raised by the situation in Rowan County are just the tip of the iceberg. How many other county courts will face situations where clerks don’t want to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples because of religious reasons? Didn’t the Supreme Court realize that the states would need a transition plan? Will every state constitution require some type of amendment? Will individuals involved in upholding the state law as it relates to marriage or any other issue be re-sworn in to uphold the amended constitution? How will they handle those who object? Will they be offered the opportunity to resign with some form of severance pay?
Finally, Kim Davis’ story is also yet again another tale of the media transforming a private individual into a national symbol who is put on a pedestal by some and vilified by others. For many, Ms. Davis is a heroine for standing up for her religious beliefs. Presidential candidates, including former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Kentucky’s own Senator Rand Paul support her position. Governor Huckabee even held a rally on her behalf.
On the other hand, Ms. Davis has her share of critics. Many endeavor to paint her as a “far right individual” because she is against same sex marriage. By the way, Ms. Davis is a Democrat. Somehow that piece of information received little coverage. Interestingly enough several of the other Republican presidential candidates oppose Ms. Davis’ actions including real estate mogul Donald Trump, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
Furthermore, Ms. Davis’ own marriage history became fodder for public scrutiny. Apparently she was married four times and had children out of wedlock. In other words, the media was trying to tell her that “those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.” While Ms. Davis’ supporters have tried to explain her marriage history by saying that she is a recent convert to Christianity, her “checkered past” should not be a factor in her personal conviction. Again, this is a typical leftist approach at work. If you disagree with someone’s philosophy, discredit them and hang them out to dry.
Yes, we can all learn a lot of from Kim Davis’ story.