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Thursday, September 03, 2015

Don’t Make Kim Davis a Martyr

While it may give marriage equality supporters a degree satisfaction that the defiant Rowan County (KY) clerk Kim Davis was sent to the hoosegow, this development, though inevitable, may backfire to some extent.  Davis, as we know, refused to follow a ruling by a federal court that required her and her staff of six deputy clerks (including her son) to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples based on her belief that such marriages don’t follow the word of God.  However, to demonstrate that she is not anti-gay or anti-lesbian, her office refused to grant marriage licenses to all couples—gay or straight.

Kim Davis says no to issuing marriage licenses
“I have no animosity toward anyone and harbor no ill will,” said Davis, an Apostolic Christian, in a statement this week. “To me this has never been a gay or lesbian issue. It is about marriage and God's word.”
Davis, who is on her fourth marriage, had opportunities to change her mind.  But when she appeared on September 3 before U.S. District Judge David Bunning, a George W. Bush appointee and son of former Senator and star pitcher Jim Bunning, she refused to uphold the law she had sworn to do.  The judge found her in contempt and off she went.  She will remain incarcerated until she changes her mind or allows the other clerks to issue the licenses.  Five have agreed; her son has not

 “God's moral law conflicts with my job duties,” Davis said.
“Her good faith belief is simply not a viable defense,” responded Bunning, who also said it would set a bad precedent.  

Davis is an elected official who cannot be fired for not following the law.  She can be impeached by the legislature but few believe that is possible.  Or, when she defies a court order as in this case, she forfeits her freedom.
Cartoon by Bruce Garrett - Baltimore OUTloud
Here we go again with the debate over religious freedom versus the law.  Many homophobes and/or religious conservatives are still piqued over the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June that legalized same-sex marriage throughout the country.  This episode will serve to drive deeper into the divide, which reflects a 60% - 40% edge for those on the side of love, according to recent polling.

The plaintiffs in the suit—a gay couple—did not want her to go to jail if found in contempt; financial punishment would satisfy them.  They know what this could turn into.
The longer Davis remains in the slammer, the more she will be urged to hold firm and she will be transformed into a martyr for opponents of equality.  Even if she’s released, which is likely, she could still be a poster child for anti-gay marriage.  That could fuel more backlash and anti-gay sentiment and embolden opponents of anti-discrimination measures to dig in their heels.

Nothing good will come of that.

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