The unfortunate case of Kim Davis

The attacks on Kim Davis because of her hair or clothing are just sexist, classist, and mean-spirited .

Kim DavisFame is a fascinating thing to me. In August 2015, three Americans received France’s top honor for stopping armed attacker on a train. In September 2015, Alek Skarlatos, one of those three men, is slated to be a contestant on ABC-TV’s Dancing with the Stars.

In June 2015, Kimberly Jean Bailey Davis was an obscure elected county clerk for little Rowan County, Kentucky, population less than 24,000. Now she’s a lightning rod in the culture wars. She “defied a U.S. Federal Court order requiring that she issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples following the Obergefell v. Hodges U.S. Supreme Court case that legalized same-sex marriage in the United States.”

Kim Davis has been criticized for not doing her job. From Snopes:

Four couples [have] sued Rowan County and its clerk, Kim Davis, for refusing to issue marriage licenses because of Davis’ religious objections to the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage.

Davis is obligated by law to issue a marriage license to all qualified applicants, which now includes same-sex couples, the plaintiffs said. By “promoting a particular religious belief” at the Rowan County courthouse, Davis has “acted maliciously, with callous disregard for, or with reckless indifference to, the clearly established rights” of the plaintiffs, they said.

The argument that an elected official could not be allowed to ban the registration of a gun because weapons are against his or her religion, or keep women from driving on the same grounds, is a compelling point. This great West Wing clip frames the argument well. That she’s been married four times – she remarried husband #2 – and therefore is a hypocrite, is true – as the evil Westboro Baptist church has pointed out – though it is rather beside the point, as a matter of law.

But the attacks on Kim Davis because of her hair or clothing or weight or looking marginally like Dick Cheney are just sexist, classist, and mean-spirited, and lowers the tenor of the conversation. We need to be able to call out her bigotry without slut-shaming or hillbilly-shaming.

She has been held up as some sort of martyr for “oppressed” Christians, more so since she was temporarily sent to jail. Judge David Bunning, son of baseball Hall of Fame pitcher and former US Senator Jim Bunning, explained why he rejected her argument. “The [marriage license] form does not require the county clerk to condone or endorse same-sex marriage on religious or moral grounds. It simply asks the county clerk to certify that the information provided is accurate and that the couple is qualified to marry under Kentucky law. Davis’ religious convictions have no bearing on this purely legal inquiry.”

(Yeesh, Kim Davis supporters gather outside the judge’s home to hold him ‘in contempt of God’s court’. Whatever THAT means.)

Moreover, “While religious institutions are guaranteed protections against any government regulation or involvement in their religious life, the government is also protected from religious institutions attempt to garner political power over the nation. What this means is that anyone who functions as an agent of the state must remain religiously neutral, providing equal service, treatment, and rights to all people of all religious, ethical, social, and cultural backgrounds.”

Kim Davis and others have compared her stance to that of black civil rights icon Rosa Parks. I would argue she is the bus driver who refused to restart the bus until Rosa gave up her seat to a white man. Many gay rights advocates believe Davis has done the gay rights movement a huge favor by laying “bare the prejudiced, discriminatory beliefs that fuel the ‘religious liberty’ fire.”

Trump did NOT say this!
Trump did NOT say this!

Theoretically, there should be a compromise. Under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act, “both public and private employers have a duty to exempt religious employees from generally applicable work rules, so long as this won’t create an ‘undue hardship’.”

This is very important principle, which would allow a Muslim woman to wear a hijab or a Sikh man to wear a dastaar, if it didn’t interfere with the task. As an elected official, it wouldn’t apply to Kim Davis, though Kentucky’s religious freedom law might come into play.

If she is objecting to “issuing licenses with her name on them, because she believes (rightly or wrongly) that having her name on them is an endorsement of same-sex marriage,” there may be a mechanism “modifying the prescribed Kentucky marriage license form to remove the multiple references to Davis’ name,” – assuming it hasn’t already been done – “and thus to remove the personal nature of the authorization that Davis must provide on the current form.”

Just yesterday, her lawyer repeated the assertion that those licenses issued by her deputy clerks were invalid, and “those responsible for issuing the licenses without authorization could face ‘criminal penalties.'” After giving her every scintilla of benefit of the doubt, this position proves to me, without question, that the issue is not really about the religious freedom of Kim Davis, but rather the religious tyranny of her and her followers.

The larger point is that the system, as it has, must continue to allow couples in Rowan County, KY the opportunity to marry, which the Supreme Court declared is a fundamental right as early as 1888.

Related: this pictured quote attributed to Donald Trump about Kim Davis is untrue. HE DIDN’T SAY IT, and in fact was largely unaware of the issue until very recently. The Donald makes many inflammatory statements, but does not need to be defamed by Facebook pranks.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

8 thoughts on “The unfortunate case of Kim Davis”

  1. My feeling is that everyone involved in this mess (and I include the people making hillbilly jokes on Twitter) acted badly. I guess I’m becoming a pessimist because more and more it seems like what I am seeing is the ugly side of human nature out there.

    Honestly, this has made me seriously think about just quitting all social media, because it just allows people to display their ugly sides. Several people I thought of as “enlightened” were making fat jokes or hillbilly jokes about her. Disagree with what she DID, don’t make fun of the groups she belongs to.

    I dunno. If I were told to do something that deeply violated an important belief of mine, and was again told to “just do it” despite trying to negotiate some kind of resolution, I’d then walk into the office of the highest administrator who would hear me, hand them a letter of resignation, and walk back out. And keep going….

  2. I very much agree that we need to focus on what she did wrong and not irrelevant aspects of her background and lifestyle. Becoming a close minded bigot doesn’t help the fight against close minded bigots.

    It’s really nice to read that someone else agrees. Brightened my day. 🙂

  3. This was very informative. Thanks, Roger. I didn’t know about any of the mean jokes as I haven’t seen them.

  4. To be honest, I’m sick of looking at her face. I sure hope this blows over and is forgotten real soon so i don’t have to see her anymore. That may be mean spirited on my part, but that’s how I feel.

  5. Upon further reflection, I’ve had a change of heart. While I do agree with you that the mocking of her over her appearance or supposed “hillbillyness” are “sexist, classist, and mean-spirited, and lowers the tenor of the conversation”, I nevertheless think that too much focus on that crass pushback risks raising it to a level of importance it doesn’t have, and could reinforce a false-equivalence between mocking her and what she did.

    I completely understand why people would point out her MANY moral failings, even though I personally think doing so is unhelpful. But being mean-spirited is not even remotely the same as actively denying some citizens the services and rights they’re entitled to because of her anti-gay animus, So, yeah, it’s crass, crude, and ill-advised to mock her for her appearance and class, but I can overlook all of that: The mockers aren’t denying her the rights SHE expects and ought to receive.

    Put another way, she chose this fight, so I really can’t muster any sympathy for her if people are mean to her on the Internet. It never would’ve happened if she’d done the job she’s paid by taxpayers to do, and if she hadn’t decided to shove her religion down everyone’s throats (to use the radical right’s favourite phrase…)

  6. Arthur – it’s not about her, it’s about US. I think belittling her belittles our message.

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