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 an 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 of 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 a 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 the 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.

The struggle is long, and its path uneven

Kentucky is arguing a philosophy that was struck down by SCOTUS nearly 50 years ago.
A friend of mine posted something on Facebook about some local bit of bigotry; there are so many, I can’t keep track. At some level, I become a tad inured, which I reckon is not a good thing. Still, these news stories caught my attention.

ITEM: Tom Cotton Says Critics Of Indiana Should Get ‘Perspective,’ Be Thankful State Doesn’t Execute Gays. It’s amazing! Before he organized that letter that was signed by 47 Republican senators that was sent to Iran during the US government’s negotiations with that country, I didn’t even know who he was.

Now I do recognize the name and face of the freshman senator from Arkansas, but not for any good or noble reasons.

BTW, that so-called Religious Freedom Indiana law was well explained on FOX News. Seriously

ITEM: Lawyers for the state of Kentucky actually put this in legal papers:
“Kentucky’s marriage laws are not facially discriminatory to gays and lesbians based upon their sexual orientation. Kentucky’s marriage laws treat homosexuals and heterosexuals the same and are facially neutral. Men and women, whether heterosexual or homosexual, are free to marry persons of the opposite sex under Kentucky law, and men and women, whether heterosexual or homosexual, cannot marry persons of the same sex under Kentucky law.”

Seriously, I laughed out loud. It was because they were using the exact same structure of an argument as was used by courts in the mid-1960s when trying to uphold rules against mixed-race marriage. “Because its miscegenation statutes punish equally both the white and the Negro participants in an interracial marriage, these statutes, despite their reliance on racial classifications, do not constitute an invidious discrimination based upon race.”

On June 12, 1967, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled, in Loving v. Virginia, that the anti-miscegenation laws of Virginia and 15 other states were unconstitutional. Kentucky is arguing a philosophy that was struck down by SCOTUS nearly 50 years ago. This is not just bigoted thinking, it’s bad lawyering.

ITEM: There is a strong relationship between having higher income inequality in a community and the life expectancy of the people who live there. Moreover, that income inequality in the United States is far greater than most people realize.

And one of the WORST places is the Albany, NY metro, which ranked last in US for black children’s healthy development, according to a front-page story in the Times Union on April 2.

ITEM: Two school districts in Kansas announced that the academic year would end early because they lack sufficient funding to keep the schools open.

“The school closures are just the latest in a series of drastic measures that Kansas public services have been forced to take in recent years, as [Governor Sam ] Brownback’s radical tax cuts have drained state coffers of much-needed revenue.” AND he was re-elected in 2014 by four percentage points.

ITEM: If You Don’t Have a Smart Phone, You Don’t Exist – At Least, Not According to Hollywood. Subtitle: “In TV and film, the idea that only bad guys have flip phones is making the tech divide even wider.”

As my friend Alan noted, “When only poor people and villains are depicted as having non-smartphones, it’s sending a message that I think is probably harmful in the long term. I noticed Reddington [the amoral lead character played by James Spader] was using a burner flip phone last night on The Blacklist. Would not have noticed if I hadn’t read the article.”

ITEM: Study Confirms Tea Party Was Created by Big Tobacco and Billionaire Koch Brothers. This is not a particular surprise to me. “In 2002, the Kochs and tobacco-backed CSE designed and made public the first Tea Party Movement website under the web address;” THAT I did not know.

ITEM: Noam Chomsky on the Roots of American Racism.
“It’s easy to rattle off the usual answers: education, exploring and addressing the sources of the malady, joining together in common enterprises — labor struggles have been an important case — and so on. The answers are right and have achieved a lot. Racism is far from eradicated, but it is not what it was not very long ago, thanks to such efforts. It’s a long, hard road. No magic wand, as far as I know.”

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