Clerk hides behind religion in discrimination against LGBT couples
June 26, 2015 was the day many people across the United States had been waiting for: the legalization of gay and lesbian marriage. It was a Supreme Court decision that was destined to cause controversy, no matter the laws set in place to enforce it. This set the stage for the introduction of David Moore and David Ermold as the protagonists and Kim Davis as the antagonist.
Moore and Ermold posted a trilogy of videos to Moore’s YouTube channel between July and September that revealed the conflict. Davis, the clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, was refusing to issue a marriage license to the couple of 17 years. These videos, each posted about a month apart, display three separate instances the couple visited their home county’s clerk office to obtain their marriage license. Each time, the pair was turned away with the excuse, “We’re not issuing marriage licenses today.”
The short of the situation is that Davis — whose name is placed on Rowan County marriage licenses to make them legal — disagreed with the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage. According to a CNN article from early September, Davis became an Apostolic Christian four and a half years ago. Her new religion is against same-sex marriage, and because of this, Davis decided that until she received the approval to keep her name off such licenses, no one in Rowan County would be receiving a marriage license.
In the YouTube videos posted by Moore, Davis talked about a request sent to the Supreme Court to refuse marriage licenses, which was then denied. Despite this, she unlawfully continued to deny the administration of any licenses through her office, whether or not one of her clerks was willing to issue it. It was her way or the highway.
Davis’ actions are undoubtedly selfish. Her religion is not everyone’s religion, and that is what she seems unable to see. When confronted with the question from Ermold: “Under whose authority are you not issuing marriage licenses today,” Davis had the audacity to answer: “Under God’s authority.”
Now that Davis is out of jail and back in her office, the county has decided to give Davis her way by authorizing marriage licenses without her name on them, which is how it was done while Davis was in jail. In a CNN article from September, Davis stated that even though U.S. District Judge David Bunning “was willing to accept altered marriage licenses,” neither she nor the judge said they were sure they’d even be completely valid. The article stated that marriage licenses featuring a deputy’s signature without a clerk’s consent “might” pass Kentucky law. Any document that Davis’ name is removed from, however, could have to face a court ruling on their validity.
This brings a new problem to the conflict. Not only was Davis discriminating against those who identified as LGBT in her community, but there is now a debate that the licenses without her name may not be completely recognized. Again, back to the point that Davis’ decisions are self-centered.
Davis found her calling when she became an Apostolic Christian, and that’s what suits her. It was likely a big change for her; if she’s happy with her path, then so be it. The fact that she’s on her fourth marriage shouldn’t matter, because people can change, and her conversion was part of her change. That’s fine. However, it’s not fine when her newfound self-discovery hurts other people.
When trying to free a group from oppression, or give a voice to those that are voiceless, breaking the law is okay: the necessity of change needs to be brought to light. But breaking the law for a religion in a way that oppresses a certain group is wrong. It implies that Davis is trying to impose her religion on the people of her county and reveals that she doesn’t care for the people as a public figure should. Being an elected official, the people are going to want to know that public officials are going to help the community grow. But Davis’ narrow-minded view shows she cannot. In Moore’s third video, Davis even smiled in her response about if interracial couples would be facing the same problems. “A man and a woman? No,” she said.
Davis’ current position is similar to another choice that causes controversy: veganism. If someone was vegan, they wouldn’t work in a slaughterhouse because killing animals for food is against their beliefs. Since authorizing LGBT people the right to live happily ever after is against Davis’ religion, maybe she’s in the wrong career. Working in the courthouse has been her job for over 20 years now and finding a new career may be difficult, but it also couldn’t have been easy becoming so conservative on the sanctity of marriage after being divorced three times.
Religion is not unanimous across our extremely diverse country, and trying to use one specific religion to cite why people are being refused their rights just doesn’t cut it. While there is very little chance she will be thrown out of office, Davis needs to think about the position she has put herself in. This was obviously more attention than she had ever wanted. Stepping down and hitting the help wanted ads would take her out of the spotlight and maybe even find her a new career that she would be much happier in.
Sara Belcher is a freshman journalism major who won’t be shoving any misguided beliefs down anyone’s throat anytime soon. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.