By Monica Vega
After the groundbreaking announcement in June 2015 that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of allowing same-sex couples to marry it seemed that marriage equality was a guaranteed right in the United States. At least that is what David Moore and his fiancée thought until they walked into the Rowan County clerk’s office in Kentucky seeking a marriage license and were denied the right to one. The decision for the denial came from clerk Kim Davis, a devout Apostolic Christian. Davis’s decision spawned a nationwide discussion about religious liberty and how far the government should go to accommodate religious belief.
Davis calls on her faith as the motivator for defying the Supreme Court ruling and denying gay couples their constitutional right to a marriage license. “It is not a light issue for me. It is a heaven or hell decision,” she stated, emphasizing the consequences of veering from her beliefs.
Furthermore, Davis claimed she did not want her name associated with any same-sex marriage license so she prohibited her six deputy clerks from providing the licenses. Due to her actions, U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning declared Davis in contempt of court on September 3, 2015. She was released from jail on September 8 under the condition that she not prevent her deputy clerks from issuing any more marriage licenses. However, she did not agree to issue the licenses herself and has no plans to do so.
The Kentucky governor has no legal right to remove Davis from her position as clerk and she has no intention of resigning. Her attorney said, “She will remain the clerk of Rowan County as long as the people want her.”
Davis’s actions have created a division within the American people. While some agree with her refusal to issue the licenses due to her deeply held faith and have called her heroic, others believe her actions were a blatant obstruction of rights.
So, is Kim Davis right?
The Family Research Council thinks so.
They honored Davis with the “Cost of Discipleship Award” on September 25th at the Values Voter Summit in Washington D.C. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, spoke about Davis before presenting her with the award and compared her to the likes of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. saying, “Whether it was Abraham Lincoln asserting the Constitutionally unsettled nature of the Dred Scott decision; Rosa Parks refusing to sit at the back of a public bus or Martin Luther King risking the call of police dogs to end legal segregation, our nation has been ennobled and enriched by historic citizens who declare their unwillingness to accept rulings and statutes that conflict with the laws of nature and of nature’s God.” Perkins went on to say that Davis “pursued justice at a great personal cost.”
A crowd cheered for Davis as she accepted her award. While at the podium, Davis, in tears said, “I feel so very undeserving. I want to start by thanking my lord and my savior Jesus Christ. Because without him, this would never have been possible. For he is my strength that carries me.”
Like the Family Research Council, others have reached out to support Davis and her protest of same-sex marriage. Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee met with Davis in Kentucky after her release from jail. Huckabee stood beside Davis outside of the detention center in which she was held and even went as far as to say he wished he could go to jail for her. Just like Huckabee and Cruz, other Davis supporters across the United States are rallying behind her and the belief that the right to religious liberty is being infringed upon by the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling.
At the other side of the spectrum are those who adamantly believe that what Davis did was wrong. Laura Landenwich, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, said, “Ms. Davis has the absolute right to believe whatever she wants about God, faith, and religion, but as a government official who swore an oath to uphold the law, she cannot pick and choose who she is going to serve, or which duties her office will perform based on her religious beliefs.” Federal District Court Judge David L. Bunning agreed. He said, ““We expect at the end of the day for the court’s orders to be complied with.” William Sharp, also with the ACLU, went on to say that he believes the case is “simple” because “religious liberty…does not allow public officials to deny government services to the public based on their personal beliefs.”
The bottom line is this: Yes, Kim Davis has the right to believe gay marriage is a sin and the right to practice whatever faith she desires because this is the United States of America and religious freedom is secured under the First Amendment, but this does not mean that Kim Davis is right.
This is an issue of religious liberty and the accommodations that are provided to people because of it but we must not forget what her job is. She is an elected county clerk who swore to uphold the law. When someone enters a job as secular as hers, they must assume the consequences.
She is not being forced to endorse gay marriage. She is simply being told to do her job. If she believes that by giving out the licenses she is indirectly endorsing gay marriage, she should resign from her position.
Furthermore, her actions were repressive. The comparison between Davis and civil rights leaders Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. are completely illogical. Parks and King worked towards the expansion of rights of an oppressed people while Davis’s actions reflect a retraction of rights. Her denial of marriage licenses is more similar to the actions of the people who refused to allow African Americans entrance into businesses despite the passage of the desegregation law during the Civil Rights Movement. Her actions reflect an attempt upon the infringement of rights upheld by law. She cannot claim that the law is infringing on her rights to religious liberty because she is allowed to practice any faith she desires. The fact that the law will not allow her to discriminate and violate the rights of other human beings does not in any way constitute an infringement upon her own rights.