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11 Sep 2015

On the Losing Side of History: The Kim Davis Matter Ignites Feelings of Revulsion and Empathy

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As I watched thousands of the faithful cheer ecstatically at the release of Rowan County, Ky., Clerk Kim Davis, I felt both revulsion and empathy.

If I’m being honest, the revulsion and the empathy were not in equal parts.

To be clear, my empathy is with the faithful—not Ms. Davis, nor the politicians using her gambit for their own electoral power grabs. I believe that, for many, religion is a balm, something that provides genuine comfort and guidance. I honor and respect that. I also happen to believe that, for some, religion is a convenient cloak behind which bigotry in its most virulent forms finds justification.

Ms. Davis is a four-times-married, fairly recent convert to Apostolic Christianity. She is also, paradoxically, a Democrat—although we shouldn’t be so surprised. Southern Democrats have been their own rare breed for decades now, so it’s no surprise she is not part of the Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren wing of the party.

When the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in June making marriage equality the law of the land, Ms. Davis, who was elected to her post last November, decided unilaterally that her savior’s word carried more weight than judicial fiat and, as such, refused to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

In what one can only assume was a public-relations effort to avoid being branded a complete bigot, she also stopped issuing licenses to opposite-sex couples. “She is not going to violate her conscience,” her attorney and overalls-clad second and fourth husband (the same guy) responded repeatedly after she was jailed for contempt of court.

The logic here seems ridiculously clear: If you are elected to office and refuse to perform one of its most fundamental job functions, you are unfit for said position. Period. Unfortunately, as an elected official, she cannot be fired. She could be impeached. She should resign. If your convictions preclude you from doing your job, you have broken your promise to the electorate. She is not being discriminated against because of her religion. She is being properly admonished for not doing her job.

Now she’s out of jail after 4 1/2 days during which she was apparently sustained by reading the Bible. I’m glad she was able to find solace. Skeptically, I can’t help but think that she’ll be viewed as a martyr, at least for a little while. She’ll make a boatload of money from personal appearances and book deals and the like—and then she’ll disappear, and the right wing will find another poor, beleaguered, put-upon soul whose Christianity has been allegedly impugned by the big, bad leftist elite.

The real evil-doers in all of this are the professional pilers-on. Fox News, of course. Ted Cruz. And, most annoyingly, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. At various times during this circus show, the good Reverend has compared Ms. Davis to Abraham Lincoln and current California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. Really?

Lincoln spoke out against the 1857 Supreme Court Dred Scott decision which held that African-Americans were not full citizens. Newsom, when the mayor of San Francisco, performed same-sex weddings for committed couples to extend civil rights to a maligned minority. (It should also be noted that he stopped doing so when so ordered by the courts.)

Ms. Davis, on the other hand, is defying the law to withhold rights, not to extend them. The case has been settled. After protracted legal battles, a veritable sea of blood, sweat and tears, and a successful advocacy campaign to win the hearts and minds of a solid majority of the American people, marriage equality is the law. Don’t like it? Vote for people who will rewrite discrimination into the Constitution.

On second thought, please don’t.

Huckabee sure knows how to rev up a crowd. And that’s just what he did in Grayson, Ky. Throwing raw meat at the lions to bolster his own hapless presidential campaign is his stock in trade. That’s where my revulsion comes in: He knows better. Separation of church and state is not tyranny toward Christians. It is a bedrock foundation championed by the Founding Fathers who knew a bit about a tyranny themselves.

Huckster Huckabee is the worst kind of charlatan—grabbing handfuls of cash and consolidating power by fear-mongering to the faithful. It’s appalling. People of sound mind and clear judgment will continue to ignore him and his ilk. Sadly, though, it appears that the entirety of the Republican Party is tripping over itself to portray themselves as BFFs with Jesus. Their tactics don’t strike me as very American. Nor Christian. But, God Bless Them.

While this silliness will undoubtedly continue, I’m heartened that it will attract fewer and fewer converts as time goes on. There will always be shrill, bloviating politicians. But eventually, they’ll have to answer to a higher power.

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