The general consensus regarding Kim Davis, both online and off, is that she sucks at being a decent human being. But does that actually matter?
On June 27, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that state bans on gay marriage are unconstitutional in the landmark case Obergefell v. Hodges. It has now been three months since this momentous ruling came down, but for Rowan County, Kentucky, it’s been three months of frustration.
Kim Davis is an Apostolic Christian and is the Rowan County clerk. There is nothing wrong with being a Christian civil servant, except when combined with self-righteousness and power. Despite SCOTUS’ ruling, Davis has turned away couples — primarily those who identify as LGBTQ+, but also some who are heterosexual— applying for marriage licenses. Davis believes that her religion gives her the authority to determine what laws to follow and whom to sign marriage licenses to. According to the Washington Post, Davis has stated: “To me this has never been a gay or lesbian issue. It is about marriage and God’s word.”
Opponents of Davis, like YouTube sensation Philip DeFranco, have rightfully taken personal offense with her statement that marriage is a sacred union ordained by God for heterosexual couples only, as she is an admitted adulterer and on her fourth marriage.
On a comparative scale, America tends to be a more constrictive society when held against other first world countries, such as Denmark. However, when it comes to freedom of speech, America is the forerunner and the trendsetter. Davis’ speech, while horrendous, is a necessary example of the importance of speech. Anyone with common sense often questions why organizations like the KKK are allowed to spew their garbage, and the answer is freedom. For many, that answer is not good enough. But why, when some speech is so filled with vitriol and ignorance, is it protected?
The truth is, for all Americans to have this right, we must protect unpopular speech because if we begin censoring some speech, what will we censor next? This sort of slippery slope is what led James Madison to emphasize the significance of the right to free speech — specifically, unpopular speech. The first amendment protects and continues to allow the Davis’ of the world and organizations like the KKK to speak (don’t worry; they make asses of themselves for us). Madison’s convictions surrounding the need to protect unpopular speech was so strong, that when he wrote the first amendment he guaranteed freedom of speech, so as to limit the government’s and the people’s ability to squelch individualism.
Now this is where it gets tricky: because of the first amendment, you can be a xenophobe, racist, bigot or all around ignorant stick in the mud as much as you like, so long as you do not interfere with someone else’s rights. That is what matters in regards to Kim Davis. As a civil servant, an elected official of the United States, she is bound by the Oath of Office — an oath that promises to uphold the constitution and all it entails, which public officials must swear upon before acting as a civil servant — to uphold the standards set forth by our courts. Her refusal to grant marriage licenses is an illegal abuse of power. As an elected official, there is little recourse that can be done; she must either resign, face jail time or face impeachment. She spent six days in jail for civil contempt and was released Sept. 8, in a large part due to conservative politicians, such as Mike Huckabee, arguing that the right to discriminate based on religious beliefs should be protected by the free exercise clause.
But, her actions show a much more disturbing trend. Public officials like Huckabee and Davis, who are representatives of all Americans and live off our taxes, increasingly and outrightly state they are ignoring laws and rulings set in place. What should concern us all is not that there are still those who don’t see marriage as a civil right, but that there are those in power who are using their religious convictions to deny Americans their rights. Is this a sign of growing fundamentalist Christian tyranny? I’m not sure, but what I do know is that while fundamentalist Christians make up the minority, there are grassroots’ voters at all levels. Votes put Kim Davis into office; voting is what will take away her power.