Kim Davis and Why Throwing Her in Jail is Not the Answer

Okay, there’s a lot of information flying around about Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk denying to issue marriage licenses since SCOTUS made same-sex marriage legal in every state. I’m going to try to summarize the information to date. I also have an opinion on why throwing her in jail for contempt of court is not a good idea.

Short summary: SCOTUS ruled in June same-sex marriage was legal in every state. Kim Davis, the circuit clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, stopped issuing marriage licenses to all couples in response, citing her sincerely held religious beliefs that same-sex marriage is against God’s will. Four couples, two straight and two gay, sued her after several attempts to get marriage licenses. A federal judge, David Bunning, found that Davis’s religious freedom was not being violated because she’s still able to attend church, pray openly, minister to people she’s ministered to for years, and otherwise continue practicing her Christianity. She appealed the decision to the 6th Circuit Court that oversees the federal court where the ruling came down. Bunning granted her a stay while that appeal was being considered. The 6th Circuit Court upheld Bunning’s ruling and ordered her to begin complying with the law by August 31, when Bunning’s stay expired. Davis filed an appeal with the Supreme Court, and was denied. Today, September 1st, the plaintiff couples returned to the circuit clerk’s office for their marriage licenses, only to be denied again.

The most common question I see is a variation on this theme: Why hasn’t she been fired? She’s not doing her job!

She can’t be fired. She’s an elected official. Just as a President of the U.S. has to be impeached, so does she. She also could be ousted by a recall election (think Gray Davis, the governor of California in office before Arnold Schwarzenegger took the spot). An impeachment wouldn’t begin until Kentucky lawmakers are back in session in January 2016, unless a costly special session is convened. These things take time, so in the meantime, Davis sits in the circuit clerk of Rowan County office as head honcho.

Now that she’s continued to defy court orders despite SCOTUS denying her appeal for a stay on Judge Bunning’s ruling that Davis’s religious freedoms are not being violated, what happens next?

The lawyers for the plaintiff’s in this case have filed a motion for Davis to be held in contempt of court for defying a federal ruling (Bunning’s, though she’s also in violation of SCOTUS’s Obergefell decision in June). They’ve requested financial penalties stiff enough to make Davis comply as opposed to holding Davis in the county jail.

I believe there are two reasons for this:
One, as satisfying as it would be to have a Kim Davis mugshot, her incarceration would make the religious right howl in indignation, giving Davis the martyrdom she’s being set up to shoulder. She is the face of all the anti-gay opposition to same-sex marriage in this country. They need their poster girl and she’s IT for the moment. I bet a little digging, and we would see she’s being financially backed by right-wing lobbyists who want to have leverage to pressure their lawmakers for legislation regarding more religious freedom protections. It wouldn’t surprise me to find she’s also getting help from organizations like the Family Research Council, (or especially the FRC, who could be trying to save face after the Josh Duggar debacle, if they weren’t already broke).
Two, as my wife-to-be said so succinctly, making Davis pay stiff penalties would cut into the salary she receives for doing a job she’s no longer performing, and if she bleats about it, it’s harder to sympathize with someone who will appear greedy to keep money paid by taxpayers she’s actively suppressing. Not to mention, a significant fine would feel like a balancing of the scales to those taxpayers paying toward her salary who disagree with her stance.

Another common thread I’ve seen is how can she propose to uphold the sanctity of marriage when she’s been divorced three times, and is on her 4th marriage?

Yes, there’s a lot of hypocrisy in that particular detail, given that one of the couples she’s denied repeatedly have been together for 17 years and she hasn’t seemed to hold onto a husband that long (I don’t honestly know the duration of her marriages, so while that’s what people might be thinking, it’s not fact that she’s been in shorter relationships than the two men in question). However, her personal life is not the issue here. Her personal beliefs may be the root cause of this shitshow, but protesters supporting the discriminated against couples would not be furthering the cause by slinging mud about Davis’s past marriages. Why? Because we’re demanding she refrain from judging the marriages she’s supposed to be giving licenses for, so judging her marriages would make us just as hypocritical.

What’s all this mean?

All I know is if it takes too much time to boot Davis from her elected position, other circuit clerks in defiance of the SCOTUS ruling (thinking Casey Davis, who is no relation to Kim Davis, but also resides in Kentucky) could begin doing the same, and then we’d have a Kim Davis situation in multiple states. We’ll probably see a rise in legislation anyway to protect religious freedoms much like what Indiana and Arkansas have passed this past spring, and it’ll be more two steps forward, one step back for LGBT protections. In the meantime, the more time it takes for Kim Davis to be impeached/recalled from her position, the longer the denied couples have to sit in limbo.

They could just go to another county, some of you might be thinking.

They could. But they shouldn’t have to. They live and pay taxes in Rowan County. They contribute to Rowan County’s economy by shopping and conducting business there. They have just as much right to a marriage license as heterosexual couples (who are also being caught up in this mess), so while going to another county would end with them legally married, that’s not the point. As strong as Kim Davis’s convictions are, so are the couples’ waiting for a license. They have the right, as ordered by the Supreme Court of the United States, to get married in every county, every state of the union.

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0 thoughts on “Kim Davis and Why Throwing Her in Jail is Not the Answer

  • I am originally from the county adjacent to Rowan County. This part of Kentucky has limited job opportunities and, the County Clerk position is well paid and offers good benefits. The county is known for being the home of Morehead State University. Small town politics are strange animals. The position of County Clerk doesn’t require any particular skill set or education. It is often either a popularity contest (you come from a well-known family) or no one else runs for the position.

    If news reports are correct, Ms. Davis’ mother held the position before her and, Ms. Davis served as an assistant clerk in her office. When Ms. Davis was elected to the position, her son was hired as a clerk in the same office. Apparently nepotism is not discouraged.

    I agree with you AJ. Jailing Ms. Davis would only make her a poster child for her “cause”. I left Kentucky several years ago and am not familiar with the Commonwealth’s laws. It sounds like short of a recall election Ms. Davis cannot be fired. Recalls do not always work. It takes time to hold the election, it is expensive and it is hard to get voter turnout.

    Hitting Ms. Davis in the wallet is the way to go. If she has to personally pay any fines, she might either change her mind or do the right thing and resign. The assistants in her office not elected and can be fired. According to news reports, her son apparently had political aspirations and wants to run for the office when she retires. I don’t think the voters of Rowan County will elect him. This county does not want the negative publicity. They do not want to appear backward or uneducated.

    I hope that all civic groups flood Rowan County and hold rallies protesting Ms. Davis while not spending a dime in the county. I also hope that all major news outlets report on her actions. The only way to fight bigotry is to shine a light on it and show it for the vile evil beast that it is.

    • From some of the statements the denied couples have made publicly, they haven’t felt ostracized by their peers through normal daily living, nor have they suffered outright hatred, and so they have been quite taken aback by being embroiled in this argument. If they experience acceptance among their peers, I would find it hard to believe there aren’t some very embarrassed residents of Morehead, KY, people who don’t want to be painted with the same brush as Kim Davis. I would imagine the next election will be very interesting indeed, and that if it is a popularity contest, a Davis won’t be at the helm after the votes are counted. Most people wouldn’t want this level of attention on their town, regardless of their opinion on who’s right or wrong here. It would just take someone to run against them, and frankly, while special elections are hard to get voters to turn out, this situation might be the exception to that due to the national attention it’s receiving.

  • I think she should be held in contempt, and she should be fined. All this *religious conviction* hooppla is nothing but a smoke-screen (*that’s* what her divorces prove), and the religious will scream *persecution* anyhow – they made a *victim* of Josh Duggar ffs.

    Enough is enough, with religion intruding in every single aspect of life a line needs to be drawn, it’s not just about same-sex marriage after all – it’s about the very troubling trend of trying to impose religious *values* (cough) on everybody.
    Yes, this will cost money, but so do nonsensical investigations into PP, and if the tax-payers don’t want to pay for such they might finally have an incentive to vote the reich-wing-fundies out.

    • This is the very reason our founding fathers worded the Bill of Rights and the Constitution without religious basis. They fled to this country to avoid religious persecution, and so were aware of the problems that could arise by entwining religion with government. Smart people, our founders. But you’re right. It’s about so much more than this one issue. It’s about separation of church and state, and while no one’s religion should be subject to persecution, those outside it shouldn’t be subject to religion’s persecution.

  • your completely wrong. She has an obligation to keep church and state seperet. She failed. She can not do what she is doing, jail is the right place for her. And I hope this is not the role model for christians, this is a role model for the westboro…. Christians are a joke. Practice what you preach… where is her menstral hut. I demand she be put there while she finishes ragging….

    • She does have an obligation to keep separate church and state. Absolutely she failed, and she deserves to be held in contempt of court. I wrote that I didn’t think she should be jailed because I thought it would make her more of a martyr than the Christian zealots were making her into, and I didn’t want to give the fundies any more reason to foam at the mouth over her “unfair” treatment.

      But the terms of Judge Bunning’s contempt order are that she do her job, or resign, whichever comes first, not some finite jail stay during which the right-wing media could whip the public into a frenzy and have much fanfare when she’s released. Because of the way Bunning set her contempt of court orders, I’m now in complete agreement that jail is where she belongs, because not imposing a fine takes the wind out of the sails of the people willing to financially back her, and the longer she sits in that cell, the more obvious it’ll become to EVERYBODY that she’s choosing her fate. Not only that, but the longer she sits there, the more likely a fickle public will move on, forget what she looks like and what she stands for, and so her martyrdom will fizzle. In the meantime, her office is issuing all marriage licenses, and everyone else involved is moving on with their lives. Bunning’s order cut Kim Davis’s stand off at the knees. It was perfect.

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