When Constitutional Rights Collide

I had planned last week to write about trigger warnings this week as a follow-up to last week’s Social Issues blog entry.  But in the past few days, something much bigger than trigger warnings cropped up in the media.

What began as a war of wills in a small town in Kentucky has blown up all over the country as people weigh in on Kim Davis and her decision to go to jail rather than issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples who walk through the doors into the office where she is employed.

As with all controversial stories in the media, this one is no different in that many assumptions are being made — and shared — on social media. Some of those assumptions are correct, and some of those assumptions are rooted in ignorance and stereotyping.

Political Affiliations

One assumption running around social media is that if she’s so narrow-minded as to believe that the Bible trumps the U.S. Supreme Court, she must be a Republican.  The fact of the matter is, Kim Davis is a Democrat.

For those who like to stereotype Democrats as being the warm-and-fuzzy political party that embraces everyone equally, the fact that Kim Davis is a Democrat cannot be refuted.  In May 2014, she won the Democratic nomination for the top job as Rowan County Clerk.

Fire Her For Refusing To Do Her Job

She was elected to the position she now holds, and according to Rowan County attorney Cecil Watkins, Rowan County has no authority to remove or suspend Kim Davis from office.

Marriage And Faith

The media reports that she married in 1984 when she was am 18-year-old teenager, and they divorced ten years later in 1994.

Two years later, she married her second husband (who also became her fourth husband) in 1996, and they divorced ten years later in 2006.

A year later in 2007, she married her third husband (and father of her twins which were conceived while she was married to her first husband according to mainstream media), and they divorced within the year.

Her second wedding to her second husband (making him also her fourth husband) was in 2009.

Two years later, she had an epiphany and became a born-again Christian which happened (according to mainstream media) after she listened to a pastor preaching about forgiveness and God’s grave.

Constitution Rights v Religious Convictions

Many memes that are rolling around social media are making this situation all about religion.  They mock the woman for what they consider hypocrisy on her part on the basis that she has been married four times.

However, what’s overlooked is that applicants who have been denied could easily attend at any number of other locations to secure a marriage license.  It was reported that in July, Deputy Clerk Brian Mason was informing applicants who were being refused marriage licenses in Rowan County that neighboring counties (including Carter County and Bath County) were issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

They’re choosing to go to an office in Rowan County, Kentucky where it’s a given that same-sex couples wanting to secure a marriage license will be denied if Kim Davis is in issuing said license.

What same-sex couples are demanding is that their constitutional right (as determined by the U.S. Supreme Court) to marry their same-sex partner be respected.

What others are demanding is that the constitution rights (as determined by the Constitution) to Freedom of Religion be disregarded, contrary to what is guaranteed Americans in their Constitution.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Kim Davis Is The Only One Objecting

Again, the fact of the matter is that Kim Davis has become the person most associated with this situation.  In fact, in a lawsuit filed by a same-sex couple who were refused a marriage license by the Rowan County Clerk’s Office included Rowan County Judge Executive Walter Blevins (who reportedly also refused to issue them a license).  And according to the lawsuit there were others as well who refused to issue a marriage license to the couple.

No Matter How You Package Abuse

Like many outraged people on social media, there is an attempt to galvanize the LGBTQ community and their supporters to torment and abuse Kim Davis while she’s incarcerated, under the guise of “niceness.”  How so?

Darin Brooks of Houston (TX) has suggested on social media that LGBTQ couples send “wedding announcements, wedding photographs, letters describing the beauty of love celebrated between two human beings who’s chosen to commit their lives to one another.”  He also states, “I don’t want her to receive anything negative, or rude, or dismissive.”

What Mr. Brooks is suggesting people do (by way of the mail he’s asking people to send directly to Kim Davis while she’s being held at the Carter County Detention Center) is everything he claims he doesn’t want it to be:  negative, rude, and dismissive.

He says he wants “her mailbox to be flooded with pictures of happy people smiling, celebrating love, focusing on their own families and their own futures … <snip> … I want her to be so overwhelmed by love … <snip> … whether she chooses to learn from this or not is her choice.”

In other words, his expectation is that in bullying Kim Davis, that she will have to walk away from her constitution right to freedom of religion on the basis of overwhelming negative peer pressure.  That’s not a very good message to send out to the world as being representative of what the LGBTQ community stands for, is it?

Sending all those nice letters and announcements and photographs serves only to taunt and torment the woman who is quickly becoming a martyr for the cause, and due in large part to such misguided suggestions.

Fast Food Comparison

Many people on social media are sharing a cartoon by Kevin Frank where a fast food worker refuses to sell the customer food, citing gluttony as a sin, and alleging that selling the customer fast food would compromise the worker’s religious beliefs.  The cartoon was actually posted to his Facebook page on April 1, 2015 and had nothing to do with the Kim Davis situation (which wasn’t an issue when Kevin posted the cartoon to his site).

The cartoon, as it’s been usurped by those using it to point fingers at Kim Davis — is a misrepresentation of what the problem is in the Kim Davis case.  Her situation is nothing like the one portrayed in the cartoon.  A more accurate restaurant comparison would pit a vegan against a carnivore.

Imagine if Kim Davis was someone who decided to become vegan after years of enjoying meat and meat products.  Let’s further imagine that Kim Davis is a vegan who is a chef working at a vegan restaurant which serves a primarily vegan clientele, but anyone who enters the restaurant is welcome to enter the premises.

Now imagine that the restaurant owner decides there’s more money to be made with a meat-inclusive menu, and said owner tells Kim Davis, vegan chef, that not only must she now cook meat dishes, she must promote how wonderful meat is, and encourage other vegans to be accepting of the fact that eating food with a face can happily co-exist in the little formerly vegan restaurant.

As you can see, Kim Davis, vegan chef, would be in an untenable situation where her beliefs as a vegan would be in conflict with the new restaurant policy.

Now imagine further, if you will, that Kim Davis, vegan chef, is also a minority shareholder in said restaurant.  How are her interests being considered and respected when she is forced into a position of conflict due to the new restaurant policy?  After all, the voting American public are minority shareholders in a manner of speaking, are they not?

Compassion For All

Rather than make this situation all about religious beliefs, let’s see things for what they are:  A conflict between two rights that are guaranteed by the American Constitution.

Somewhere out there lies an answer that will allow everyone to have some of what they want without denying others that same right to have some of what they want.

If you want your rights to be respected, you have to also respect the rights of others.  And you won’t get there by wrapping negativity up in pretty bows or paper-thin flowery words or righteous indignation.  There’s a better way of finding a workable solution, and nitpicking at each other isn’t it.

Elyse Bruce

SUGGESTED READING


Clerk In Gay Marriage Fight

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/bd4e32a25d094c4bbacd1eead2690ea0/clerk-gay-marriage-fight-once-unlikely-wage-moral-war

Davis Facing Official Misconduct Charge
http://www.themoreheadnews.com/davis-facing-official-misconduct-charge/article_d60fbc98-4dc7-11e5-8151-9304eda149f7.html

Five Things About The Kentucky Clerk Who Won’t Issue Marriage Licenses
http://www.kansascity.com/news/nation-world/article33732603.html

Free Kim Davis: This Is Just What Gay Rights Groups Wanted To Avoid
http://www.wcnc.com/story/news/nation/2015/09/05/kim-davis-christian-gay-rights/71772980/

GoFundMe Nixes Fundraiser For Kentucky Clerk
http://www.wnd.com/2015/09/gofundme-nixes-fundraiser-for-kentucky-clerk/

Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis Defies Supreme Court, Turns Down Gay Couples
http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/same-sex-marriage-kentucky-clerk-defies-supreme-court-turns-down-n419351

Kim Davis Isn’t Hobby Lobby:  Testing The Limits Of Religious Freedom
http://www.wcnc.com/story/news/2015/09/04/kentucky-clerk-same-sex-marriage-boundaries–religious-freedom/71707500/

Kim Davis, Kentucky Clerk Blocking Gay Marriages, Has Had Her Own Marital Strife
http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/clerk-who-denied-gay-marriage-licenses-has-been-divorced-multiple-n420216

Meet Kim Davis, The Woman Denying Same-Sex Couples Marriage Licenses In Kentucky
http://www.buzzfeed.com/davidmack/meet-kim-davis#.gq3QlpzXy

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