Kentucky city clerk Kim Davis is receiving notoriety for standing up for her sincerely held religious convictions by abstaining from issuing same sex marriage lisences. As a result she has since been jailed. This morning I awoke to social media thick with people coming to her defense. I get it. The optics suggest she is being targeted for her Christian convictions that marriage is truly defined as being between one man and one woman. I don’t disagree. She has that correct. However, that’s not actually the full story, and she is not making as noble a stand as it’s be purported.
First let me clear some things up. Davis is being jailed for contempt of court, not her religious convictions. Though the two are correlated, it’s not exactly the same. I understand her protest. I can even sympathize. She is correct, and morally correct when she says she has an obligation to obey God’s standards and not man’s. But she is wrong for how she’s choosing to cash that out.
She had an option to allow other clerks in the office to issue the lisences. However, she prevented anyone from issuing the lisences. That was her first mistake. She wouldn’t be in this position if she had simply made the conscientious objection, but didn’t stand in the way. This avenue would not have violated her commitment to her religious convictions.
Those who stand in opposition to Davis served the ultimatum: issue or resign. But this does speak to where her allegiances reside. Once the courts failed to grant her the accommodation — even though I believe she would have been accommodated had she allowed the other office personnel to issue the lisences — she had a duty, as an elected public official, to ensure all legal marriage lisence applications were issued.
I’m not one to support handing down an ultimatum like that. But it does show what is important to her. She was dedicated enough to be sent to jail on a contempt of court charge, but not dedicated enough to forgo her salary as a county clerk. In this day and age, in this economy, it’s hard to find fault in not wanting to relinquish a well paying job. But it’s a sign that although she has an allegiance to God, that allegiance apparently has a financial contingency.
It’s an unfortunate situation, but it Davis mishandled it wrongly by making herself a political martyr. If the Christian community wants to make Davis’ circumstance their cause, more power to them. But it’s important to represent all the details fairly.