A gay dad’s open letter to the Kentucky county clerk who won’t do her job

A gay dad’s open letter to the Kentucky county clerk who won’t do her job
Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis
Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis

Along the metaphorical highway on the journey to LGBT civil rights, there are going to be a lot of collisions. These are the times when willful ignorance runs headlong into justice. Few of these collisions are as fascinating as the wreck taking place in Rowan County, Kentucky. It seems that the American public can’t help but rubberneck and gawk as a cadre of coldhearted counter people — led by a county clerk — rudely deny a polite gay couple their marriage license.

A small melodrama has unfolded. The “good guys” are a couple of Davids — Moore and Ermold — who just want to get married. After decades of LGBT progress, it is totally in their legal rights to do so. The “villain” of this story is a woman named Kim Davis who refuses to issue a marriage license to the couple. She also denied that right to a second couple, James Yates and William Smith Jr.

The governor of the state has told her to comply with the request, as has a federal judge.

Her representation, the right wing Liberty Counsel, has told her to refuse in order to create a high-profile scene that climbs through the judicial appeal process. She calls her homophobia “religious freedom.” But what it really is for the Liberty Council is profit.

As a gay dad, Ms. Davis’s behavior bothers me on multiple levels — particularly when I look at the messages she’s sending to my kinds and their counterparts in LGBT families across the nation. What upsets me first and foremost is her attempt to disparage families like mine and declare us invalid due to her own belief system. Her treatment of two prospective families is humiliating and demeaning. Kids who are in LGBT families — and kids who are LGBT themselves — should not have to live in a world where some government official would prefer they simply not exist.

Second, however, is her own stubborn and self-righteous behavior. I am trying to teach my children the principles of responsibility and citizenship. Ms. Davis violates those principles at every turn.

I have written her a letter.

Dear Ms. Davis,

Over the past few months, I’ve been watching your reaction to the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality for families like mine. Your stance has been both disappointing and confusing.

I understand you’re angry that the fight for marriage equality didn’t go the way you’d hoped. And while I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to persuade you into liking the decision, I expect you, as a public servant, to respect it.

Respect is really the key issue at hand — for you and for the gay couples you refuse to help. You’re demanding a respect for your beliefs that’s far beyond what’s reasonable, and these couples are demanding respect for their ability to determine the course of their own lives. Their demands are not just reasonable; they point to the way things should be.

Your demands do not.

The way that you demand the terms of your job adhere to your own standards — rather than the objective standards of law — reminds me of how my 12-year-old son would like rules applied. He’d like to be able to go to the local pool with his 13-year-old brother totally unattended. The pool’s rule for unattended kids is 14 and older. Jesse applies his logic this way: “Dad. If you add our ages together, that makes 25. It’s the same thing.” (Imagine them trying that logic at the local dance bar.)

His logic and the rules are not the same thing. Neither is your desire and the rule you want to break on behalf of “your beliefs.”

I have to admit that as a Christian myself; I don’t understand the religious system you claim to have. Nowhere in the Bible does it demand that you impede the family of a same-sex couple. It doesn’t even imply that you should. The key principle of the golden rule — to do unto others as you would have do unto you — and Christ’s second great commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself”, are totally counter to your behavior.

Much has been made of the fact that your own marriage license indicates that married multiple times. There are, theoretically, county clerks who would find your requests for re-marriage counter to Jesus’s directive on divorce. How would you react to them deeming you as “unmarryable”?

In that scenario, I would defend you. I embrace Christ. I feel He’s given us the awareness to understand that His directive on divorce was tied to a specific time and place. His purpose wasn’t to saddle people into hopeless permanent unions, but to protect women from destitution.

Even though I’m confused as to your exact motivations, I ask that you reconsider your choices for a completely different reason. You set a horrendous example for young people like my sons, who should be learning how to effectively co-exist with others in society.

Your behavior reminds me of Jesse’s. He has a high sense of what he considers right and wrong just as he did about the pool, and when confronted, he’ll hold his stand to the bitter end. Sometimes his stand is the correct and appropriate one. But we get into trouble when it’s not.

In those situations, he, like you, will want to do what he wants, when he wants. It has taken a lot of discussions and a lot of maturing on his part to try joining the team. By agreeing up front to the terms of engagement, he doesn’t get to violate rules just because he wants to.

It’s a lesson I wish you would learn.

You seem to share the need for life lessons around choosing with whom you associate. When Jesse puts his foot down on something he needs to do, but doesn’t want to, he asks his allies for credibility or support: “My friends don’t think that’s fair!” Invariably, those he calls upon to do the wrong thing have a vested interest. They want him to take the action, not for his well-being, but because it serves their interests.

Such is your relationship with Liberty Counsel. As the Lexington Herald-Leader observes, the Liberty Counsel:

“describes itself as a nonprofit that provides pro bono legal representation related to “religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family,” funded by tax-deductible donations and grants. In 2012 those gifts reached just over $3.5 million and in 2013 topped $4.1 million, according to IRS filings.”

They further point out that the group’s involvement with you isn’t because they believe they can bring you satisfaction, but rather that Liberty’s attorneys know they can’t win the case in Rowan County.

“Same-sex marriage is legal since the Supreme Court’s June 26 decision, and it’s Davis’ job to issue marriage licenses. So, why is Liberty Counsel marching alongside Davis in this losing cause? It takes a lot to keep that marketing machine humming and those executives paid, and the only way to keep those donations coming is to stay in the news. For that purpose a losing cause is just as good as — and perhaps better than — a winning one.”

Liberty Counsel seeks to attract emotionally-charged hate money from those people who want to harm gay families — the people who want to criminalize homosexuality — from those who see gay marriage and abortion with equal passion. Just because they’ve rallied around your cause doesn’t mean they’re your friends. What they’re doing to you is worse than what they will actually be able to affect towards LGBT families.

I wish you’d take a deep look into what would make you the better person. Your “friends”, who will reap millions, are telling you to hang out until the end — when you’ll be potentially unemployed, and perceived globally as a selfish intolerant hypocrite who was cruel to her neighbors. If you succeed on your current plan at the behest of Liberty Counsel, they’ll make a lot of money, and, in a paradoxical way, you will be the loser.

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The news you care about, reported on by the people who care about you:

This “Good Samaritan” friend is telling you to do the opposite: do your job, respect the people making their own life choices, and trust the God you profess to believe in that love will prevail in the end.

If you do that, the couples you’re denying will get the licenses they desire. They’ll walk away with the thousands of protections they deserve.

You’ll walk away with dignity. History won’t regard you as a hateful martyr, but rather a woman who changed her mind, evolved, and chose the path of compassion.

The Liberty Counsel won’t be able to use you for fundraising.

You’ll cease being a pawn for those seeking to profit from your disgruntled feelings. You’ll be the real winner.

A few years later, you will be walking down the street of your town. You’ll see a gloriously happy little girl holding her dad’s hand. She’ll smile at you, and give a little wink. As that visual “butterfly kiss” warms your heart, you’ll look to her father and realize that you know him. He’s one of the men you originally tried denying a marriage license. Your eyes will dart immediately back to the little girl, who will still be beaming at you.

In that moment, you’ll know without a doubt that you ultimately did the right thing.

There are some seriously weird Wizard of Oz adaptations out there

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