I am oscillating between extreme irritation and outright anger over the amount of conservative, evangelical, right-wing, narrow-minded, fundamentalist Christian support the Kentucky county clerk, Kim Davis, is getting in her defiance of federal law mandating the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Her basic argument is: My Christian convictions tell me homosexuality and gay marriage are wrong, therefore, I cannot do anything (in public or private life) that acknowledges such behaviors. Most legal experts are making it clear that as an elected and duly-sworn public official, she has only one obligation: to faithfully uphold the laws of the United States and the state of Kentucky. I respect her right to hold whatever beliefs she chooses, but when we get into the government realm, where the Constitution bars the commingling of religion and law, she’s way out of line and should not be excused for her actions. If anything, she should be forced to resign from her post.
This situation strikes pretty close to home for me, because I learned the lesson this clerk is refusing to learn many years ago. Coming out of college, I was strongly anti-war. When I got married, my wife held the same views and we went looking for a way to express our opposition to war. Someone suggested we file a war tax deduction with our income taxes to send the message that we didn’t want our tax dollars used to kill people. Amazingly, the first year we tried it, we got a refund, which we immediately donated to a charitable organization doing development work overseas. A year later, IRS discovered its mistake and we were summoned for an audit.
The pleasant young man who handled our case listened quietly to our arguments for why we shouldn’t have to pay taxes to support something we were absolutely opposed to. He gave us the impression he might even agree with us. A few weeks later we got a letter informing us that we must submit the full amount of money refunded to us plus a fine for late payment of taxes. We ended up paying more war tax that year than ever. As the young man tried to explain to us, no matter how sympathetic the IRS (or a judge in the Kentucky clerk’s case) might be to your motivations in breaking the law, those views simply don’t count when it’s time to issue a ruling.
We’ve just gone through a bunch of decades when right-wing fundamentalist bigots have managed to force a lot of their jaundiced views on the rest of us through politicians and others. But the court rulings in support of gay marriage suggest we’re moving to a more rational, legal place as a nation. I hope Kim Davis can come to grips with that and not join hands with the right wingers who would like nothing more than to use her situation to help haul us back into the dark ages of bigotry, discrimination and hate.