Kim Davis is a mere footnote in the history of the fight for marriage equality

On 26th June 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples all over the USA could get married and acquire the same legal rights as married couples of different genders. The 5-4 ruling signified the establishment of a new civil right, and a historic victory for LGBT+ advocates. Thousands of couples across the United States rejoiced as they pursued their desire to become legally wed, with many queuing to get their marriage licenses legalised by the state. However, the responses to this were not entirely positive; many couples were still refused legal recognition of their marriage, and met with negative reactions, including clerks quitting their jobs, judges dropping their license procedures and a third of the counties in Alabama refusing to issue any marriage licenses at all. One instance that has attracted particular attention is the case of Kim Davis.

On 1st July, two same-sex couples and two opposite-sex couples filed a lawsuit against Kim Davis, a county clerk from Rowan County, Kentucky, as she refused to sign their marriage licenses, having contended that the First Amendment protects her from having to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple, as it contravenes her religious beliefs. As the state law required her to do so, she reacted by refusing to issue marriage licenses to any couples. In spite of the preliminary injunction issued on 12th August, Davis continued to withhold licenses, citing “God’s authority” as her defence; consequently, the plaintiffs immediately filed a motion to hold Davis in contempt of court. This eventually led to Davis being sent to Carter County Detention Centre until she agreed to provide marriage licenses to everyone, or to allow her deputies to do so on her behalf; she was released from custody on 8th September, where she greeted a rally, led by the Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.

To some, among them supporters of religious freedom and anti-LGBT+ activists, Davis is a figure who represents “traditional family values”; they support her decision, and view any licenses issued in her absence as unlawful. Many have also described the lawsuit against Davis as contravening the First Amendment, stating that as she is an Apostolic Christian, she cannot be forced to approve of anything condemned by the Bible. Nonetheless, whilst the First Amendment supports the peaceable expression of religion, it does not support the enforcement of religious beliefs upon those who may not share them. By refusing to supply marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Davis has forced her views upon others. She has also broken her oath to the constitution, and refused government services to couples who can be legally married; what this ultimately demonstrates is that Davis has placed her own beliefs above the laws put in place by the government.

Davis’ actions may follow her religious beliefs, but they go against the civil laws of the US. By refusing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, she is silencing her fellow Americans, who have fought for marriage equality, on the basis that she does not agree with it. Her refusal to do her job is tantamount to a child’s tantrum. She may have gained attention from the media, but her fifteen minutes of fame are nearly up, and she will soon fade into obscurity, a mere footnote in the history of the fight for marriage equality.


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January 2022
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