(AP/Timothy D. Easley)

Kim Davis' petulant protest: Altering Rowan County marriage licenses isn't being "good at my job"

The Kentucky clerk is back in the office, claiming, "I don't think dignity is guaranteed in the Constitution"


Mary Elizabeth Williams
September 23, 2015 12:56AM (UTC)

I know we're all very busy being disgusted and outraged this week by Martin Shkreli, the Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO whose company overnight jacked the price of toxoplasmosis drug Daraprim from $13.50 a pill to $750. But don't let's dilute focus here. We still need to stay horrified at Kim Davis too.

You remember Kim Davis. She's the Kentucky county clerk who was persecuted for her religious beliefs — I mean, briefly jailed for failing to do her job of upholding the Constitution of the United States of America. The four-times married Davis, citing her "sincerely held religious beliefs," was earlier this month found in contempt of a federal court order for her refusal to issue marriage licenses in the wake of the Supreme Court's June ruling in favor of marriage equality. Six days later, a triumphant Davis emerged from jail to the strains of "Eye of the Tiger" and the support of Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz.

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Last week, she returned to her post, vowing that "Effective immediately, and until an accommodation is provided by those with the authority to provide it, any marriage license issued by my office will not be issued or authorized by me. Any unauthorized license that they issue will not have my name, my title or my authority on it. Instead, the license will state that they are issued pursuant to a federal court order." Aw, how romantic.

On Tuesday, the Associated Press reported that indeed, "When she returned to work last week, she confiscated the marriage licenses and replaced them. The new licenses say they were issued not under the authority of the county clerk, but 'pursuant to federal court order,'" leading attorneys for the ACLU to call the new practice "questionable at best" and argue against the "humiliation and stigma associated with the receipt of marriage licenses that are effectively imprinted with Davis’ opprobrium."

The ACLU is now asking the clerk's office "to issue marriage licenses in the same form and manner as those that were issued on or before September 8, 2015." In other words, without a petulant declaration of only doing this because they made me.

In an ABC News interview Monday that she conducted with her attorney present, Davis told correspondent Paula Faris that "I’m just a normal person that has been touched by the grace of God, and his mercy." She insisted that "My constituents elected me. But the main authority that rules my life is the Lord," adding, "I’m good at my job."

I don't know; I think being good at your job means doing what's in the job description, but maybe she's got a different idea. Davis also said that the altered marriage licenses her office is issuing are "not valid in God’s eyes."

Davis added that "I don't think dignity is guaranteed in the Constitution. I think dignity is something that you find within yourself. I feel really sad that … someone could be so unhappy with themselves as a person that they did not feel dignified as a human being until they got a piece of paper. I mean, there's just so much more to life than that." This coming from a woman who got herself four pieces of that paper.

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Because Davis is an elected official, it's no simple matter to send her packing from her job. And because she reportedly makes about $80,000 a year, you can understand why she's so eager to hang on to it, despite all of her godly objections. But just remember, she's still obstructing couples who want to get married in the unconditional and respectful manner in which they are entitled. That's a constitutional dignity they do have a right to. And if she can't do that, she has to be removed from office.


Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and the author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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