Rowan County

Nearly on Cue

Lebanon dispenses wisdom and confidence. (Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor, episode 4, 'The Ark Adrift on the Lake ...')

“I am opposed to gay marriages on religious grounds, and my conscience will not allow me to sign off on marriage certificates for gay couples. People should not have to violate their conscience to run or to serve.”

Mayor Sharon Valentine-Thomas (R-PA, Pottstown)

Why do I have a song stuck in my head?

Just a couple fuckin’ more weeks to go! I wanna be Kim Davis! Nothin’ to do but be an asshole! I wanna be Kim Davis!

Mayor Sharon Valentine-Thomas (R-PA/Pottstown), in undated file photo from Digital First Media.That ain’t right.

Right?

Never mind.

Evan Brandt, for The Times Herald:

Statements by Pottstown Mayor Sharon Thomas in the usually sleepy race for register of wills have once again put Montgomery County in the spotlight in Pennsylvania’s debate about same sex marriage.

Thomas, a Republican, told The Intelligencer newspaper that she will not personally issue any same sex marriage licenses if she wins the race against incumbent Democrat D. Bruce Hanes.

Instead, as in the now-famous case of Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who spent five days in jail after defying a court order to issue same-sex licenses, Thomas said she will seek court permission to allow the licenses to be issued by a subordinate.

“I am opposed to gay marriages on religious grounds, and my conscience will not allow me to sign off on marriage certificates for gay couples,” Thomas, an ordained minister who is serving her second nonconsecutive term as Pottstown’s mayor, told The Intelligencer. “People should not have to violate their conscience to run or to serve.”

Thomas said, “I am not an obstructionist and will not force my values on others.”

There is a joke about Republicans and the idea that government does not or cannot work; why would anybody hire the applicant who says that about a job? In the twenty-first century, however, we need not be surprised that the punch line becomes a real campaign plank. That is to say, it’s kind of a one-turn maze; the punch line exists because it is reliable enough. To the other, this is something of an escalation.

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An Unfortunate Update (Dubious Hero)

Rowan County Clerk and infamous Christian supremacism icon Kim Davis receives the "Cost of Discipleship Award" at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., 25 Septemer 2015.  (Photo: Jonathan Swan/The Hill)

“And Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’ He replied, ‘My name is Legion; for we are many’.”

Mark 5.9 (RSV)

Kim Davis is the sort of memory we might wish to let fade. The embittered Rowan County Clerk went so far this week as to honor the Kentucky Democratic Party by switching her registration to Republican; meanwhile, conservatives celebrated her cause:

Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who became a hero to conservatives after refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, was compared to Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks as she was awarded a prize by a prominent Christian organization Friday evening.

Dabbing her eyes with a tissue and with a trembling voice, Davis told hundreds of evangelical Christians: “I feel so very undeserving.”

“I want to start by thanking my lord and my savior Jesus Christ, because without him it would never be possible, for he is my strength that carries me,” Davis said.

“I am only one,” she shouted to be heard above the cheering crowd. “But we are many.”

(Swan)

And while there are ironies aplenty, and some even sickening, about all that, the carryout point here is simple enough. I can still remember, in youth, a classmate earnestly trying to explain to me how we all had it wrong and the KKK was a misunderstood guardian of society and something about why Dr. King was a terrible person, and what strikes me about that recollection is that one could push such garbage unimpeded. In a day when feminsim is so (ahem!) “unflattering” as to require schoolhouse censorship, and Christians expel girls from school for not being girlish enough, we might understand why conservatives would wish to elevate a supremacist as some sort of civil rights hero, but it is also hard to imagine they might actually get away with it.

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Image note: Rowan County Clerk and infamous Christian supremacism icon Kim Davis receives the “Cost of Discipleship Award” at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., 25 Septemer 2015. (Photo: Jonathan Swan/The Hill)

Richardson, Bradford. “Kim Davis switches to GOP”. The Hill. 25 September 2015.

Swan, Jonathan. “Christian group honors Kim Davis with award”. The Hil. 25 September 2015.

Warren, Rosalyn. “A School Blurred Out This Girl’s Feminist T-Shirt Because It Was ‘Unflattering'”. BuzzFeed. 17 April 2015.

Just Another Day (Mad Mat Mix)

Kim Davis and Friends: Detail of cartoon by Kevin Siers, The Charlotte Observer, 10 September 2015.

Here is a question: What do Kim Davis and Donald Trump have in common? Before you reach for a punch line, I should note it’s not actually that kind of a setup. In truth, it is hard to follow either story, because it is difficult, to the one, to comprehend the full dimensions of what is actually happening, and to the other that it happens so damn fast. Either absurdist tragedy leaves us breathless trying to keep up.

For instance, adding the Oath Keepers to the mix probably isn’t any specific reason to be alarmed, but still, it can’t be good news.

In a phone call with Jackson County Kentucky Sheriff Denny Peyman, Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes said members of his group had reached out to Davis’s legal team and were already forming an on-the-ground presence in Kentucky’s Rowan County, but remained tight-lipped on specifics, Right Wing Watch reports. Rhodes said his group’s action had nothing to do with same-sex marriage, but instead was focused on his belief that Davis had been illegally detained after being found in contempt of court by not issuing marriage licenses.

“As far as we’re concerned, this is not over,” he said in the audio clip above. “This judge needs to be put on notice that his behavior is not going to be accepted, and we’ll be there to stop it and intercede ourselves if we have to.”

(Wong)

(more…)

Beyond Ridiculous

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis is escorted from jail to a waiting crowd by Liberty Counsel founder Mat Staver (right) and other lawyers from the Falwell Ministry-affiliated legal firm, in Grayson, Kentucky, Tuesday, 8 September 2015, after U.S. District Judge David Bunning lifted his contempt order. Ms. Davis' husband, Joe Davis, follows at rear. (Image via CNN)

This is not exactly unexpected:

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis walked out of a Kentucky detention center to massive applause Tuesday after spending five days behind bars for defying a federal order that she issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. But her attorney said that Davis would continue to abide by her conscience, which cannot condone same-sex nuptials, and that all licenses issued since her incarceration were not valid.

The defiant stand seems likely to land Davis right back in jail, from where she emerged Tuesday afternoon alongside her attorney, Mat Staver, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who was hosting a rally in her honor. Huckabee, a former Baptist pastor, told reporters outside the detention center he’d be willing to go to jail in her place should a federal judge find she’s violated the conditions of her release.

Bunning said in his order Tuesday that Davis “shall not interfere in any way, directly or indirectly, with the efforts of her deputy clerks to issue marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples.” But Staver suggested such interference was likely.

“She cannot allow a license authorizing same-sex marriage to go under her authority or name,” Staver said in an interview with NBC News’ Gabe Gutierrez, ahead of Davis’ release. “That’s been her position from the beginning and that will be her position, I assume, on any subsequent occasion. She’s asking for a simple fix, a simple accommodation.”

“We’re back to square one,” he added. “She’s been released. But there has been no resolution.”

(Margolin)

Some questions for the office pool: Will it take days before Kim Davis lands herself in jail, or mere hours? How, exactly, can she interfere? Hide all the license forms in her safe? Cut the printer cables? Sabotage the network? Physically preclude her deputies from doing their jobs? Fire them for doing their jobs? No, really, how is this going to go?

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Liberty Counsel

Liberty Counsel

Brian Tashman of Right Wing Watch put together a brief list―and thank him, since that means you don’t have to do it yourself―of strange arguments offered in support of Kim Davis, the Rowan County, Kentucky clerk who asserts her ad hoc religion entitles her, as an equally protected constitutional right, to decide who is entitled to their equally protected constitutional rights.

The list itself is pretty straightforward except for its unbelievability; yet here we are, and this is real:

(1) God’s law trumps U.S. law

(2) Davis was elected before Obergefell, so she’s exempt

(3) Davis is the only clerk obeying the law

(4) Gays can just drive to another county

(5) Anti-religious test for office

While it is true that these are all nonsensical, we might take a moment to consider that first, reminding of two points: Insurrection and bad attorneys.

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Another Obvious Question (House Divided Hot Mess Mix)

Kim Davis, the Rowan County Clerk of Courts, listens to Robbie Blankenship and Jesse Cruz as they speak with her at the County Clerks Office on September 2, 2015 in Morehead, Kentucky. (Photo: Ty Wright/Getty Images)

Let us start here:

Importantly, Davis is not claiming a substantial burden on her religious freedom or free speech rights if someone else authorizes and approves a SSM license devoid of her name.

(Mihet and Christman [Liberty Counsel], 28 August 2015; accents per source)

Follow the bouncing ball:

“The stay request offers several options such as removing Davis’s name from the marriage license, thus removing the personal nature of the authorization,” Staver pointed out. “Another accommodation would be to allow licenses to be issued by the chief executive of Rowan County or developing a statewide, online marriage license process,” Staver suggested. “There is absolutely no reason that this case has gone so far without reasonable people respecting and accommodating Kim Davis’s First Amendment rights,” Staver concluded.

(Liberty Counsel, 31 August 2015; boldface accent added)

And then came Friday:

Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel which represents Davis, said he believes Friday’s licenses are invalid because they were not issued with her approval. Davis’ name does not appear on the licenses.

“They are not worth the paper they are printed on,” Staver said, standing in front of the Grayson, Kentucky, detention center where Davis is being held. He added she had no intention of resigning as clerk.

(Bittenbender; boldface accent added)

Would any among Ms. Davis’ defenders care to attempt reconciling, or at least merely explaining that sleight? This much is true: We don’t expect Mr. Staver, nor his colleagues, Messrs. Christman and Himet, to do so. Indeed, we might wonder if they would find demands for such an explanation offensive to their religious freedom.

To be clear, because some need it so expressed:

If Kim Davis’ name was not on the marriage licenses, then the “personal nature of the authorization” would be removed. (Liberty Counsel, 28-31 August)

If the licenses were issued without Ms. Davis’ name on them, then they are “not worth the paper they are printed on” because Ms. Davis has not given authorization of a personal nature.

In the end, Mark Joseph Stern’s question of whether Kim Davis is “getting taken for a ride by her lawyers”, as the headline put it, asserts itself more insistently.

More and more, it’s beginning to look like the Liberty Counsel is taking Davis for a ride, using her doomed case to promote itself and its extremist principles. Davis has certainly humiliated and degraded the gay couples whom she turned away. But I wonder if, on some level, she isn’t a victim, too.

(Boldface accent added)

I mean, really.

This is a sick joke playing out before our eyes.

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Image note: Kim Davis, the Rowan County Clerk of Courts, listens to Robbie Blankenship and Jesse Cruz as they speak with her at the County Clerks Office on September 2, 2015 in Morehead, Kentucky. (Photo: Ty Wright/Getty Images)

(Tip o’ the hat I don’t actually wear: JoeMyGod)

Mihet, Horatio G. and Jonathan D. Christman. “Emergency Application to Stay Preliminary Injunction Pending Appeal”. Davis v. Miller et al. Supreme Court of the United States. 28 August 2015.

Liberty Counsel. “Accommodations Would End Rowan County Dispute”. Press Release. 31 August 2015.

Bittenbender, Steve. “Kentucky clerk’s office ends ban on same-sex marriage licenses”. Reuters. 4 September 2015.

Stern, Mark Joseph. “Is Kentucky’s Infamous Anti-Gay Clerk Getting Taken for a Ride by Her Lawyers?”. Slate. 31 August 2015.

An Obvious Question (Mix A Mat)

Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel.

There comes a point when we really must revisit Mark Joseph Stern’s point last week for Slate:

More and more, it’s beginning to look like the Liberty Counsel is taking Davis for a ride, using her doomed case to promote itself and its extremist principles. Davis has certainly humiliated and degraded the gay couples whom she turned away. But I wonder if, on some level, she isn’t a victim, too.

Think of it this way: Mat Staver has been on an eleven year losing streak. Think about that for a moment; his old claim to fame is a Pledge of Allegiance case, but in the question of Christians having the right to decide who else gets rights, he has been exactly the loser he sounds like for over a decade. Something about track record goes here.

We might also recall, more recently, Mr. Staver’s pledge to defend marriage, which was rooted in the same assertion of religious supremacism and comparisons to historical victims we hear now. Of late, though, he has ratcheted up the hatred:

With Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis jailed for refusing to follow the orders of U.S. District Judge David Bunning, her deputies issued a marriage license to James Yates and William Smith on Friday. The couple had previously been denied five times.Liberty Counsel

However, Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel which represents Davis, said he believes Friday’s licenses are invalid because they were not issued with her approval. Davis’ name does not appear on the licenses.

“They are not worth the paper they are printed on,” Staver said, standing in front of the Grayson, Kentucky, detention center where Davis is being held. He added she had no intention of resigning as clerk.

(Bittenbender)

At this point, it seems a pretty straightforward question: Is Mr. Staver really so cruel and desperately determined to disrupt and denigrate other people’s marriages, or is he just that bad of a lawyer?

Sigh. Nothing says it can’t be both.

Think about it, though; not only does he assert that his client need not follow the law, now he claims she can prevent others from following the law.

This is what “family values” culture comes to?

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Bittenbender, Steve. “Kentucky clerk’s office ends ban on same-sex marriage licenses”. Reuters. 4 September 2015.

Holland, Gina. “Court declines gay marriage case”. The Herald-Tribune. 29 November 2004.

Michelson, Noah. “Kim Davis’ Attorney Compares Her To Jews Living In Nazi Germany, Invokes Images Of Gas Chambers”. The Huffington Post. 5 September 2015.

Stern, Mark Joseph. “Is Kentucky’s Infamous Anti-Gay Clerk Getting Taken for a Ride by Her Lawyers?” Slate. 31 August 2015.

The Not-So-Gay Divorceé

VIII. Adjustment.

The question of a divorceé has long plagued Christian supremacists who denounce marriage equality and gay rights, but, you know, really? Not only has Kim Davis already licensed transgender man and his pansexual wife, and most likely also issued plenty of marriage licenses to divorceés, but it also turns out that Ms. Davis is herself a serial adulterer.

On this point, Travis Gettys of Raw Story considers an appearance by Dan Savage on msnbc; the author, advice columnist, and editor of The Stranger, Mr. Savage spared no punches:

“I think Kim Davis is waiting to cash in,” Savage told MSNBC. “I predicted from the beginning that she would defy all the court orders, defy the Supreme Court, she would ultimately be held in contempt of court, lose her job, perhaps go to prison for a short amount of time. And then she will have written for her, ghost written books. She will go on the right-wing lecture circuit and she’ll never have to do an honest day’s work ever again in her life.”

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, in a mugshot, 3 September 2015, after being held in contempt of court by U.S. District Judge David Bunning, after she refused to comply with the law and issue marriage licenses to homosexual couples.“This is about someone hypocritically cashing in, and she is a hypocrite,” he added.

Savage referred to the defiant clerk’s statement complaining that courts were asking her to “violate a central teaching of Scripture and of Jesus Himself regarding marriage” — which the columnist dismissed as ridiculous.

“This is a woman who’s been divorced three times and married four times,” he said, reading from the US News & World Report article that pointed out Davis “gave birth to twins five months after divorcing her first husband, (and) they were fathered by her third husband but adopted by her second husband.”

“She’s now onto her fourth husband,” Savage said. “Jesus Christ himself in scripture condemned divorce, called it adultery and forbids it. Jesus Christ himself in scripture says not one word about same-sex marriage.”

Savage said the U.S. Supreme Court had already decided the issue of same-sex marriage, and he said Davis clearly should have followed the law all along.

“She’s not being asked to perform a sacrament, she is tasked with ascertaining that the people in front of her, the couple in front of her, have a legal right to get married and to provide them with that license,” he said. “She is not a minister. She actually thinks she works for God there in the county courthouse, when she actually works for Caesar — and someone needs to acquaint her with that fact.”

Or we might attend Mr. Savage himself, who recently blogged, among other notes:

I would say I can’t wait for a Muslim county clerk in, say, Dearborn, Michigan (which has a huge Muslim community), to refuse to issue a marriage license to a Christian couple on the grounds that the this kafir couple hasn’t been paying jizya… but that’s not going to happen. Religious minorities in this country intuitively understand that to empower religious bigots like Davis is to paint bullseyes on their own backs. So the Jesus-freak goons at the Liberty Counsel work to frame discrimination as a “religious freedom” because they’re confident that American Christians will be the ones doing the discriminating, not suffering from it.

This is an important point. Something about functional reality goes here.

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The Point: Supremacy ≠ Equality

Rowan County, Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis shows emotion as she is cheered by a gathering of supporters during a rally on the steps of the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort, Kentucky, Saturday, 22 August 2015. Davis spoke at the rally organized by The Family Foundation of Kentucky. The crowd of a few thousand included churchgoers from around the state. Davis has been sued by the American Civil Liberties Union for denying marriage licenses to gay couples. She says her Christian faith prohibits her from signing licenses for same-sex couples. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

Yesterday, Brian Beutler laid out a case for why Kim Davis should face jail for contempt of court; the article for The New Republic recalled:

What was rendered as a call for pluralism, though, was really a counterbid to keep the old formula: when disputes arise between same-sex couples and religious people like ourselves, the state should side with us.

Today, Ms. Davis, the Clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, was ordered to jail by U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning; Steve Benen reminds, for msnbc:

Just so news consumers are clear, if you hear that Davis was jailed for her opposition to marriage equality, this is incorrect. She was taken into custody because she deliberately, brazenly ignored a court order. Davis was bound, not only to perform her official duties, but also to follow the law. She refused and is now in contempt of court.

This is important. But what neither Beutler nor Benen ever quite cut to―indeed, the larger discourse seems to avoid―is the basic functional reality. And perhaps there is a reason for this, but it comes down to something like we shouldn’t have to spell it out so simply, which is clearly insufficient since this really is the moment, and really is the argument.

Equality is equality. Functionally speaking, what Ms. Davis demands is that her “equality” requires her “superiority” and others’ “inferiority”. In theology, one of the practical limitations of God is inherent contradiction; even the Almighty cannot, by the classic example, fashion a square circle.

By definition, supremacy is not equality.

The functional reality that these Christian conservatives need to deal with is that equality is equality. This has been going on for a long time. As we have considered of Ms. Davis, the underlying device is the same as the library book argument. It’s also the same one we heard about pop music in the 1980s; the one that brought us the little black and white warning labels on heavy metal and rap albums. It is a traditional plea of the privileged, that another’s rights stop at the convenience or inconvenience of the privileged; one’s rights are violated as long as another’s are intact.

This is the functional reality: All Ms. Davis is asking is that her equality allow her supremacy.

So whatever one might say in rejoinder to Mr. Benen’s reminder, Mr. Beutler’s recollection of recent history is accurate:

Back before the Supreme Court found a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, when it became clear that same-sex marriage would one day be the law of the land in most, if not all states, conservative culture warriors abruptly changed tacks. After organizing for years around the notion that states and the federal government should refuse to recognize same-sex marriages, they decided the time had come for everyone to be accommodating to one another—as if liberals were suddenly making unfair demands.

But liberals were doing no such thing. For generations, when disputes rooted in discrimination against gays and lesbians arose between parties, governments would generally side with discriminators. Liberals were simply demanding that moving forward, the presumption should be turned on its head—beginning with the states themselves, a great many of which refused to recognize same-sex marriages.

Conservatives responded by issuing pleas for mercy, and embraced the concept of pluralism, to wield as a cudgel against gay rights activists. Same-sex marriage might prevail legally and politically, but opponents should not thenceforth be treated like bigots or pariahs or scofflaws.

What was rendered as a call for pluralism, though, was really a counterbid to keep the old formula: when disputes arise between same-sex couples and religious people like ourselves, the state should side with us.

Thus it is worth reminding explicitly: What he is describing is the old formula of supremacism: In order to be equal, Ms. Davis and other Christians should be able to demand and enforce inequality unto others.

Whatever anyone else tells you about freedom and conscience, simply remember that functionally speaking, supremacy and equality simply are not the same, and cannot be reconciled as such. Kim Davis is about to become a martyr and legend; let us always remember why.

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Image note: Rowan County, Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis shows emotion as she is cheered by a gathering of supporters during a rally on the steps of the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort, Kentucky, Saturday, 22 August 2015. Davis spoke at the rally organized by The Family Foundation of Kentucky. The crowd of a few thousand included churchgoers from around the state. Davis has been sued by the American Civil Liberties Union for denying marriage licenses to gay couples. She says her Christian faith prohibits her from signing licenses for same-sex couples. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

Benen, Steve. “Kentucky’s Kim Davis jailed, held in contempt”. msnbc. 3 September 2015.

Beutler, Brian. “Throw Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis in Jail”. The New Republic. 2 September 2015.

A Matter of Appearances, and Other Notes

Huang reflects on a mission barely accomplished. (Darker Than Black, ep. 14)

Although my permission doesn’t matter, yes, you have my permission to enjoy the next three paragraphs.

A transgender man and his wife stepped forward Saturday with paperwork showing that Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis apparently issued them a marriage license in February even though she has blocked forms for same-sex couples over the past two months.

Camryn Colen, who is transgender, and his wife Alexis, who identifies as pan sexual, said Davis’ office provided the license on Feb. 26 without asking to see Camryn’s birth certificate, which still identifies him as female. The couple married that night.

“She saw just a straight couple in love, and she should see everybody like that,” Camryn said. “She shouldn’t just see straight couples like that.”

(Wynn)

No, seriously. When petulant laughter―Ah! Ha! Ha ha! Hahaha! HaHahaHahHaHa!―is all we can think of, why not just go with it?

This moment of pure ironic bliss is brought to you by Kentucky, because why not and where the hell else? (more…)