Kim Davis to be Released, but Now What?

Kim Davis to be Released, but Now What? September 8, 2015

A US district judge has recently ordered that Kim Davis be released from prison, according to a CNN report.

Kim Davis mugshot via Carter County Jail
Kim Davis mugshot via Carter County Jail

She will not be free, however, to interfere with the issuing of marriage licenses. It’s now widely known that, with her absence, marriage license are being indiscriminately granted in Rowan County–in accord with the new law of the land.

It is a good thing that the judge has ordered her release. First of all, most people did not want her to be in prison. They wanted the law upheld; they wanted equal rights according to the law; and yes, if she refused to follow the law, they wanted consequences.

But her imprisonment also served as fuel for the flame of right-wing hysteria, some of whom proclaimed this as the first formal instance of government persecution to follow in the wake of the Obergefell decision.

It’s really here, they cried! Religious persecution against “convictional” or “biblical” or “traditional” Christians who dare to uphold their beliefs in the face of government interference.

Mike Huckabee took it as an opportunity to hold a freedom rally. I suspect this announcement of her release will undercut the urgency and lessen the passion of that rally. Assuming, that is, that Davis agrees to the conditions of her release. It sounds like it might be possible for her to refuse those conditions.

Happily, not all conservatives bought into the “religious persecution” narrative–or into the over-reaching notion that Davis’ convictional stand is comparable to that of Rosa Parks’ or other human rights activists.

Michael Gerson, for one example, suggests that,

But there is no serious case to be made for the right of public officials to break laws they don’t agree with, even for religious reasons. This is, in essence, seizing power from our system of laws and courts. The proper manner to change the law, in this instance, is to work for the election of a president who will appoint Supreme Court justices with a different view and for the election of senators who will confirm such justices. Or to propose and pass a constitutional amendment. Davis may be impatient with this system, but it is the one we have. Personally assuming the role in Rowan County, Ky., of a Supreme Court majority is not an option. The available alternatives are to implement the law (as public servants across red America have overwhelmingly done) or to resign in protest (as some have done as well).

Gerson does point out that the importance of the Davis case is that it foreshadows a whole host of complicated questions regarding how to navigate the implications of the landmark SCOTUS decision. But these won’t be, at root, ominous revelations of a threat to “religious freedom,” but rather the natural difficult questions of living together peacefully in a pluralistic society.

So what will happen now? One can hope that Kim Davis will be released from prison, that she will return to her post as County Clerk, and that her deputies will continue issuing marriage licenses–to all who apply–without her interference. It is unclear whether, under the conditions of her release, he name will be removed from the license. It sounds like this is unlikely until a special session can be called to change the policy.

Even if (as Davis so firmly believes) God is truly against same sex marriage, wouldn’t he be able to cut her a little slack at this point and overlook that minor detail?

Lord knows, she’s done “enough” already.



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