A Word in Edgewise: The Ego As Big As the Ritz: Apotheosis of a Clerk


Kim Davis, Kentucky’s law-defying clerk, went to jail. The next day, William Smith Jr. and James Yates, partners for ten years, were the first gay couple to receive a marriage license in Rowan County.

Soon, Davis was released and back on the job. Sort of. Torn between the “seemingly impossible choice” between her God-directed conscience and doing the job she’d sworn to do, Davis went to earth in her office, an officer guarding the closed door. Outside, anti-gay protesters were allowed in to harass same-sex couples applying for licenses.

Davis decided not to interfere with her deputy clerks signing marriage licenses, but would not herself authorize them, then stated their validity was thus suspect. “I just want to serve my neighbors quietly, without violating my conscience,” she said disingenuously, not acknowledging that she was still intent on barring other citizens, with their own deeply held beliefs, from obtaining legal documents.

If every license issued in Morehead county must be authorized under Davis’ name, why have any deputies at all (other than her son)? And her straight constituency? Everyone at some time requires a license or permit. Will they now be granted only as Davis’ God dictates? To Muslims, Jews, atheists? To other fervent Christians like former president Jimmy Carter, who believes Jesus would agree to gay marriage? How many more of Davis’ deeply held beliefs will now bubble to the surface?

The situation is both comic and cautionary. Davis, in an act of legerdemain, has seemingly conjured a Schröedinger’s marriage license that is both valid and not valid, stirring up an egregious rule of church over state, all under her control. Watching Davis perform onstage in front of the jail after her “release,” hands raised with her lawyer and former governor Mike Huckabee, gloating to the strains of “Eye of the Tiger” from Rocky III, one feels a disconnect with her humble, “I don’t want to have this conflict. I don’t want to be in the spotlight, and I certainly don’t want to be a whipping post [sic]. I am no hero. I’m just a person who has been transformed by the grace of God.”

Her God. The one that is now dictating what rights Davis’s fellow citizens in Rowan County Morehead shall enjoy. Who’s next?

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