Back in 2015 when the Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land, millions of Americans rejoiced; it was a decision long overdue for the countless same-sex couples who up to that point, had been denied the right to legally join their partners in matrimony, thus stripping them of their basic human rights. However, there were just as many who expressed outrage over the decision, claiming that the Bible states marriage is only between a man and a woman, with some going so far as to claim the legalization of same-sex marriage would soon lead to the legalization of marriage between humans and animals (it hasn’t). A bit of a stretch if you ask me; then again, most of those who exploit the Bible as a reason to oppose marriage equality are the antithesis of “good, God-fearing Christians,” instead hiding behind religion, specifically their chosen religion, to excuse their hate, bigotry and flat out ignorance. One such self-proclaimed Christian, elected Rowan County clerk Kim Davis, violated the United States Constitution by refusing to do her job, which included providing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in the state of Kentucky. While she had her fifteen minutes of fame last Fall, even spending a brief amount of time in jail, she soon faded from the spotlight. That is until Monday, September 19, 2016, when the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a motion in federal court seeking damages to the tune of $233,058 for attorney’s fees and other costs relating to the lawsuit they filed (and won) on behalf of four couples affected by Davis’ refusal to comply with the law. Both Davis and Rowan County are named as defendants in the suit.
William Sharp, Legal Director of the ACLU of Kentucky said the amount is intended to send a message that violating a person’s human rights does, as it should, come at a very high price. In a statement released to the press, Sharp said, “Courts recognize that when successful civil rights plaintiffs obtain a direct benefit from a court-ordered victory, such as in this case, they can be entitled to their legal expenses to deter future civil rights violations by government officials. By filing today’s motion, we hope to achieve that very objective — to send a message to government officials that willful violations of individuals’ rights will be costly.” It is estimated lawyers spent over 600 billable hours on the case last year, with attorneys’ fees ranging between $250-$700 per hour. However, a spokesperson for the ACLU made it clear the motion is not asking for Davis to be held personally responsible for paying the amount requested in the motion.
In the same press release, Michael Aldridge, executive director of the ACLU of Kentucky, said, “It is unfortunate that an elected official sought to use her office to withhold government services on the basis of her religious beliefs. And it is equally regrettable that the county may now have to pay for her misuse of that office and her refusal to comply with the court’s orders.”
Davis initially claimed her refusal to issue the licenses stemmed from her deeply-held Christian beliefs. Constitutionally, her First Amendment rights allow her the personal freedom to oppose same-sex marriage; however, her job as a government worker prevents her from violating others’ personal freedom to legally obtain said marriage licenses, as the First Amendment bars the government from taking an official religious stance. It is interesting to note Davis has been married four times, gave birth to her third husband’s twins just a few months after divorcing her first husband (fitting a second husband in there somewhere) and has been divorced three times, but she fears gays marrying each other will ruin the sanctity of marriage most. Doesn’t the Bible say something about adultery, divorce, children out of wedlock, stuff like that? Or is it more a matter of picking and choosing which parts of the Bible to use as a justification for the gross misuse of power?
Let me make something clear: there is no such thing as “gay” marriage. It’s just marriage. Period. It is a legal contract between two consenting people to establish rights and obligations between spouses, their children and their respective families. Whether spouses are the same or opposite sex of each other does not define what marriage means, no matter how bad anti-gay bigots wished it did. Because, you see, religious beliefs are not the same as fundamental civil rights and much as many would like to believe otherwise, the United States is not (and never will be) a Christian nation.
And if your religion teaches you to aggressively discriminate against or vehemently hate anyone…you’re in desperate need of a new religion.