Opinion: No winners in Kim Davis controversy

Matt Poe is a junior journalism major and columnist for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]

Matt Poe

The U.S. Supreme Court made a landmark decision in June allows that the Constitution would allow same-sex marriage. The ruling decided one of the great social issues of our time, and for the moment, it seemed to put to rest any doubt about same-sex couples’ right to marry. But where many Americans saw triumph in the Court’s ruling, others saw major issues and felt their rights and freedoms were negatively affected.

Enter Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis, who was freed Tuesday after being sent to jail for refusing to grant a marriage license to a same-sex couple. Davis, a Christian, spent five days in jail due to it “violating her conscience and going against her religion,” according to a Tuesday CNN article. The incident sparked outrage on both sides of the political spectrum, with many liberals condemning Davis for refusing to comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn restrictions in states yet to pass same-sex marriage laws.

However, upon Davis’ release from jail, many conservatives, including presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee, backed Davis’ decision.

“I’m not willing to spend the next years in tyranny under people who think they can take our freedom and conscience away,” Huckabee said at the pro-Davis rally.  

Regardless of what side of the political spectrum you may pledge loyalty to, the controversy is a loss for almost everyone involved. For the conservatives who support Davis, they can be viewed as careless or ignorant to deny same-sex couples their legal right to marry, even though it may counter personal beliefs. As for the liberals, this case can be viewed as another slap in the face over an issue ruled in their favor. And we haven’t even mentioned the disservice it has done to the same-sex couple who was denied a license by Davis, who identifies as a Democrat.

As a clerk, Davis’ position primarily consists of issuing licenses, keeping financial records and maintaining records of all governing body transactions including resolutions and ordinances, according to the National Association of Counties. Davis’ job is to comply with the law, regardless of her personal beliefs, and she failed in doing so. And while Davis has stated that she will return to work in Rowan County, Kentucky, it remains to be seen if she will comply and grant future same-sex marriage licenses.

The problem with this incident is about whether Davis’ religious belief should have influence on a secular decision in her occupation. The real issue here is that a government official failed to do a task she knew she would encounter when taking the position. If she cannot fulfill her position, should she resign or have been jailed?

Davis is entitled to her religious beliefs just as all citizens of the U.S. are, but when those beliefs conflict with daily aspects of a person’s job, the real problem surfaces, and it borders on gross negligence. My suggestion is she may want to look into a different occupation if this continues to be a problem in the future. If people neglected to perform their job because it clashed with their personal beliefs, the majority of us would be looking for work much more often than we would like.    

Matt Poe is a columnist for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].