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Baseball season is drawing to a close, football is just starting, and basketball is just around the corner. With the exception of the occasional football tie game, most sporting events end up with exactly one winner and one loser. That’s the way we like it, here in the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.
But in politics—our real national pastime—we can sometimes play the game in a way that everybody wins. The current farrago involving Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis is a good case in point.
The Davis imbroglio has a little something for everyone. Constitutional Law, sex, politics, religion, lawyers, preachers, and presidential contenders. This veritable dog’s breakfast has, seemingly overnight, turned internet bloggers into constitutional scholars, and television commentators into experts on the Old Testament. It seems that just about everyone has an opinion about the complex and arcane relationships between church and state, federal and state law, virtue and vice, and sin and redemption.
In case you are the last UMW coalminer to just come to the surface, the Davis case involves a pair of homosexual men who—after seventeen years of living together in nonmarital bliss—decided to apply for a Kentucky marriage license in rural Rowan County. Kim Davis, the born again County Clerk, refused their request, and the pair got the ACLU to sue Ms. Davis in Federal Court.
The Federal Judge ordered Ms. Davis to issue the marriage license, and, when she continued to refuse, plopped her into the Carter County Jail, for contempt of court.
The following day, the two gentlemen received their requested marriage license from a deputy clerk, and today, after six days behind bars, Kim Davis was released by order of the Federal Judge, who determined she was no longer in contempt of his order.
So, who were the winners and losers in this ridiculous little game? Easy. Everybody won.
U.S. District Judge David Bunning, the Federal Judge who threw Ms. Davis into the pokey, is suddenly famous; despite being stuck on the bench of the backwater Eastern District of Kentucky Federal Court, in the Sixth Judicial Circuit. Previously, his only claim to fame was that he is the son of a moderately talented baseball player who also served as a mediocre Senator, and was appointed to the bench just ten years out of law school, despite an “unqualified” rating by the American Bar Association. Of course, the fact that his father was a United States Senator had nothing to do with his judicial appointment. As our British friends would say, “And Bob’s your uncle!” Bunning is a winner.
David Ermold and David Moore, two of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Ms. Davis, ended up with a marriage license, and at least fifteen minutes of fame. The modern equivalent of Richard and Mildred Loving (If you don’t remember who they are, you can Google it.), Messrs. Ermold and Moore have had their photographs—holding hands and smooching—plastered on the front pages of newspapers as far away as London (England, not Kentucky). They should have no trouble getting a baker to make them a wonderful wedding cake. They are winners.
The ACLU, stalwart defenders of parts of the First Amendment, will be able to add a couple of new paragraphs to their fund-raising pamphlets, and will soon be petitioning the Federal Court for an award of attorney fees, to be paid by the hapless taxpayers of Rowan County. They are winners.
The Citizens of Rowan County, with the possible exception of a few disgruntled taxpayers, are pretty excited at the sudden increase in the number of persons who can find Rowan County on a map. Many observers have opined that this whole affair must be serving as a profound embarrassment to the good folks of Rowan County. Said observers have obviously never set foot in that part of the country. Nothing could be further from the truth. Rowan Countians, to a man, are proud of their County Clerk, and her courageous stand against the awesome power of the Federal Courts and the Forces of Evil (which they consider one in the same). Like the good folks in Dayton, Tennessee, they will be celebrating this battle for generations to come. They are winners.
Attorney Mathew Staver and Liberty Counsel, who represented Kim Davis in her legal battle, will have their telephone ringing off the hook with requests for help, from cake bakers, wedding caterers, pizza makers, and marriage license clerks, around the country. Despite the fact that they lose most of their cases, and despite the fact that the Southern Poverty Law Center has them listed as a homophobic hate group, the notoriety generated by the Kim Davis case can only be expected to fatten their coffers and spur them on to even greater battles. They are winners.
Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas Governor, has latched onto the Kim Davis case in an effort to breathe a little life into his foundering presidential campaign. His stemwinder speech, outside the Carter County Detention Center today, coincident with Davis’ release from jail, was well calculated to bring a smile to the face of even the most hard-hearted Donald Trump supporter. Mike is a winner.
Governor Steve Beshear, Attorney General Jack Conway, and the Democrats, having gingerly dodged a bullet in this whole fubar fiasco, can now put this church/state, federal law/state law, conundrum behind them. Steve was afraid to call a special session of the Kentucky General Assembly to solve the burgeoning constitutional crisis; and was even afraid to express an opinion on either side of the conflict. He’s off the hook now, and his little boy can safely run for Attorney General (after successfully refusing to make any public comment about the Davis case). General Jack has also sidewinded his way south of taking a position in the matter; leaving him free to continue with his yearly lawsuit against Marathon Oil (with a success rate even lower than that of Liberty Counsel). Despite the facts that Kim Davis is a Democrat, and the judge who threw her in the clink is a Republican, the Democrats came out of this mess as winners.
And, finally, The Honorable Kim Davis, Rowan County Clerk, the little lady who embarked upon this dramatic adventure in political theatre when she asserted that she was following God’s Law by refusing to issue a marriage license to two homosexuals, will now go down in history as Kentucky’s Rosa Parks, or the Commonwealth’s George Wallace, depending upon one’s political bent. Leftist attackers have railed about her serial marriages, illegitimate children (not that there’s anything wrong with that), and her Bible-thumping hypocrisy. Rightist supporters have compared her to martyred icons, ranging from Martin Luther King, to Saint Paul, to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. The truth, as usual, lies somewhere in the middle. By most measures, Kim Davis is just an ordinary rural bureaucrat who, as a Christian of a Pentecostal persuasion, believes that homosexual marriage is sinful, and that her conscience will not allow her to do anything to facilitate that sin. When she took a principled stand, she risked losing her job, losing her pension, getting hit with a heavy fine, and even, as it developed, incarceration. Critics have observed that she held the keys to her own jail cell, and this is true. But, regardless of one’s political views or sexual proclivities, one is compelled to admit that it took courage to do what she did.
Kim Davis stood her ground, took her punishment, and did not waiver in her conviction. That makes her a hero. And a winner.