Thursday, March 17, 2016

Fired Over Kim Davis

Kim Davis, the anti-gay Kentucky county clerk who became briefly famous for refusing to let her office do its job, hasn't been in the news much lately. But according to Vatican sources, her case has led to serious repercussions for apostolic nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò.

Viganò arranged for Davis to briefly meet Pope Francis during his last visit to the United States. Davis and her supporters immediately issued a false public statement that the Pope supported their position, which provoked an online firestorm of controversy. Since the Pope didn't support Davis in any sense of the word, he was not amused.

So now rather than Kim Davis, it looks like the person set to lose their job over this whole mess is Viganò, who is slated to be removed as apostolic nuncio.

During the pope’s visit to the U.S. last year, Viganò arranged for him to meet with Davis, the Rowan County clerk, who shut down all marriage operations in her office to avoid serving same-sex couples after the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling. After she was sued and disobeyed a federal judge's order to resume marriage operations, she went to jail for contempt of court before agreeing that her office would serve all eligible couples.

Davis and her attorneys at Liberty Counsel, an anti-LGBT legal group, said she and her husband met privately with Pope Francis, who told her to “stay strong.” After news reports appeared about the meeting, held at the Vatican embassy in Washington, D.C., Vatican officials said the session was not private — the Davises were among several dozen people in a papal reception— and that the pope did not discuss the details of her situation. “His meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects,” a Vatican spokesman said at the time. Davis is not Catholic but a member of the Apostolic Pentecostal Christian faith.

Davis is an elected official, so she can't just be fired. But the state actually worked out a pretty simple compromise that wasn't widely publicized and which I actually don't have much of a problem with. Davis does not have to personally sign off on applications for the same-sex marriages she opposes as long as she lets somebody else from her office do it. To be legally valid, the applications never needed to be signed by her personally.

It's a pretty sad testimony to the psychology of religious extremists in this country that instead of just handing same-sex marriage applications to the person next to her to sign, she had to make a huge stink in the media, whining about how her rights were being violated if anyone in her office was allowed to sign off on them. But apparently, nobody else in her office has any problem doing that.

The point was never that Davis had to personally sign, which she considers to be against her beliefs. The point was that as a public servant, she was not allowed to demand that her office prevent others from exercising rights that her religion condemns. As I've pointed out many times, religious freedom isn't free. If you want to claim those rights for yourself, you have to be willing to extend them to everyone else.

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Ivy Bromius said...

I do have a problem with this "compromise" that they worked out for Kim Davis. If anyone in the office who doesn't like same sex marriage can avoid signing legal paperwork, what's to keep the religious fanatics from filling county offices with more of their ilk? So no one in the office will sign because they all object? I think people in public office should have to follow the law no matter what. And if the don't like gay marriage or abortion or whatnot, they should work their hardest to avoid having one themselves.

Scott Stenwick said...

As I see it, the test needs to be that any same-sex couple who walks into the office can get their application signed as quickly as any other couple can. So if everybody in the office was "opposed," that would fail my test. So would a case where a same-sex couple would be stuck having their application signed by only one person who might be out of the office on a given day.

Basically, I think exercising religious freedom rights for yourself is fine as long as your exercise of those rights in no way inconveniences anyone else. In Davis' specific case, I don't have much of a problem with it because she's the only person in her office who's being a whiny crybaby about it, and there are several other clerks who have no problems with it at all.

But I agree with you that it becomes a problem the moment somebody can't get paperwork signed that they otherwise would be able to. That's a fundamental duty for the office as a whole that religious nuts should not be allowed to interfere with.

Ivy Bromius said...

Exactly. And imagine an office of clerks none of whom will sign. The office will have to hire one who will, thereby having to have some kind of religious test (although it's really more of an anti-religious test) for the job. It's a potential can of worms. So if these crazies would just let it go, the idea will work, but you know they won't let it go.

Scott Stenwick said...

As I see it, the way this would work would be pretty simple.

If a couple happens to walk into an office where everybody has a religious objection, that's just tough for said nutballs. Somebody has to sign because the office has to do its job. If it's all nutballs, I suppose they can argue over who does it or do rock-paper-scissors or something. It just needs to get done.

The key is that nobody's religious objections can prevent business from getting done for everyone equally. If that means you pass the form to the person next to you, that doesn't create any hardship for the applicant.

This is easy when you're talking about employees who can be hired and fired. If they won't do their job, they're out. Davis, though, is an elected official, which is a whole other can of worms. Do we initiate impeachment hearings for every individual that doesn't like the idea of signing particular forms? That doesn't strike me as the best option either.

I wonder if switching over to stamps would be a better option. Then the stamp belongs to the office, unlike a personal signature which also belongs to the person.