|Photo by the Associated Press|
Think back over your childhood. Were there not times when your parents told you to do something that you didn’t like and didn’t want to do? It could be anything from taking out the trash, picking up your room, or maybe they told you that you had to play with a baby brother or sister, or go to a social event and interact with kids you didn’t really like. That last one is an especially difficult thing to do if you’re an introverted child. But nonetheless, your parents or parent, made you do something. You did it, and you survived.
There’s a situation that has been brewing in some places where those with the authority and the office that empowers them to distribute marriage licenses have decided that they don’t want to do it if it means giving a license to same-sex couples. They oppose the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell on June 26th which found the state laws banning lesbian and gay people from marrying their beloved were unconstitutional. The most notable case of this protest is Kim Davis, Clerk of Court in Rowan County, KY, who has now told a gay male couple on four separate occasions since that date that she will not give them a marriage license. Never mind that a federal judge, and the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the 6th Circuit, has ordered her to issue David Emrold and his partner, as well as all lesbian and gay couples, a license. Even the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to intercede on her behalf. None of that matters to Ms. Davis because this is—for her—a matter of “God’s authority.” In a statement released through the Liberty Counsel, the right-wing Christian legal advocacy group, Ms. Davis stated:
“To issue a marriage license which conflicts with God’s definition of marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience,” Davis said. “It is not a light issue for me. It is a Heaven or Hell decision.”
There are those who see Ms. Davis, an Apostolic Christian, as taking a noble stand and one where she is seeking the freedom of a conscientious objector. However, as this crisis unfolds in Kentucky, I, too, am drawn to the words of Jesus:
Then they sent to him some Pharisees and some Herodians to trap him in what he said. And they came and said to him, ‘Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?’ But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, ‘Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me see it.’ And they brought one. Then he said to them, ‘Whose head is this, and whose title?’ They answered, ‘The emperor’s.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ And they were utterly amazed at him.—Mark 12:13-17
In this case, we aren’t talking about a coin, but a piece of paper bearing the watermark of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Ms. Davis may object to having her signature on said paper, but that paper is the Roman…I’m sorry Rowan…County document that grants the civil rights and privileges of marriage. It is a legal document and a secular form. God doesn’t dwell in that document; God dwells in the love manifested between the people being married.
In fact, one could say that “God’s authority” has spoken in the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling from June. Some of us hold a belief that the “life-giving and liberating love of Jesus” that Presiding Bishop-elect Michael Curry talks of came rolling down like a waterfall of justice on that June day.