It’s Tara, your friendly neighborhood gaytheist once again, this time here to talk about marriage equality, religious liberty, and a furry little bundle of polarization commonly referred to as Kim Davis.
If you had asked me two weeks ago how I felt about Kim Davis, the Rowan county, Kentucky clerk who has been refusing marriage licenses to same sex couples, I would have told you that she made my skin crawl and haunted my dreams at night and that the very mention of her name filled me overwhelmingly with a level of disdain best reserved for spiders and Nickelback.
However, I recently had an epiphany. I noticed that among my friends and acquaintances, a sizeable number of whom are conservative Christians, the rhetoric surrounding homosexuality and Christianity was changing. People who had, until recently, been hateful toward the queer community or refused to believe that homophobia was real, were suddenly faced with a cold, hard truth. Bigotry and homophobia are alive and well, and Kim Davis is both of those things in one convenient county clerk package.
And I was not the only person to notice. ABC News and The Washington Post conducted a survey to assess how people generally felt about religious liberty, civil liberty, and Kim Davis. The results were released on September 15. 74 percent of people surveyed stated that “equality under the law” was more important than “religious beliefs” when the two things conflicted, with 19 percent saying the opposite. 63 percent said that Kim Davis should be required to “issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples” while only 33 percent said that she should not.
This is compared to an Associated Press poll from July of this year which found that 47% of people believed that public officials with religious objections ought to be required to issue marriage licenses, while 49% stated that they should be exempt.
It is important to be aware that this is not perfect data—nearly 1/3 of those surveyed identified as democrats, about 1/5 as republicans and another 1/3 were independents. Conservatives are somewhat underrepresented by this data.
Specifically within the group called “evangelical white Protestants,” 61 percent supported Davis as did 66 percent of people who identified as “strong conservatives”.
This is not causal data and it would not be okay to claim that this data proves that Kim Davis caused an increase in support for marriage equality. However, the two things are certainly correlated, and it could be a causal relationship – the data just does not tell us.
Patheos states that Kim Davis and her lawyers “Westboro-ed” themselves, in reference to the Baptist church based in Kansas, best known for their charming signs reading “God Hates Fags” or “Soldiers Die For Fag Marriage” or “God Hates Proud Fags” or “Thank God for AIDS”. You may or may not notice that there is a theme in each of these slogans: they are all super catchy!
Just kidding. It’s that they each contain despicable examples of hate speech.
Westboro, listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as, “arguably the most obnoxious and rabid hate group in America” is so incredibly polarizing that no one feels “just okay” about them. The vast majority of people feel disgust toward Westboro, and the other 40 people are Westboro’s congregation. Most people who are on the fence with regard to queer issues do not read one of Westboro’s “God Hates Fags” signs and think that maybe Westboro is correct – they are much more likely to be pushed the opposite way.
So too, with Kim Davis. There are certainly folks who believe that she should be granted an exemption on religious grounds, which seems like a fair argument. The woman was willing to GO TO PRISON for God’s sake (pun intended) so maybe she has strong religious convictions. Most people do not go to prison for the fun and lively atmosphere.
But a lot of other people who were undecided with regard to gay marriage saw that a woman was so convinced that she was right, and that God, who she subscribes to be the supreme being of the universe, so hates queer folks that she would rather go to jail than show even the most passive form of “support” for same-sex marriage.
And maybe, some of these people thought that something was a little wrong with that.
Kim Davis’ post-jail speech to “Eye of the Tiger” was so polarizing, that very few people remain on the fence about her. Much like the Westboro Baptist church, people are not able to remain indifferent.
Regardless of how we feel about Kim Davis, she is standing for something she believes in. And in the process, she seems to be winning some new allies for the queer community. And I cannot fault her for either of those things.