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So everyone in the U.S., and possibly many of you living abroad, has probably heard of Kim Davis by now. If you haven't, Kim Davis is the county clerk in Rowan County, Kentucky who has been refusing to issue marriage licenses to any couple, gay or straight, in the state of Kentucky, in an act of civil disobedience. She says her motive is religious; basically Davis says gay marriage, which the Supreme Court legalized all over the country in June, goes against her religion.
First of all, I'd like to say that I'm troubled by all the arguments that "it's the law" and therefore she has to follow it. God's law DOES run deeper than the laws of secular states. Is there no law so morally repugnant that we do not have a duty to obey? Women being denied suffrage, sodomy laws, curfews and internment for Japanese-Americans during World War II, runaway laws for teen-agers, the draft, laws denying people medical marijuana, and before 2003, laws stating that same-sex couples may not marry in any of the 50 states. Are we seriously to believe that the government knows more than you or I do about what's right or wrong? As John J. Miller put it: "Anyone who believes that all laws should always be obeyed would have made a fine slave catcher". Aristotle may have argued that by choosing to live in a state, one is obligated to be bound by its laws, but when I read that as a teen boy taking English class, it had a hollow ring to me. I was born into America by fate and prevented from leaving by runaway laws, so I was not "choosing" to live in the United States. But I was still expected not to smoke pot, not to drink before my twenty-first birthday, not to go naked in public, etc.
On the other hand, the taboo against homosexuality is basically something a bunch of intolerant people made of a few millennia ago and encoded into religions to lend their bigotry more gravitas. It's a rule basically pulled ex recto by society, making no more sense than the "Take your hat off inside a building" norm. Fred Phelps got it wrong: The REAL God does not hate LGBT people, folks!
In a way, Kim Davis is like the deans in the fifties and sixties who pled, "Please don't integrate my university!" as segregation was finally being overturned, case by case, and the National Guard was being deployed to campi to enforce integration rulings. Unjust laws were giving way to just laws, and these deans, stuck in the mindset of their own time, were showing their intolerance. In 50 years' time, Davis will be looked at as a bigot, just as we look at people who resisted integration today. She will not be seen as principled, but only as a sheep who clung to a hatred disguised as religious conviction.