In the wake of the refusal of Rowan County, Kentucky clerk Kim Davis to issue marriage licenses for couples, the term “religious freedom” has been tossed around to justify her actions. However, there seems to be confusion about what that term really means. As of late, members of the GOP along with some of those with strong religious convictions treat this situation in a way where Ms. Davis is the victim…and they couldn’t be any more wrong.
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution is frequently cited to justify actions such as the actions of Ms. Davis, claiming that through the amendment “God’s law” rules above all. In recent times—with the growing acceptance of the LGBT community and the ongoing fight to truly establish equality in this country for every citizen—those whose beliefs clash with the growing demand for LGBT rights seem to cite a violation of “religious freedom” whenever something doesn’t go their way.
The First Amendment is written as follows:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
What those with strong religious convictions don’t understand is that The First Amendment gives people the right to practice their own religion freely without the fear of persecution, however, it does not give Americans the right to impose or push their own personal beliefs onto others.
Kim Davis’ jail sentence for her refusal to issue marriage licenses wasn’t a violation of her religious freedom—it was, in fact, justified. The Supreme Court made a ruling, and Davis ignored that ruling and took matters into her own hands. As a county clerk, she had a responsibility to serve the public and perform duties, which included issuing marriage licenses. In any other career path, Davis would have been fired immediately for refusing to perform her duties. She doesn’t have to agree with the idea of same sex marriage, however, she had a responsibility to issue licenses to all couples wishing to be married and failed.
Several members of the GOP have supported her stance using the hashtag #ImWithKim, the most notable being Mike Huckabee. However, just because a person’s actions are endorsed by a political figure, doesn’t make it right. George Wallace was a former presidential candidate who was a segregationist. We have learned through the course of history that this way of thinking was wrong, and in the decades to come the history books will show how political figures such as Huckabee were also wrong.
Every day we watch as history is being made. I look at those who are set in their ways, those with strong religious convictions and those who grew up in a time where that type of behavior was shunned. I always find myself arguing, hearing about how I am in the wrong and one day I will understand—but I know in my heart that I stand on the right side of history. Those who cite “religious freedom” may believe their rights are being imposed on, but people said the same thing about interracial marriage.
Having religion in your life doesn’t have to mean refusing to change your ways, it doesn’t have to mean carrying hate in your heart toward those who can’t help being the way God made them. As a child, I was taught by an old Catholic woman set in her ways that homosexuals were evil and that unless I followed every word in The Bible verbatim that I would forever burn in Hell.
But as I grew older, I realized that she couldn’t be any more wrong. Some of the kindest people I’ve met were homosexual, and some of the worst people I know go to church each and every Sunday. God doesn’t judge those who can’t help what is wired into their genetics, but He can judge those who purposely and knowingly cause pain and suffering to the kindhearted who just want to live out their lives married to the one that they love.
People counter with the term “domestic partnership” as an alternative, but that only hurts same sex couples more. To some, it is only a matter of a title. But to others it is so much more. For so many years, happy couples that have spent decades together were not able to have the same basic human right as straight couples. As a straight man learning about the struggle of the LGBT community, it hurt me watching those around me being denied the freedom that I had taken for granted for much of my youth.
“Religious freedom” advocates such as Kim Davis claim that they are performing the work of God, but what bothers me the most is that these people impose on others rights while not practicing what they preach. Davis was married four times, and had multiple children out of wedlock. Those are two qualities that have always been frowned upon within the church community, but Davis refuses to issue marriage license regardless.
I have seen so many people like Davis in my life, those who treat the LGBT community like outcasts. Those who claim to be the most religious don’t embrace the “love thy neighbor” attitude of Jesus Christ and instead treat these individuals who are different like the devil himself. Davis isn’t the first and she won’t be the last to fight against the Human Rights Campaign’s efforts to promote equality and peace for all American citizens throughout the country, in fact, this battle for human rights may continue for years to come.
I hope that one day “religious freedom” isn’t used as an excuse to deny basic human rights to the LGBT community. I pray that the day will come where anybody can be with the person that they love. One day, I will have children, and I want them to live in a world free of hate. I want my children and my children’s children to live in a world where they can fall in love and get married to the person of their choice. History is changing, and I only hope that love continues to prevail in this fight.