Davis’ martyrdom act not selling well

Timothy Kincaid

September 7th, 2015

Kim Davis

Mat Staver and Kim Davis no doubt believe that they have achieved the perfect situation. Kim Davis has been thrown in jail like Paul and Silas for her Christian faith. Homosexuals and liberals are showing themselves to be the tyrants that they are and are engaging in full on war against Christians.

But this narrative isn’t playing as well as they might like.

Anti-gay activists are pointing at certain GOP presidential pretenders as indication of support. And Democratic activists are doing the same to suggest that the Republican Party is comprised entirely of homophobic lunatics. But the reality is something quite else.

Certainly some wild-eyed firebrands like Mike Huckabee have rushed to her defense, planning a rally and fundraising on Davis’ plight. Others such as Cruz, Santorum, and Jindal have also weighed in as being in support of Davis and Rand Paul seems completely confused. But for most, the response is more nuanced.

The GOP candidates have expressed some level of dismay that Davis is in jail along with their general disagreement with the Obergefell ruling. But for many of them, their frustration is in no small part with Davis and her refusal to find a solution.

Jeb Bush

“She is sworn to uphold the law, and it seems to me that there ought to be common ground, there ought to be big enough space for her to act on her conscience and — now that the law is the law of the land — for a gay couple to be married in whatever jurisdiction that is,” Bush told reporters in New Hampshire.

Donald Trump

“You have to go with it. The decision’s been made, and that is the law of the land,” the real estate mogul said Friday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

“I would say the simple answer is let her clerks do it,” he said. “Now from what I understand she’s not letting the clerks do it either. The other simple answer is rather than going through this — because it’s really a very, very sticky situation and terrible situation — 30 miles away they have other places, they have many other places where you get licensed. And you have them actually quite nearby, that’s another alternative.”

Carly Fiorina

“And, while I disagree with this court’s decision, their actions are clear,” Fiorina said. “And so I think in this particular case, this woman now needs to make a decision of conscience — is she prepared to continue to work for the government, be paid for by the government in which case she needs to execute the government’s will, or does she feel so strongly about this that she wants to sever her employment with the government and go seek employment elsewhere where her religious liberties will be paramount over her duties as a government employee?”

John Kasich

Even though Davis personally opposes same-sex marriage, she’s a government employee, Kasich told ABC’s This Week on Sunday.

“She’s not running a church. I wouldn’t force this on a church, but in terms of her responsibility, I think she has to comply,” said Kasich, Ohio governor and a GOP presidential candidate. He doesn’t think she should sit in jail, he said, but “I think she should follow the law.”

Lindsey Graham

As a public official, comply with the law or resign.

“The rule of law is the rule of law. We are a rule of law nation.

“I appreciate her conviction, I support traditional marriage, but she’s accepted a job in which she has to apply the law to everyone.”

I think that there are several reasons why Davis’ jailing isn’t getting the expected universal condemnation from Republicans and conservatives.

First is Davis herself. Due to her faith, she dresses plainly and avoids makeup. And while on some, that can come across as sweet-faced and innocent, Davis’ simply looks dowdy. Davis also expresses her sense of entitlement and petty authority in her expressions, giving the impression of sourness and anger. She is not nearly so sympathetic a character as we have previously seen in bakers, photographers, and venue suppliers.

Running a close second is her counsel. They are accustomed to making outlandish and absurd statements to those who share their extreme views and who willingly believe their wild assertions. But when that is trotted out in front of the general public, it sounds like the ranting of lunatics. Insisting that the licenses being issued are void and worthless (though Kentucky law allows for deputy clerk authorization) or declaring that the Supreme Court doesn’t have constitutional authority to rule on issues relating to constitutional interpretation makes Mat Staver appear, as a Fox News panel put it, “ridiculously stupid”.

Also contributing to the lack of respect for Davis may be a current dissatisfaction with petty bureaucrats and never ending regulation. Irrespective of whether one thinks that marriage should be equal, this story seems more indicative of governmental meddling than it does of individual victimhood. It’s easy to pity a baker who is being forced by faceless administrators to bake a cake, but Davis is on the other side of that equation, refusing to engage with her customers and with reporters and autocratically forbidding her staff from serving the public.

We should also consider that Americans are tired of the debate. The question of the legality of same-sex marriage had placed strain on families and friendships and even on personal beliefs as ancient moral codes warred with genuine affection for gay people. And when the Supreme Court found for gay marriage, most of those who were not favorable of that decision were, nevertheless, glad that there had finally been a decision and they could move on. By bringing up again what was believed to be finalized, Davis irritated those who were becoming comfortable with the new reality.

Finally, this situation is not one which could not have found a solution. Davis was given the opportunity to find a win-win by allowing her deputies to issue marriage licenses. This would have allowed everyone to feel good about Davis standing for her beliefs but not standing in the way of others. And when she rejected that offer demanding that she be allowed to block marriage licenses in the county for everyone based solely on her personal beliefs, she was the one who seemed unfair and unkind.

Certainly the gadflies and the extremists and the professionally butthurt will beat this horse for long after it has breathed its last whinney. But the public, including much of the right of center, has not rallied around her nor found in Kim Davis a cause.


September 7th, 2015

Just the small addendum, all the repoets on this event now mention Davis’ complicated personal history. This wasnt the case early on and only makes her less sympathetic. Idk if her counsel was unaware of the extent of her martial issues or thought those issues would make her conversion story more powerful, but i think its hurt her in the public eye.

Gene in L.A.

September 8th, 2015

Davis’s history, her words and her actions are all relevant. Her “dowdiness” is not, and allowing it to be is misguided.

Mark F.

September 8th, 2015

Her “dowdiness” makes her less sympathetic. Her appearance shouldn’t make any difference, but it does in some sense. Sort of like if you show up in court in a cheap rumpled suit.

Priya Lynn

September 8th, 2015

While that’s true Mark, I think what Gene is saying is its kind of a low blow to bring her looks into this and that should be beneath us.

Timothy Kincaid

September 8th, 2015


But just 26% of Likely U.S. Voters think an elected official should be able to a ignore a federal court ruling that he or she disagrees with for religious reasons. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 66% think the official should carry out the law as the federal court has interpreted it.

Timothy Kincaid

September 8th, 2015

Also, Chris Christie has weighed in. I think perhaps he doesn’t know that Davis is elected.

“People have a right to practice their religion,” Christie said on “Fox and Friends” Tuesday morning. “Now, I’ve said what I would do with this woman is to move her to another job where this is not an objection for her. Because you have to follow the law — and the law has to be these licenses have to be issued.”


September 8th, 2015

“Chris Christie has weighed in”

Get it? Weighed in!! :)

I do agree objectively that her appearance is somewhat to blame, but I also agree with Timothy that her personal story is an even bigger problem. The rumpled suit analogy is a very good one (although it instantly makes me picture Joe Pesci vs. Fred Gywnne and smile).


September 8th, 2015

It’s really shocking to see that 34% of the public is confused about a public official’s duty to uphold the laws and follow court decisions.

Regan DuCasse

September 8th, 2015

I’ve wondered how long it would take for the general public to see that even the private sector businesses, made their own problems by defying non discrimination ordinances that apply to ALL businesses. Not just “Christian” ones.

Davis, overreached her authority, by not allowing any deputies who had no trouble with the laws, from doing their duties as well.
This is religious tyranny, in an environment where a religious person, is deciding FOR her subordinates, what their religious actions should be.

The incessant parsing of words, her duties, her motives and the moral relativism….shouldn’t be selling at all.
Precisely because it’s ALL OVER THE PLACE, and inconsistent with how a gov’t office can or should be run, period.
Ain’t nobody got time, for a bureaucrat to mess with the time and money, and inconvenience people had to put up with, to show up at all.
Only to be treated as if they had no business, with the business in the first place.
And for a reason like this?
It IS stupid.


September 9th, 2015

The author is pointing out that Davis’ “dowdiness” is relevant to the media, not to her case. She’s not a photogenic person, which is not her fault but does play into media stereotyping in general and media sexism in particular. Bluntly, she’s a poor poster child for this cause for many reasons, of which her lack of an expression of doe-eyed innocence is only one.

Priya Lynn

September 9th, 2015

While that’s true Lee, I think what Gene is saying is its kind of a low blow to bring her looks into this and that should be beneath us.

Gene in L.A.

September 9th, 2015

Priya gets it. In an ideal world of objective media, it would be beneath them too.

Regan DuCasse

September 9th, 2015

Actually, my friends, I remember how NOM recruited more telegenic young people to do most of their media junkets.

The found a beauty queen to try to be their spokesface, but it turned out that her personal morals weren’t what they were cracked up to be.
They tried again, with a football player of color…same thing.
He tripped and fell on his moral turpitude and broke his reputation.

Then came Thomas Peters…who, for a while just parroted the usual lines of having some inside intuition on the intentions of gay people.
But then he broke his neck, not long after his honeymoon, and he hasn’t been much use either.

Now they have Ryan T. Anderson, who is quite handsome, but also willing to lie and defame for his bread and butter.
So NOM is quite guilty of trying to use better looking representatives for their cause.
Making them just as guilty of looksism and how they choose to appeal with not just better looking reps, but much younger ones too.


September 10th, 2015

We live in an era of TV and still images. For better or worse, looks matter. Dale Carpenter’s book on the Lawerance v Texas is a real eye opener on how hard the gay rights orgs work to keep the focus on the issue and away from the plantiffs.

Priya Lynn

September 10th, 2015

“We live in an era of TV and still images. For better or worse, looks matter”.

Yes, we got that some time back.

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