An Open Letter to Kim Davis From a Gay Pastor

A federal judge on Wednesday denied Kim Davis a stay of his order requiring her office to issue marriage licenses to all eligible couples who want one, the latest setback for the Kentucky county clerk who went to jail rather than issue licenses to gay couples.

“Such an approach would not only create piecemeal litigation, it would be inconsistent with basic principles of justice and fairness,” [Judge] Bunning wrote. – Reuters, Sept. 24, 2015

Dear Kim Davis,

I am so glad to see that you are finally able to sit down and explain the reasons behind your actions (or inaction) as Rowan County clerk in Kentucky denying marriage licenses to the same-sex couples who have approached your desk since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that such marriages are legal and must be recognized by all states (and counties) in the country.

Let me be the first lesbian to apologize to you for all the names you’ve been called and for the slings and arrows of hatred that you have suffered during this time. No one deserves to be personally attacked.

That being said, I disagree fully with your refusal to do your job, which requires you to follow the laws (whether they were passed by lawmakers or affirmed by the highest court in the land) no matter your personal beliefs about those laws. You do not work for God, you work for the government. Wasn’t it that Jesus fellow who told his disciples to “render unto Caesar” that which he controls? Civil marriage is Caesar’s territory, no matter how much the church would like to think otherwise.

The hatred that has been leveled at you for your stand, however, is wrong and should not be tolerated by any fair-minded person, whether they are religious or not. America should be a place where we can disagree without sinking to name-calling or death threats, though it seems to be a common response these days.

However, as you told ABC News’ Paula Faris, the name calling wasn’t the worst of it: “What probably hurt me the worst is when someone tells me that my God does not love me or that my God is not happy with me, that I am a hypocrite of a Christian.”

Here, my dear, is where we share a common bond. As a Christian, who happens to be a lesbian, I have been repeatedly made to feel, by strangers, religious leaders—even people I’ve called friends—that “my God does not love or that my God is not happy with me.” If I had a dime for every time someone called me “a hypocrite of a Christian,” I could buy Kentucky outright.

So I deeply understand your pain. But what causes me the greatest pain, Kim, is your blindness to the pain and anguish you continue to inflict upon my community. You say in the interview that “a piece of paper” cannot confer dignity upon people and that you feel sorry for people who need that.

Well, our community doesn’t need your pity. What we do need is equal civil rights—including the right to form a legally binding, government recognized contract called “marriage” with the person with whom we have chosen to build our lives.

That right means that if one of us becomes sick, our partner is considered next of kin, not family members who may, like you, disapprove of our lives together. That piece of paper means that I can inherit my wife’s property and have access to her social security and her health care. That piece of paper means that in the eyes of the law we are no longer strangers, but legally recognized as family.

That piece of paper confers dignity because it is a right that we have been denied based solely upon who we are and whom we love. Yes, LGBT people have plenty of dignity in their own lives without that piece of paper, and we have worked hard to claim that dignity in a society that once saw us as mentally ill (and continues to see us as sinful) and works tirelessly and without shame to roll back any of the hard-won gains we have achieved.

So, yes, Kim, that piece of paper, while it may not confer all the dignity we need, it plays a very large role in affirming that LGBT people are no longer second-class citizens in our own country.

I know that you have enjoyed the support of many people and you feel that your cause is just. But let’s be clear: you are no Rosa Parks; you are not the brave protesters who risked their lives to sit at an all-white lunch counter or tried to register to vote.

You are George Wallace blocking the schoolhouse door. You are the bus driver who refused to drive any further until Rosa Parks got back in her place on the back of the bus. You are the police with water hoses and dogs let loose on a peaceful community that only wants what other people have and take for granted as citizens.

I will not call you a hypocrite, because you are a true believer in the god you follow. As my Southern Baptist preacher daddy used to say though, “You are sincere, but you are sincerely wrong.” You are not the liberator, you are the oppressor; and like the LGBT community, you are in need of both compassion and liberation.

Theologian Jurgen Moltmann writes that any of us can become oppressors when we see freedom as “mastery”—as superiority over those seen as less than or unworthy. You are blind to your role as oppressor, however, because you have bought the conservative Christian idea that signing a marriage certificate for a same-sex couple will send you to hell, when Jesus had far more to say about the sin of divorced people remarrying. I’m sure you’ve been party to many second, third or more marriages without feeling that God would condemn you.

I know you’re fairly new in your faith and have found a community that loves and supports you. Changing your mind or allowing yourself to see LGBT people as having anything in common with you will put that love and support in jeopardy. But, for your own liberation, you must learn how to see the LGBT people around you as full human beings—deserving of your compassion if not your respect—and not as objects that threaten your eternal soul.

The trials and jail sentence that have already befallen you, Kim, are not God blessing you. Instead, Moltmann would say all this hardship is God’s attempt to liberate you! “God loves the oppressor by means of the judgment that he lets fall upon [them],” Moltmann asserts.

I believe that when the controversy dies down, when the camera crews head out to cover the next big story and the Liberty Counsel attorneys stop returning your calls, you will realize you’ve been played for a fool by both the political and religious leaders you thought loved and supported you.

Only then, maybe you will experience the crisis of faith you need to be able see God’s grace at work in your ordeal. In that moment, perhaps instead of feeling persecuted by the gays and lesbians appearing at your counter you’ll realize how you have been the persecutor and how your actions against your fellow human beings is really what has put your soul in jeopardy.

When that happens, Kim, look me up and we’ll commiserate about how terribly painful it is to be told that your God does not love you.