Kim Davis, The Unlikely Character Woven Into My Anniversary Tapestry
Today, I celebrate my 16th wedding anniversary to my partner of 22 years. Delighted, I also realize that I have the honor of sharing my anniversary with James Yates and William Smith, Jr, the first same-sex couple to receive a marriage license in Rowan County, Kentucky, following the brewing, dramatic stand-off between the defiant County Clerk, Kim Davis, and the LGBT and non-LGBT couples who applied for marriage licenses.
It seems completely fitting that a wedding that launched a groundbreaking business, dedicated to serving same-sex couples since 1999, should also share a thread in the collective marriage tapestry with the couples who will celebrate their commitments with marriage licenses in Kentucky today.
photo credit: Carly Fuller Photography
To be honest, I’ve had mixed feelings about watching the drama play out in Kentucky. It has felt like a singular story, divorced from majority opinion, on a crash course for an unhappy ending. I celebrate the freedom of speech in our country, which allows Kim Davis to share her opinion and my community to share ours. I also celebrate freedom of religion and am happy to allow space for Kim Davis to have her own religious beliefs and opinions, even if they run counter to mine.
But, what isn’t OK is that Kim Davis feels she is above the law and, as an elected official who swore to uphold the law (likely on a Bible, as a friend of mine recently pointed out), she has blocked loving couples from gaining access to a marriage license, which is their legal right.
What’s most astonishing to me about this story is Kim Davis refused her chance to step aside and avoid fines or jail, and that Judge David Bunning chose to sentence her to jail over a fine to compel her cooperation. This strikes me as a broader martyr-in-the-making situation, even though Ms. Davis’ misplaced exercise of her faith is representative of a small minority group. Even so, we all know this question of LGBT civil rights vs. religious freedom has been on a crash course for resolution since the Supreme Court recognized marriage equality on June 26, 2015.
As we consider Kim Davis and those who share her assertion that her religious beliefs should trump my civil rights, I ask you to also consider the opinion of a strong group of allies who are even more deeply immersed in weddings and marriage than Kim Davis: the wedding professionals who every day field inquiries from and sign contracts with LGBT and non-LGBT couples.
In July, the Associated Press released a poll that found 59 percent of the population believes wedding professionals should be able to refuse service on the basis of religious belief. The headlines that followed suggested that Americans hold religious beliefs more sacred than civil rights.
The question I had is this: Aren’t the opinions of wedding professionals more germane to same-sex couples when it comes to refusal of services? My experience in the wedding industry is that we have a majority of allies who are committed to learning more and responding thoughtfully to the needs of same-sex couples.
Shouldn’t that count for something?
So, with the help of WeddingWire, this month we surveyed wedding professionals to tell us what they think about same-sex marriage and the results were impressive. Not only do 90 percent of wedding professionals surveyed say they will work with same-sex couples, but 7 in 10 pros favor marriage equality laws outright (only 1 in 10 say they don’t support marriage equality, with 72 percent of that group saying their dissent is because of religious reasons).
The other striking result in our poll (which surprised me in its variation, even though the result itself trended as I had expected) is that only 29 percent of wedding professionals felt it would be OK for a wedding pro to refuse service to a same-sex couple based on his or her religious belief. That’s a 30-point spread compared to the AP poll.
Bottom line: the group for whom the question of serving same-sex couples is most salient — wedding professionals, themselves — is overwhelmingly supportive of same-sex couples and is embracing of the fact that you can have your own religious belief, but you can’t impose it on someone else in the public sphere.
As for me, I feel it is a privilege to be in the company of so many incredible allies. I am heartened that, in the year of my 16th wedding anniversary and our 22nd year together, my spouse and I can raise a glass to the fact that our relationship is now legally recognized in all 50 states and that our brothers and sisters in Rowan County can celebrate legally with us on Sept. 4–should they choose to do so.
Wedding innovator Kathryn Hamm (@madebykathryn) is co-author of The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian & Gay Wedding Photography (Amphoto Books, 2014), an Education Expert for WeddingWire and Publisher of GayWeddings.com