This morning I woke up to some disheartening news about a political race I’ve been following closely from back in my home state of Kentucky.
David Ermold has lost the Democratic Party nomination for Rowan County Clerk and will not face off against Republican incumbent Kim Davis this fall. The AP called the race for Elwood Caudill shortly after polls closed yesterday. Many of you may remember Kim Davis’s rise to fame following her refusal to comply with the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015, which made same-sex marriage legal across the United States. David Ermold was one of several gay couples who, following the landmark court decision, went to the Rowan County Clerk’s Office to obtain a marriage license and was denied by Ms. Davis.
In a viral video that quickly attracted over a million views on YouTube, Mr. Ermold asked the recalcitrant clerk under whose authority she was acting when defying the Supreme Court, to which she replied, with a scornful look, “Under God’s authority.”
Following the incident, a Kentucky judge held her in contempt of court, landing her a week of jail time. Upon being released, she was greeted by a crowd of supporters, including then-presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who accompanied her on a stage with “Eye of the Tiger” playing in the background.
I can’t help but wonder if she had already been advised to use that line–“Under God’s Authority”–by a team of attorneys representing her through the notorious conservative Christian advocacy group, Liberty Counsel, who went on to help her author a book of the same name. Following the publication of Under God’s Authority: The Kim Davis Story, Liberty Counsel sent Ms. Davis on a publicity tour, which included a trip to Romania in support of anti-LGBT legislation there.
The publicity stunt has worked well for Ms. Davis, who apart from a book deal and world tour was also granted a sit-down meeting with Pope Francis in Washington, DC. For the crusaders of the religious right, she has become a powerful symbol of martyrdom and the face of so-called “religious freedom.”
Although Mr. Ermold also garnered national attention for his campaign, including a segment on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show about the race, he was, unfortunately, unable to secure the nomination and now we wait to see how things will pan out in November.
Since I was born in Morehead (the seat of Rowan County) and raised in a fundamentalist Christian household, the race hits particularly close to home for me. While it would have made for a riveting news story to have a bitter showdown to follow during the mid-term election cycle, it appears the people of Rowan County have chosen, understandably, to eschew more unwanted time in the national spotlight.
I hope that voters will choose a path of equality and inclusiveness this fall and that the Kim Davis story will become just another ugly chapter in our long struggle for justice. I hope we’ll look back on this ordeal in a few years and think, “How was such a blatant form of discrimination ever even up for debate?” In the meantime, I’ll be looking out for more LGBT candidates and allies to support in local races across the country and continue to try and change the hearts and minds of those within my limited sphere of influence.
Ultimately, my hope is that someday I’ll be able to go back to my home state and feel completely loved and accepted. That someday I’ll be embraced–not merely tolerated–by the community, friends, and family I left behind many years ago so I could be free to live a more authentic life.