And because it is personal I have hesitated to write about it beyond making comments on various blog sites. Also the story, especially the one involving the Rowan County Clerk in Kentucky, is far from over. However, as the story drags on, and emotions continue to run high, I do feel it is time to write in a little more depth about the topic.
I thought perhaps the best way to discuss the topic would be to explore the meaning of one of my favorite quotes.
The quote goes as follows: "Blue is blue and must be that but yellow is none the worse for it".
I used that quote as the caption under my high school yearbook photo. It is the inspirational saying that adorns my profile listing in the company inter-office instant messaging tool.
The source of the quote is hardly profound. It comes from the back of one of my sister's Monkees albums from the late 1960s. It was the first line of the quote that accompanied the photo of Mike Nesmith on the back of the album The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees. The quote was signed "Love, Carlisle Wheeling". I believe this was just Mike having a little fun as Carlisle Wheeling was also the name of a song that Nesmith wrote which appeared later on one of Nesmith's solo albums, although with a different song title. Apparently it may also appear on some re-releases of Monkees albums.
I know, I'm outing myself. I listened occasionally to the Monkees. While most of my time was spent on the Doors, Cream, Steppenwolf, The Who, etc, one of my guilty pleasures was the occasional borrowing of my sister's Monkees albums. In fact now that I think back on it, there is the possibility one or more of those albums may have belonged to me or my younger brother. But I digress.
No matter the source though, the quote spoke to me instantly. It's meaning has always seemed obvious to me. Though I have discovered through the years that is hardly a universal phenomenon. Many have complained to me that it makes no sense. People at work ask me if I still have the same stupid quote in my instant message profile. Yes, yes I do. This is the type of thing that probably contributed to one of my nicknames in high school, "Edweirds".
Guess it's just me, but the quote couldn't be any clearer. Blue has to be blue. It is blue by definition. It can not be anything except blue. (Okay don't get me started on that internet dress.)
But while blue is being blue, yellow remains yellow. Blue's being blue does not impact yellow's ability to still be yellow. Yellow's "yellowness" is not affected or diminished by blue being true to itself by being blue. Put more basically, blue's "blueness" is no threat to yellow's "yellowness".
Which is a long roundabout way of bringing us back to the issue of gays rights and same sex marriage. And my sister. And Rowan County Kentucky. And the county clerk.
My sister and her partner actually don't live in Rowan County. They live in Fleming County, Kentucky. But they both work in Rowan County. And the church they attend, and are both very active in, is also in Rowan County. So following the Supreme Court ruling legalizing same sex marriage nationally, it was to the Rowan County clerk's office that they went to get their marriage license.
And it is there that they were turned down for a marriage license, despite the Supreme Court ruling.
"It's nothing personal", or words to that effect, were what the clerk told my sister and her partner. "It just goes against my religious beliefs".
Oh well if that's all it is then by all means, no offense taken. Are you kidding me? Your religious beliefs are that I should be treated with less respect and not be given the same legal rights as you, because of what you believe? You can treat me differently and deny me the same services you provide others in your official capacity, but nothing personal? Got it.
My sister-in-law regrets that when they left the office she didn't tell the county clerk she would pray for her.
Now mind you Kim Davis, the Rowan County Clerk, is on marriage number four. But somehow two men or two women wanting to commit to each other for life will destroy the sanctity of "true", "Biblical" marriage.
Now Ms. Davis didn't want to appear to be discriminating against the gay folks. So she just stopped issuing any marriage licenses in Rowan County. The ACLU sued her on behalf of two heterosexual couples and two same sex couples who were denied marriage licenses by the county clerk's office. Full disclosure, my sister and her partner are not part of the lawsuit.
The scheduled decision came too late for my sister and her partner. Fortunately for them, to be married legally in Kentucky, they can obtain a license from any county clerk, not necessarily the clerk for the county where the ceremony is taking place. So they drove to a different county and got their license. The service took place in their church and was well attended and very joyous. I had the honor of doing one of the readings. As they put it, their pastor was probably more excited than they were to be able to perform such a union.
The reception was back at their farmhouse and also very well attended and as they say a good time was had by all.
Many of the specifics of the case have been documented and followed and widely discussed, but wanted to present them anyway to complete the picture.
Less than a week after their wedding the judge in the case handed down his decision. Surprise, surprise he ruled that Ms. Davis had to, you know, do her job. She had to follow the law as anyone holding public office should do. As he put it there was no infringement on her religious beliefs to issue such a license. By signing the license she was only attesting that the couple met the legal requirements in Kentucky to be married. Whether they met her religious standards is a separate question and not one she is forced to sign off on as part of her official duties. She is still free to practice her religion and believe what she will. But her failure to do her job, to impose her religious beliefs on others if you will, would definitely have a deleterious effect on others and their rights.
He also later denied a stay that Ms. Davis requested. But unfortunately the judge essentially stayed the denial of the stay so the Rowan County Clerk was free to continue not issuing marriage licenses until an appellate court weighed in. Earlier this week an appellate court did uphold the judge's basic decision denying her stay request, but I do not believe that was the full appeal of the decision. And no timetable exists yet for that. The clerk continues to deny applications for marriage licenses. It is not clear if that puts her in contempt of court now, or if she won't be in contempt of court until August 31st when the judge's original "stay of his denial of a stay" expires.
For those wondering, county clerk in Kentucky is an elected position. So even though the governor has told the clerks to follow the law and do their jobs, they cannot be fired for not doing so.
Last weekend a group of these like-minded religious folks held a rally at the Kentucky State Capitol to support Ms. Davis and two other county clerks in Kentucky who are refusing to issue licenses to same sex couples because it would violate their sincere religious beliefs.
So much energy. So much passion. And for what? To deny other people their equal rights.
Eventually of course this will be seen as a big and ridiculous waste of time, much in the way that objections and denial of inter-racial marriage are now seen. Sure there are still people that object personally, but very few still argue that the government by law should prevent an interracial couple from marrying if they so choose.
That was not always the case of course. After the Supreme Court handed down the Loving decision striking down the laws blocking interracial marriage, there were similar actions by some local authorities to disobey the order and refuse to grant licenses. And of course many of those objections were based on sincere religious belief. The parallels between those reactions and those of the Kentucky county clerks and others is noticeable. Eventually what furor there was over interracial marriage faded, and I'm sure most of the uproar regarding same sex marriage will as well.
But that is the long range view. Of course eventually the objections to treating all people equally will recede. In the present however I just don't get it. I don't understand why my sister and sister-in-law had to travel to another county just to enjoy the same public, legal benefits as their friends, families and neighbors.
In the same way that I don't get how their same-sex marriage in any way impacts my marriage or any other marriage. It had as much impact on Kim Davis' four, holy in the eyes of God, marriages, as it had on mine. Blue has as much impact on whether yellow is yellow.
Which brings me back to where this started. I also still don't get how people don't understand my yearbook caption, either. So maybe it is just me. Once Edweirds, always Edweirds.
And with that I'll leave you with a laugh. Here is a YouTube video of Roy Zimmerman singing a song that points out how ridiculous it can be to even talk about "Biblical" marriage.