I am a woman. I am a Kentuckian. I hold very strong beliefs about morality and justice. And I am not Kim Davis.
As the owner of a website about Kentucky women and their lives and interests, I tend to see the absolute best in our fair Commonwealth on a daily basis. I focus on our authors and artisans, our entrepreneurs and our raconteurs. I'm in a bubble, I suppose. Lately, I've seen a lot of what the world outside the Bluegrass State has to say about the Rowan County Clerk who stands in defiance of the Obergfell ruling. More frequently than not, the old tropes about Kentucky life rear their ugly heads: We marry our cousins. We're all stuck in the past. We're bigoted and we're backward. We stand in the way of progress. We're all Kim Davis.
Growing up in Eastern Kentucky, I knew a lot of women like Ms. Davis. Conservative, religious women. Often the members of small fundamentalist sects. They adhered to strict rules about a woman's appearance, choosing to uphold strict guidelines for modesty and decency. They didn't cut their hair, nor did they wear slacks. They glorified the version of God presented by their faith through extreme interpretations of the Bible. They refused to turn on the washing machine or cook a meal on the Sabbath, for this could be interpreted as doing work on The Lord's Day. I was raised to believe that, while this wasn't the brand of faith which we followed, it was something to be honored, because it was done in earnest. I was raised that there was no good reason for calling out the hypocrisy of the four-times-married Ms. Davis, lest someone shine a light on my own shortcomings. I was raised not to be ugly to others, whether I agreed with them or not. I was raised to be nice to Kim Davis.
But, the teachings of my Appalachian childhood also carried a strong sense of morality and equality and justice. I was raised to stand up for what I believe is right and to respectfully disagree with others while taking a stand of my own. I was raised to differentiate personal attacks from issues of ethical or professional misconduct. I was raised that, while I needed to be nice to others, I didn't have to agree with them.I was raised to believe that, as long as someone wasn't hurting anyone else with her beliefs, then there was no reason to point a finger. I was not raised to sit idly by while others suffered from hypocrisy, hate, and hysteria. I was raised to question Kim Davis.
As much as I adore the culture of my home state, I also love the fundamental tenets of our nation. I am grateful and humbled to live in an America that was founded both on religious tolerance and the separation of religion from governmental activities. I do respect Ms. Davis's right to a moral belief that differs from my own. I would never presume to know the core beliefs that motivate another human being. But, I believe that, if she cannot perform her job duties as a governmental official, then it's time for her to step down from her public position. America was founded on the separation of church and state. A county clerk's job is to do her civic duty, not her interpretation of her moral duty. Let me be 100% clear: I believe that it is time to impeach Kim Davis.
I believe that, in 50 years' time, our nation will view the idea that gay people were once barred from marriage with the same disbelief that people of my generation hold for the notions that interracial marriage was once banned, or that anyone other than white property-owning men were refused to right to vote. I am embarrassed of the role our Commonwealth has played in the path toward marriage equality. I pray that, in time, my home state's opposition to gay marriage -- be it Governor Beshear's antiquated statements that gay marriage is detrimental to Kentucky's birth rate and economy, or Ms. Davis's refusal to issue marriage licenses to gay Kentuckians -- will simply be seen as necessary hurdles toward the goal of equal marriage rights for all Americans. I hope that Kim Davis will ultimately be as insignificant as the Virginia judge who wrote that "Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents.... The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix." I hope that, soon, we forget Kim Davis.
So to the world outside the Bluegrass State, I beg of you: Before you lump all Kentuckians, all Kentucky women, or all Appalachian women together, please know that many of us practice civility and love. We are not motivated by hate or bigotry. We are not Kim Davis.
And, to my fellow Kentuckians, I ask y'all to extend grace and love to all. We can celebrate equality and love without sinking to ugliness and hate. Let's drop the personal-level insults and focus on the governmental procedure. Let's not contribute to the demonization of Kim Davis.
But, most of all, as a Kentucky woman, I ask of all who read this: Don't confuse my beliefs with those of Kim Davis.