September 02, 2015

Why I Won't Mention Kim Davis's Divorces

There's a word for people that divorce and remarry over and over: serial monogamy.

Okay, technically, serial monogamy is "the practice of engaging in a succession of monogamous sexual relationships", so it applies to a far wider range of relationship arrangements than just marriage.

Recently, the term has come up in connection with Kim Davis, a county clerk for Rowan County, in Kentucky. You see, Mrs. Davis has been married multiple times, with a divorce between each marriage.

Mrs. Davis is also, currently, refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in her county, and her deputy clerks aren't either. Indeed, Davis and her staff have refused to issue ANY marriage licenses, to any couple, gay or straight, in their county. Davis claims she is doing this under God's authority (at least on Facebook and Twitter, God has denied any involvement. I could not reach him for comment on this piece...)

Davis has already pursued all of the legal channels available to her, supported by the Liberty Counsel, and this week, the Supreme Court refused to hear her appeal of a lower court's decision. Currently, the ACLU is pushing for Davis to be held in contempt of court.

All of this, though, is just background information to what I want to talk about, and what I want to talk about is the idea that people change.

You see, a lot of people that I otherwise agree with have been pointing at Kim Davis's serial monogamy and screaming, "HOW COULD YOU YOU HYPOCRITE," and I just...I can't support it any longer.

Here's why you won't hear me talking about Kim Davis's divorces: people change.

The AP outlined Davis's marital history like this:
She married her first husband, Dwain Wallace, when she was 18, and divorced him in 1994. 
She acknowledged in a 2008 divorce filing having had two children out of wedlock in 1994. 
In 1996, at age 30, she married Joe Davis for the first time. They divorced in 2006. 
The next year, at 40 years old, Davis wed Thomas McIntryre, though their marriage lasted less than a year. She re-married Joe Davis in 2009.

You know me. If you've read this blog at all, you know I'm not going in for the whole "washing in the blood, only God can judge me, yada yada ya". But I do know this--people change, and sometimes, they change in ways we don't agree with. I also know that just because the change is in ways we don't agree with or consider progressive is no reason to doubt the validity of the change.

We don't know what Davis believed when she married and divorced multiple times. We don't know that it's in conflict with her current beliefs on marriage equality. We don't know what brought her to this point, and so it's unfair to leverage her past against her without establishing its relevance to her present.

This isn't a Josh Duggar scenario, guys. We don't have someone who is off spouting family values and denying marriage equality and other legal protections to LGBT+ individuals while slipping off and diddling someone that's not his wife. Instead, we have a woman who has a checkered past, who is making decisions in the present, and we are trying to make tenuous connections between the two.

The logic just isn't there. I mean it. It's not. One of the aspects of the skeptical and freethinking and nonbelieving communities that I love is that we acknowledge that people grow and change. We acknowledge that we can be wrong. We accept that new evidence can change our minds, and in changing our minds, change who we are as people.

But then, when someone evinces seeming change that we don't agree with, suddenly, that person must be static. Their beliefs were unchanging. They have always been who they are, right at this moment, and we must hold them accountable for that.

It doesn't wash.

Please don't mistake me. This isn't a defense of Davis at all. Public officials should execute the duties of their offices irrespective of their religious beliefs. If they are unable to do that, they should resign. That's the ethical action in this situation, and Davis is wrong for not doing it. Her decision to deny marriage licenses is unethical, and perhaps even immoral. It's most certainly illegal.

But it's not unethical, immoral or illegal because she's a hypocrite. It's unethical, immoral, and illegal because it is wrong to deny people basic rights and freedoms. It's unethical, immoral, and illegal because it is wrong to enshrine a code of religious morality in our legal system. Full stop.

"But Kayla Sue," you're getting ready to say, "doesn't this help destroy her platform?"

Does it? Who's mind is this information changing? Are the conservative Christians that support her going to magically stop believing that Jesus's blood can wash away any sin? What's the relevance? Have we verified that she believed the same during her divorces and remarriages that she does now? Do we accept that people don't change over time? Because that's the underlying presumption behind this particular bit of mudslinging: Kim Davis is a hypocrite because she was divorced in 1994, 2006, and 2008, because she remarried, and because according to her current belief system, divorce is a sin and remarriage constitutes adultery (also a sin)--just like same-sex relationships--she's a hypocrite, right now, in 2015.

And it does.not.wash.

People change. In 2008, I voted for John McCain and Sarah Palin. I believed that abortion was immoral and should be illegal. I believed same-sex marriage was wrong. I was a Young Earth Creationist. I considered myself a conservative Christian. I believed our nation should be governed according to Christian principles. I believed that Muslims were terrorists, that black people just needed to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and quit whining, and that feminism was for people that hated men.

I would hate to be judged by those beliefs today, just seven years later. People change. I changed.

People change, and sometimes we don't agree with that change. I know the majority of my family doesn't agree with my changes, but I would hope that the fact that I held those beliefs years ago would never undercut my message today. I would hope that no one would look at my shift from anti-choice to pro-choice and say, "She's such a hypocrite! She said this just a few years ago. She believed this just a few years ago." Today, my belief system is entirely different.

If we are going to accept the idea that people can change when new information is introduced to them, we also have to accept the idea that sometimes we aren't going to agree with that change.

And there's still plenty of room to disagree with Davis's actions, because they are wrong, and she should resign. We can do that, and still accept that people change and that sometimes we come from a past we aren't proud of.

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