Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation

Sept. 1 2015 10:59 AM

Kentucky Clerk Defies Court Order, Refuses to Issue Marriage License to Gay Couple

On Tuesday morning, David Moore and David Ermold returned to Kentucky’s Rowan County courthouse to obtain a marriage license. Kim Davis, the county clerk, had already twice denied Moore and Ermold a license because of her anti-gay Christian beliefs. But a federal judge ordered Davis to resume issuing marriage licenses, and both a circuit court and the Supreme Court declined to stay his ruling. Davis was out of legal options on Tuesday when Moore and Ermold requested a license.

Yet still, she turned them away. When the couple approached Davis, she told them that “we are not issuing marriage licenses today.”


“Under whose authority are you not issuing licenses?” Moore asked.

“Under God’s authority,” Davis told him.

Davis comes out to speak to another couple denied license

Posted by Hillary Thornton WKYT on Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Davis is now at real risk of being held in contempt of court. That’s disturbing for two reasons. First, it seems increasingly plausible that Liberty Counsel, the far-right fringe group representing Davis, is pushing her toward martyrdom to further their own anti-gay cause. Second, as some gay rights advocates have warned, the image of Davis being hauled off to prison would add a dangerous amount of fuel to the Christian persecution complex. I cannot imagine this standoff ending well for either side.  

Video Advertisement

Sept. 1 2015 9:00 AM

As a Sweater-Vest-Wearing Lesbian, I Stick Out Like a Sore Thumb in Tennessee. I Hate It.

I haven’t seen another human being wearing a sweater vest since I left Massachusetts, a situation I find highly unsettling. I’m a lesbian who wears men’s clothing, so it might come as a surprise to some that I’m not used to standing out in a crowd. But making a fashion statement has never been my intention—I just want to feel comfortable. Until I moved away from the liberal bastion where I was born and raised, it never felt as though I was making a statement with the way I dressed. Here in Tennessee, even the men look nothing like me—it’s a sports jersey and jeans crowd, where dressing up for a Friday night out means donning a Hawaiian shirt. As for masculine women, while there are some sporty tomboys around, I can’t tell who’s playing for my team and who’s just playing on a sports team. And none of them—male, female, or otherwise—wear sweater vests.

I never expected to miss living in a queer mecca. I certainly didn’t appreciate it at the time. I’m not what anyone would call an aficionado of gay culture—quite the opposite. I used to roll my eyes at any suggestion that queer people need to be around our own kind to feel comfortable, and I still have more straight, cis friends than queer ones. I had no idea how great it felt to be surrounded by other people like me until I didn’t have that anymore.


Aug. 31 2015 8:13 PM

Supreme Court Rejects Anti-Gay Clerk’s Emergency Application

On Monday night, the Supreme Court refused to stay a lower court decision ordering Kim Davis, an anti-gay Kentucky county clerk, to resume granting marriage licenses. Davis had denied marriage licenses to gay couples after the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, citing her own religious opposition to same-sex marriage. Several couples sued, and Davis—a taxpayer-funded public servant—decided to stop issuing all licenses. A federal judge ordered Davis to continue performing her duties, and an appeals court declined to stay his decision. Now that the Supreme Court has rejected Davis’ request for an injunction, she must resume granting marriage licenses or risk being held in contempt of court.

The court’s Monday decision did not specify why the justices declined to intervene, nor did it note any dissents. Still, its refusal to act suggests that the justices do not believe Davis has a strong likelihood of winning her case on its merits. Even if Davis did somehow win this case, however, she wouldn’t be rid of her legal woes: The county attorney’s office is currently looking to charge her for official misconduct—a crime punishable by up to one year in jail. 

Aug. 31 2015 1:58 PM

Is Kentucky’s Infamous Anti-Gay Clerk Getting Taken for a Ride by Her Lawyers? 

On Friday, anti-gay Kentucky clerk Kim Davis filed an emergency application to the Supreme Court, begging the justices to stay a lower court decision instructing her to grant marriage licenses. (Davis filed the application to Justice Elena Kagan, who will likely refer it to the full court.) As you may recall, Davis refused to grant marriage licenses to gay couples following the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. Several couples sued, and Davis—a taxpayer-funded county clerk—chose to stop issuing marriage licenses altogether. A federal judge ordered her to continue doing her job, but Davis refused, citing her First Amendment rights. The Sixth Circuit declined to stay the judge’s order, explaining that “it cannot be defensibly argued” that Davis’ rights were violated.

Davis’ application to the Supreme Court is less an application for a preliminary injunction than a sententious protest against Obergefell. It accuses theObergefell majority of “redefining” marriage—a staple of right-wing argot—three times. It sneers that the ruling was decided by a bare “5-4 majority.” It quotes, extensively and approvingly, the Obergefell dissenters’ ominous warnings about the apocalyptic crash between marriage equality and religious freedom. And, in case you didn’t get the point, it actually refers to “same-sex ‘marriage’ ”—complete with contemptuous scare quotes around “marriage.”

Aug. 28 2015 1:45 PM

Texas’ Gay-Bashing Attorney General Is in a Stunning Amount of Legal Trouble

Days after the Supreme Court brought marriage equality to America in Obergefell v. Hodges, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a formal opinion of dubious accuracy encouraging anti-gay clerks to refuse marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Paxton also noted that “numerous lawyers stand ready to assist clerks defending their religious beliefs” if any gay couples sued to vindicate their rights. And in a Facebook post, Paxton criticized Obergefell as “a dilution of marriage” and a “lawless” ruling.

Encouraging public employees to disobey a binding Supreme Court decision isn’t really what attorneys general are supposed to do. But it turns out Ken Paxton is no ordinary attorney general. Soon after his Obergefell tantrum, Paxton was indicted on felony security fraud charges. According to the indictment, Paxton told friends to buy shares in Servergy, pitching it as a groovy company he was psyched to invest in. But as it turns out, Paxton wasn’t acting out of the goodness of his heart: He was allegedly making secret commissions on the transactions he secured. (Paxton had already admitted to acting as a securities broker without registering with the state, paying a $1,000 fine for the misdeed.)

Aug. 28 2015 10:30 AM

The Georgia GOP Is in a Civil War Over Anti-Gay “Religious Liberty” Bill

I am a big fan of Sen. Josh McKoon, the rabidly anti-gay Georgia Republican legislator who sponsored a failed “religious liberty” bill last spring. Like most conservatives, McKoon initially peddled the laughable line that his bill wasn’t intended to undercut LGBT rights. But when a moderate Republican called his bluff, proposing a simple amendment to clarify that the bill did not legalize discrimination, McKoon let the façade drop. “That amendment,” he fumed, “would completely undercut the purpose of the bill.” With those words, McKoon finally admitted what so many would notThe whole point of “religious liberty” bills is to nullify LGBT nondiscrimination measures.

Since then, the Georgia GOP has split wide open over McKoon’s bill. Religious conservatives in the party vehemently support it; business-minded moderates, who fear an Indiana-style backlash, vigorously oppose it. (The latter camp is led by Jewish Rep. Mike Jacobs and supported by the Anti-Defamation League, which has led to some disturbing dog whistles.) Now McKoon is lining up his soldiers for the next charge—and, in doing so, dropping all pretexts about the true intentions of his bill. In a remarkable speech, McKoon pilloried companies like Delta, Coca-Cola, and Home Depot, which are headquartered in Georgia andspoke out against the bill. 

Aug. 28 2015 9:18 AM

Do the New APA Guidelines for Transgender-Affirmative Care Go Far Enough? 

On Aug. 6, the American Psychological Association announced 16 basic guidelines for transgender-affirmative psychological care. The culmination of three years of work, they offer an introduction for clinicians seeking to provide sensitive care for transgender and gender-nonconforming clients. These guidelines do not replace more specific assessment and treatment standards established by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health. Rather, the guidelines give a clear explanation of terms and concepts, recommendations for supportive therapy and research, and some acknowledgement of the violence, abuse, and stress many transgender and gender-nonconforming people face. The guidelines are impressive for their breadth and integration of research, but it is unclear what they will actually do to improve experiences for transgender people currently seeking support and treatment. As the APA authors put it, the guidelines are “aspirational.” What, if anything, will—or can—they accomplish?

The issues couldn’t be more urgent. This year, at least 17 transgender women have been murdered in the United States, 15 of them transgender women of color. The 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey, a study of more than 6,000 transgender people, revealed critically high rates of family rejection, bullying at school or work, assaults by police officers, housing discrimination and homelessness, and refusals by doctors and other health care providers to provide treatment. Forty-one percent of participants said they had attempted suicide—at least twice the rate for cisgender lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, and nearly 10 times the rate in the general population. The rates were highest for transgender people of color, ranging from 39 percent to 56 percent. Psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and other clinical providers work with transgender people in clinics, hospitals, schools, universities, shelters, and prisons. They can provide life-affirming recognition or devastating rejection.

Aug. 27 2015 11:05 AM

Ask a Homo: I Oppose Gay Marriage. Why Do Gay People Call Me a Homophobe?

Welcome back to Ask a Homo, a judgment-free zone where the queers of Outward answer questions about LGBTQ politics, culture, etiquette, language, and other conundrums. Today, a correspondent wants to know why gay people consider him a homophobe just because he believes marriage is between a man and a woman.

If there are questions you’ve been dying to ask a member of the real rainbow coalition, this is your chance. Send your queries—for publication—to slateoutward@gmail.com, and please put “ASK A HOMO” in the subject line. Note that questions may be edited.


Other Questions Asked of Homos:

Aug. 26 2015 6:12 PM

6th Circuit Orders Anti-Gay Clerk to Begin Issuing Marriage Licenses Immediately

On Wednesday, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to stay a lower court’s decision ordering Kim Davis, a Kentucky county clerk, to resume granting marriage licenses. Davis—a taxpayer-funded public servant—refused to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution protects gay people’s right to wed in Obergefell v. Hodges. She then declared that she would refuse to grant marriage licenses to any couple, to avoid giving them to same-sex couples. Several same-sex couples sued, but Davis insisted that the state was violating her rights to free speech and free exercise of religion by forcing her to grant licenses to gay people. A federal district judge ruled against her but put his decision on hold until the 6th Circuit weighed in.

Now the 6th Circuit has come out emphatically against Davis. To justify keeping the district court’s ruling on hold, Davis would have to prove that she has “a strong likelihood of success on the merits.” But, the court held, “in light of the binding holding of Obergefell, it cannot be defensibly argued” that Davis “may decline to act in conformity with the United States Constitution as interpreted by a dispositive holding of the United States Supreme Court. There is thus little or no likelihood” that Davis “in her official capacity will prevail on appeal.”


To justify its holding, the court cited a string of cases that held that “where a public employee’s speech is made pursuant to his duties, ‘the relevant speaker [is] the government entity, not the individual.’ ” That’s exactly right, of course: By taking a job with the government, Davis became a public employee required to serve the whole public. She does not maintain an individual right to refuse to serve some people simply because of her own religious beliefs. Davis isn’t arguing for a right to free speech. She’s demanding that the state finance her own discrimination. And under the U.S. Constitution, that is a losing argument. 

Update: Aug. 27, 2015: Despite the 6th Court’s ruling, on Thursday Kim Davis once again refused to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple. Davis' lawyer told the Lexington Herald-Leader that she will petition the Supreme Court to intervene.

Aug. 26 2015 1:50 PM

No, Duke Freshman, Fun Home Is Not Pornographic

Here’s an experience I’m not especially proud of: When I was in middle school, my peers and I would page through newly assigned class texts in search of the naughty bits. We thrilled at the briefest episodes, delighting in literal ripped bodices and passing encounters. To be honest, I don’t remember much about the novels that surrounded those scenes. But I do remember the pleasure we took in lingering over them, the joy we found in the mere implication of eroticism.

Those books weren’t really “dirty.” In fact, they weren’t even sexy unless you were a sex-starved pre-teen. It took a collective feat of will to make those snippets exciting, a conscious effort to ignore the tens of thousands of less stimulating words that surrounded them. In pursuit of pleasure we became close, if ungenerous, readers.

I’ve been reminded of those dark days for the first time in years this week as I followed the misadventures of an older group of students. In a widely reported story, a small number of incoming Duke undergraduates announced that they wouldn’t be reading Alison Bechdel’s memoir Fun Home, which had been recommended (but not required) as common summer reading.  They objected to the book on moral grounds, complaining that its sexual imagery—and, implicitly, its queer themes—clashed with their religious sensibilities.