Kim Davis, the Rowan County, Kentucky Clerk who keeps trying to defy federal courts by denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples, is a good example of the sheer denialism and bigotry fueling right wing politics these days. She could have just let her subordinates handle couples whose happiness offends her, but that was not going far enough for Davis (above left), for she ordered the entire office to follow her lead. As a result, today she is being held for contempt of court, inspiring culture warriors to make sweeping pronouncements about ‘the criminalization of Christianity.’
But of course, Davis doesn’t really represent a sectarian oppression. That keening sound you hear on Fox News, or from Breitbart News, is actually about the conservative movement’s lost privilege and power in America. All the noise we have heard for so many years about marriage equality supposedly destroying ‘traditional marriage’ was really just their alarm at the prospect of no longer being able to deny LGBTQ Americans the same happiness and legal protections that ‘straight’ couples enjoy.
You see, it’s not that Davis’s fourth marriage is truly diminished by equality; rather, Davis was still able to think of herself as better than other people, and enjoyed denying lessers what she had relished in abundance. It’s very hard to let go of anything when being without it makes you feel smaller.
Something like that has been going on with Patricia Fancher, too. Less well-known than Davis, Fancher (above right) nevertheless enjoys at least equal representation. Like Davis, she has a cadre of professional bigots to aid her legal quest. She isn’t a county clerk, but Fancher still has the support of Alabama’s infamous Chief Justice Roy Moore and his Foundation for Moral Law (FML) in her endeavor.
Fancher’s son David married Paul Hard in Massachusetts during 2011, but he died in a severe traffic accident just a few months later. Hard was denied the chance to see David in the hospital and then was left off the death certificate — sadly, both are standard humiliations for gay and lesbian partners. To add insult to injury, this meant that Hard was unable to sue the responsible party. So with the help of the Southern Poverty Law Center, he sued the state of Alabama to win recognition for his marriage, whereupon David’s mother decided to oppose Hard in court so that her son’s death wouldn’t “advance the cause of same-sex marriage.”
In other words, Pat Fancher would do anything to prevent her son’s most intimate personal relationship from being recognized by the state just so she wouldn’t have to be legally recognized as Paul Hard’s former mother-in-law.
To prevent this catastrophic loss of innate moral superiority, Fancher enlisted the help of an organization founded by America’s most notorious bible-thumping judge — but their campaign against love has fizzled so far.
First, Hard was able to have the death certificate amended and file his wrongful death suit, winning a large judgment. Second, the United States Supreme Court overturned anti-marriage equality laws across the nation in their Obergefell decision. In July, a federal judge deferred to that opinion when he lifted a stay on the proceeds of the wrongful death judgment, which had been held in escrow while Fancher sued to receive it in place of Hard. After the judge’s decision, Fancher and FML asked the court to reconsider, but they were denied. Paul Hard recieved the check, and love won.
But Fancher and Moore’s culture war foundation are not about to give up so easily. Three weeks later, they begged the court for an emergency order to prevent Hard from spending any of the money while they appeal the ruling. They even asked the court to impose a ‘supersedeas bond,’ which is very odd, since those are ordinarily posted by parties who are appealing a verdict against themselves. As SPLC attorney Scott McCoy points out in Hard’s reply to the motion (embedded below), Fancher and FML are the appellants in this situation, not Hard.
Undeterred, Matthew Kidd of FML has issued a response (embedded at bottom) which asks the court to demonstrate “fairness” while “a novel and new issue of jurisprudence is sorted out on appeal.” But he never answers McCoy’s strongest argument: that Fancher’s case was dismissed as moot because of the higher court’s decision, meaning that there is no verdict to appeal. Contrary to Kidd’s assertion, the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit is unlikely to hear arguments or issue a legal opinion in the matter. Sure, appeals courts can be unpredictable, but the law is crystal-clear on spousal interest in wrongful death cases, and Fancher’s sole argument — that her son’s marriage was not recognized by the state of Alabama at the time — has been rendered invalid.
Like Davis, Fancher is essentially asking the same question again and again in hopes of getting a different answer the next time, or from the next judge. But while evangelical politics are filled with magical thinking, that’s not what’s going on here. Rather, a seismic shift has removed the certainty both women used to have: whatever their personal failings, Davis and Fancher at least knew they were better and better-off than those hell-bound faggots, a rationalization that until recently was codified in law. Now, as if the Earth has been wildly shifted under their feet, neither woman is a member of the elect anymore, able to look down on lesser beings with self-righteous pity. Both are desperately flailing their arms in a vain attempt to stay above those on whom they have looked down.
Stuck in the anger, denial, and bargaining stages of grief over this change, they never quite get to acceptance. Love has won, but that doesn’t mean they can’t keep right on hating that it has.
Courtesy of Equality Case Files