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A single photo that will temporarily restore your faith in democracy

AP Photo/Adam Beam
The wheels of democracy, turning.
By Johnny Simon
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

After a 2015 Supreme Court decision legalized same-sex marriage across the United States, a town clerk in Rowan County, Kentucky became a national figure for refusing to process those couples’ marriage licenses.

Kim Davis’s defiant act, made in the name of religion, catapulted her to folk hero status among conservatives. She was temporarily jailed, then hailed with a rollicking rally featuring Texas senator Ted Cruz and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. Davis began issuing licenses for same-sex couples only after Kentucky’s governor declared that town clerks could omit their names from the licenses they issued. She has since met with Pope Francis and spoken against gay rights in Romania.

Despite being embraced by the religious right, Davis actually won her office as a Democrat. She became a Republican shortly after she was released from jail, claiming the party had “abandoned” her, reported the Associated Press. Rowan County delivered Donald Trump one of his narrowest relative victories in the 2016 election; 58.5 percent of the vote, compared to between 70-80 percent in some more conservative counties and 62.5 percent statewide.

But now Davis could lose her position. Town clerk is an elected position, and Kentucky voters go to the polls in 2018. Her challenger is English professor David Ermold—one of the men she refused to grant a marriage license back in 2015.

Ermold registered as a candidate yesterday. Davis, as the current clerk, had to process the paperwork declaring his candidacy. The calm encounter, captured by AP photographer Adam Beam, offers a snapshot of fair democratic process at work, in a year of US politics marred by massive tax bills improvised in the dead of night, bad faith claims of voter fraud, and Nazis on the march.

AP Photo/Adam Beam
David Ermold, right, files to run for Rowan County Clerk in Kentucky as Clerk Kim Davis looks on Dec. 6.

Davis, who two years earlier personally refused to recognize Ermold and his partner’s civil rights, must now face Ermold and allow him the chance to unseat her. The Associated Press reported on the dutiful exchange:

She made sure Ermold had all of his paperwork and signatures to file for office, softly humming the old hymn “Jesus Paid It All” as her fingers clacked across a keyboard.
When it was over, she stood and shook hands with Ermold, telling him: “May the best candidate win.”

After a tumultuous year, sometimes an elected official just doing her job is news.

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