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You can't always get what you want


So, for your entire life, ever since you were a small child, you've wanted to be a firefighter. You know it can be a hard job, one that's both physically and mentally demanding; there are medical emergencies, car crashes, fires and explosions. There will be burning buildings and the toxic smoke of carpets and furniture fabrics: you have to be able to wrangle heavy equipment. You have to tie secure knots in ropes while wearing thick gloves and carrying heavy breathing gear.

So you train for the fire department physical and study for the practical and written tests. You get yourself into the best shape of your life, knowing that you're competing with plenty of other people for the job. And, wonder of wonders, you get in.
Then, in training, you discover something you didn't know about yourself: that wearing the breathing apparatus mask makes you uncontrollably claustrophobic. You can get the mask on, but even with the air flowing, it's like you can't get enough to breathe and the mask seems to be pulling in towards your face with every breath. Rationally, you know you're getting enough air. The equipment works. But that doesn't matter. Every time you put the gear on, you reach up, panicked, and pull the straps off your head and the mask off your face.
It happens.
But you come up with a solution: instead of wearing the breathing gear, you decide that it's your choice - no, your right - to fight fires without putting on breathing gear. It's your lungs, your life, and your right to damage them or even die at a fire. Right?
Of course not.
The fact is, it is a requirement of the job that you use every safety precaution that you can.
If you can't wear the required protective equipment, then you can't be a firefighter, any more than I could continue to be a travelling columnist if I suddenly developed a total fear of air travel.
And that brings us to the tragically stupid case of Kim Davis.
Davis is an elected clerk in Rowan County, Kentucky: she's paid US$80,000 a year to, among other things, issue marriage licences in the county.
Since a U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage across the United States, those licences have by law included, even in Rowan County, issuing marriage licences to same-sex couples.
Davis has refused, saying that, even though she took an oath to uphold the law, she believes that "God's moral law" dictates that she should not issue licences to gay couples, and she has refused to do so, to the point that she was finally cited for being in contempt of court and sent to jail for five days.
Davis has been described by some as a martyr for standing up for her beliefs: she's been derided as a joke by others, who say her claims of respecting the sanctity of marriage pale next to her four marriages.
(Hard to know how, then, she deals with Luke 16:18 - "Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery." But I digress.)
She's no martyr, and whether she's a joke or not is beside the point.
She's just unequipped to do her job. Sworn to uphold the law, she has decided she can't.
That's fine.
She has every right, if it's against her religious principles, not to issue marriage licences to same-sex couples.
She just doesn't have every right to be the clerk of Rowan County, if that job requires her, by law, to issue those licences. Nor does she have the right, as she is now, to continue being paid for a job she plainly can't do.
She should resign. That would be showing the courage of her convictions.
Her current route is taking the law - and a regular paycheque she doesn't deserve -into her own hands.
Russell Wangersky is TC Media's
 Atlantic regional columnist. He can be reached at russell.wangersky@tc.tc
Twitter: @Wangersky.

So you train for the fire department physical and study for the practical and written tests. You get yourself into the best shape of your life, knowing that you're competing with plenty of other people for the job. And, wonder of wonders, you get in.
Then, in training, you discover something you didn't know about yourself: that wearing the breathing apparatus mask makes you uncontrollably claustrophobic. You can get the mask on, but even with the air flowing, it's like you can't get enough to breathe and the mask seems to be pulling in towards your face with every breath. Rationally, you know you're getting enough air. The equipment works. But that doesn't matter. Every time you put the gear on, you reach up, panicked, and pull the straps off your head and the mask off your face.
It happens.
But you come up with a solution: instead of wearing the breathing gear, you decide that it's your choice - no, your right - to fight fires without putting on breathing gear. It's your lungs, your life, and your right to damage them or even die at a fire. Right?
Of course not.
The fact is, it is a requirement of the job that you use every safety precaution that you can.
If you can't wear the required protective equipment, then you can't be a firefighter, any more than I could continue to be a travelling columnist if I suddenly developed a total fear of air travel.
And that brings us to the tragically stupid case of Kim Davis.
Davis is an elected clerk in Rowan County, Kentucky: she's paid US$80,000 a year to, among other things, issue marriage licences in the county.
Since a U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage across the United States, those licences have by law included, even in Rowan County, issuing marriage licences to same-sex couples.
Davis has refused, saying that, even though she took an oath to uphold the law, she believes that "God's moral law" dictates that she should not issue licences to gay couples, and she has refused to do so, to the point that she was finally cited for being in contempt of court and sent to jail for five days.
Davis has been described by some as a martyr for standing up for her beliefs: she's been derided as a joke by others, who say her claims of respecting the sanctity of marriage pale next to her four marriages.
(Hard to know how, then, she deals with Luke 16:18 - "Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery." But I digress.)
She's no martyr, and whether she's a joke or not is beside the point.
She's just unequipped to do her job. Sworn to uphold the law, she has decided she can't.
That's fine.
She has every right, if it's against her religious principles, not to issue marriage licences to same-sex couples.
She just doesn't have every right to be the clerk of Rowan County, if that job requires her, by law, to issue those licences. Nor does she have the right, as she is now, to continue being paid for a job she plainly can't do.
She should resign. That would be showing the courage of her convictions.
Her current route is taking the law - and a regular paycheque she doesn't deserve -into her own hands.
Russell Wangersky is TC Media's
 Atlantic regional columnist. He can be reached at russell.wangersky@tc.tc
Twitter: @Wangersky.

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