Daily Read: Tolerating the Intolerant

I struggle with deciding what to post as a Daily Read sometimes because I want the articles I highlight to have relevance beyond what may be in the news at the moment I post them; at the same time, current events are good opportunities for talking about more generally applicable issues.* To wit: I have written before about intolerance in a broad sense, and today I have an article to post about it that is specific. It relates to Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis and her refusal, even after a court order, to issue marriage licenses to anybody so she can avoid issuing them to gay couples. Davis claims she is acting under “God’s authority,” as gay marriage conflicts with her religious beliefs. I have zero sympathy for that argument for obvious reasons: religious convictions are not grounds for violating the law or refusing to serve the public in your capacity as a public official; we have a separation of church and state; and she is issuing a civil, not a religious, license, so issuing that license creates absolutely no personal religious conflict (I continue to be baffled about why people find it so hard to distinguish between civil marriage as recognized by the government and religious marriage as performed and sanctified by clergy; the government does not give a rat’s ass about how or where your ceremony is performed, but they still require a civil license if you want  your marriage to be recognized for the purpose of the legal rights and responsibilities it confers. No religious ceremony is necessary for that). So make no mistake: I think Kim Davis is legally wrong. I also think she is ethically wrong, but that’s really not the issue. I disagree with her religious beliefs, but I respect her right to hold them as an individual; however, she has crossed the line by illegally imposing her religious beliefs on others in her function as a public official.

I could go on about why I disagree with Davis but that is not the point of today’s Daily Read. Although the article does not use the word tolerance, I think it is relevant, because it pinpoints an insidious and shameful side effect of Davis’ new-found notoriety: the punishment and intolerance of the internet. Many people who disagree with Davis, rather than making rational and legal arguments about why she is wrong to deny the marriage licenses, are instead making fun of her appearance. She is being mocked for her plain, old-fashioned clothing. She has been urged to learn to use and wear makeup. She has been called horrible names. She has been taken to task for her hypocrisy, given that she has been married multiple times and had a child out of wedlock (I agree that this is indeed hypocritical; however, Davis claims that her religious conversion occurred after her multiple marriages. Be this as it may, her history is still irrelevant to the legality or lack thereof of her actions. In other words, even if she had only been married once, was still married, and had her child within that marriage, it would still have no relevance to the legal question at hand).

This has gotten long for an introduction to a Daily Read, so let me get to it: this article from Julie Compton in The Advocate points out the hypocrisy (and, not incidentally, the misogyny) of those who support gay marriage and likely see themselves as tolerant turning on Davis with ad hominem attacks and luxuriating in schadenfreude over her plain looks and checkered past. Again, I disagree strenuously with Davis and find her position to be legally, ethically, and logically untenable, but attacking her looks and personal life is just as intolerant and hypocritical as people are claiming Davis is – and I wish, fruitlessly, that we could be better than this.

Op-Ed: Kim Davis Deserves Criticism But Not For Her Looks

*Related: I am pondering a name change for this feature since it is rarely daily any more. I’m open to suggestions!

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