Many have rightfully taken Davis to task for not doing her job, an elected position she won last year. For example, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky said in a statement: “[G]overnment officials are free to disagree with the law but not disobey it.” HRC, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group, said: “Ms. Davis has the fundamental right to believe what she likes … but as a public servant, she does not have the right to pick and choose which laws she will follow or which services she will provide.”
To date, Davis has lost every legal battle she has waged trying to defend her position and was jailed for contempt of court. If a new ACLU motion is successful, she may find herself there again for continuing to interfere with the issuance of marriage licenses.
But the loudest statements about this case have been anything but lawyerly or in the form of legal briefs. When it comes to maintaining a civil tongue, the ones that trouble me the most aren’t even about the case itself, but about Davis’s appearance.
The 49-year-old Kentucky native has been mercilessly taunted for almost every aspect of her mien and look: Her hair. Her weight. Her eyewear. Her clothing. Former MSNBC anchor Ronan Farrow tweeted: “Judge who jailed Kim Davis: ‘We live in a society of laws. And hair conditioner, FYI.’”
Queerty, a popular gay blog, published a collection of “the best Kim Davis memes so far,” including a photo of her and those long locks with these words superimposed: “When you’re so antigay, no one will do your hair.”
Even Bette Midler got into the game of sticks and stones, tweeting a backhanded defense: “I’m tired of all the attacks on Kim Davis’s fashion choices. I mean no outfit is going to look good when you accessorize with bigotry.”
Mean girls and boys.
Here’s the truth: Kim Davis’s tresses or dresses do not matter and focusing on them diminishes the point, which is that Davis has refused to do her job. As one blogger wrote on Daily Kos, a political site: “It’s too easy to fall into the game of shaming people on their appearance, whether they are sexually attractive to the opposite sex, or whether they are old and white.”
Civility requires us to separate criticism from verbal (and virtual) assault, and to stop short of the virtual tar and feathering Davis has endured.
Still, Davis has given critics plenty of reasons to call her a hypocrite, as they point out the inherent contradiction in her religious position. Four marriages and three divorces undermine her claim to a religious high ground, inspiring posts and tweets about those unions. Take for example the meme: “Same-sex unions destroy the sanctity of marriage…. My three ex-husbands say they agree with me.” Or: “Sorry we can’t give out marriage licenses … I’ve used them all myself.” “So you have millions of Christians who object to this whole same-sex marriage issue,” Davis argued on Fox News last week. “Are their rights invalid? Are their rights not worth anything? I mean, it’s a valid point and it’s a fight worth fighting for.”
Then, of course, there’s that billboard, the one erected in her hometown of Morehead, Ky., apparently referring to a Bible scripture in Exodus that suggests women can be sold into a marriage, demonstrating how different marriage is today than when the Bible was written. “I really think people need to be reminded of that,” says Margot Trusty Pickett, an ordained minister at the United Church of Christ, who has married numerous same-sex couples.
“Dear Kim Davis, the fact that you can’t sell your daughter for three goats and a cow means we’ve already redefined marriage.”
Unlike her style or her looks, Davis’s marital history is certainly germane, especially in a debate that is at its core is about family values, the use and interpretation of Scripture, and – ultimately – the definition of marriage. Trusty Pickett suggests that Davis and her followers recall these New Testament verses: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” and, “Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone.” “What always angers me,” she said, “is how selective some Christians are when it comes to Scripture, conveniently overlooking the myriad of other verses about grace, loving your neighbor, [or] not judging.”
So, really, enough with Davis’s hair.
Do you agree or disagree with my advice about Kim Davis and her critics? Let me know in the comments section below.