Thursday, July 31, 2008

Gay marriage: Threat or menace?

Orson Scott Card is a professional writer, and, all the circumstantial evidence I’ve seen seems to suggest he’s a pretty good one.

For one, I’ve heard of him, which makes him one of the relatively few science fiction writers who aren’t dead that I’d be able to name off the top of my head.*

I see his books in places where I don’t see any other sci-fi books, and I know at least one local high school had Ender’s Game one its reading list within the past few years.

And, of course, Marvel Comics hired him to write Ultimate Iron Man, and made a big to-do about how they had bagged big-time, popular writer from a respectable field of entertainment to tell the origin of Iron Man for them.

I can’t personally vouch for Card’s abilities as a writer, however, since I’ve never read any of his novels, nor his Ultiamte Iron Man comics. In fact, the only piece of writing I’ve read by Card was his July 24 column for Mormon Times headlined “State job is not to redefine marriage.”

Having read it, now I’m not so sure Card is a writer. Or, if he is, that he’s any good at all at his job (it wouldn’t be the first time someone got popular in a field of entertainment without possessing any discernable talent, after all).

Even being generous enough to accept that everyone is entitled to their opinion and the right to express it—no matter how ignorant and unfortunate that opinion may be—Card’s editorial is embarrassingly poorly written, to the point one might wonder if he were drunk when he wrote it, or if a burglar broke into his house, typed it up on his computer, and then mailed it to Mormon Times using Card’s email address just to embarrass the poor author.

Let’s read “State job is not to redefine marriage” together. It will be a good bonding experience....

The first and greatest threat from court decisions in California and Massachusetts, giving legal recognition to "gay marriage," is that it marks the end of democracy in America.

So that’s it. Game over. Courts in California and Massachusetts, a full one-twenty-fifth of the states in the nation, have declared that gay marriage should be legally recognized. Democracy is over. America is now, I don’t know, an anarchy? A monarchy? How will we decide what we are now that deomcracy has ended? I suppose we could vote on it, but that’s something they’d do in a democracy, which America clearly is not.

These judges are making new law without any democratic process; in fact, their decisions are striking down laws enacted by majority vote.

The pretext is that state constitutions require it —but it is absurd to claim that these constitutions require marriage to be defined in ways that were unthinkable through all of human history until the past 15 years. And it is offensive to expect us to believe this obvious fiction.

It is such an obvious overreach by judges, far beyond any rational definition of their authority, that even those who support the outcome of the decisions should be horrified by the means.

Well obvious it’s not beyond “any rational definition of their authority,” since they themselves have rationalized it is within their authority. And while some rational folks have claimed some judges have gone too far in their rulings pertaining to laws, often using the unfortunate derogatory term “activist judges,” judging stuff like laws is actually their job. It’s not simply in their job description, it’s in their name.

It’s one of those “checks and balances” you learn about in grade school. If they are overreaching by checking to hard and unbalancing the governments that Card does not live in, the legislative branch can then check them back by rewriting the laws and/or the constitution, the latter of which will involve the people. Democracy in action!

Of course, if democracy is over, I guess it’s too late to change the constitutions of California and Massachusetts…

We already know where these decisions lead. We have seen it with the court decisions legalizing abortion. At first, it was only early abortions; within a few years, though, any abortion up to the killing of a viable baby in mid-birth was made legal.

Not only that, but the courts upheld obviously unconstitutional limitations on free speech and public assembly: It is now illegal even to kneel and pray in front of a clinic that performs abortions.

Do not suppose for a moment that the "gay marriage" diktats will not be supported by methods just as undemocratic, unconstitutional and intolerant.

While gay marriage and abortion are certainly what you could safely call “hot button” issues, I’m not sure how fair it is to lump them together, or to imply that the enforcement of gay marriage laws will inevitably end up like the enforcement of abortion laws over the past few decades.

Already in several states, there are textbooks for children in the earliest grades that show "gay marriages" as normal. How long do you think it will be before such textbooks become mandatory—and parents have no way to opt out of having their children taught from them?

And if you choose to home-school your children so they are not propagandized with the "normality" of "gay marriage," you will find more states trying to do as California is doing —making it illegal to take your children out of the propaganda mill that our schools are rapidly becoming.

Really? What states are those? What textbooks are those? I would like to hear some examples of this, instead of just hearing how maybe in some places this thing that worries Card is maybe happening.

I was amused to hear Card mention “the propaganda mill that our schools are rapidly becoming,” while in his bio right next to the piece it says his books “are widely read by adults and younger readers, and are increasingly used in schools.”

How dangerous is this, politically? Please remember that for the mildest of comments critical of the political agenda of homosexual activists, I have been called a "homophobe" for years.

This is a term that was invented to describe people with a pathological fear of homosexuals -- the kind of people who engage in acts of violence against gays. But the term was immediately extended to apply to anyone who opposed the homosexual activist agenda in any way.

A term that has
mental-health implications (homophobe) is now routinely applied to anyone who deviates from the politically correct line. How long before opposing gay marriage, or refusing to recognize it, gets you officially classified as "mentally ill"?

How dangerous is this, politically? I don’t know; not at all? Card lives in North Carolina. Mormon Times is based in Utah. Maybe just stay out of California and Massachusetts?

Within the last decade our bitterly politically divided country survived a presidential election decided in large part by the Supreme Court without it leading to civil war or, you know, any bloodshed at all. I’m sure, politically, the union will survive gay folks being able to file joint tax returns and enjoy the other legal benefits of marriage.

As for his mention of people who are opposed to gay marriage being labeled “homophobes,” a word he says means someone with a pathological fear of homosexuals, well, that’s an interesting point. (If true. My Word dictionary defines homophobia as “an irrational hatred, disapproval, or fear of homosexuality, gay and lesbian people, and their culture.” I guess you can argue with the dictionary if you want, and say the word “irrational” is unfair there, and that there are rational reasons to disapprove of homosexuality, but fear is but one of three definitions, and it’s the third one).

As a writer, Card should know that the meanings of words drift over time, expanding and narrowing in their meanings. If homophobia meant an irrational fear of gay folks at one point, it has long since come to mean people who just plain don’t like gay folks for whatever reason.

Is there a word for someone that means “one who thinks gay people are an abomination” or “one who hates gay people” or “one who disapproves of gay people?”

Maybe. I don’t know what it is though, and there’s little sense in railing against language usage, which rarely gets anyone anywhere. You know, “comic book” and “graphic novel” are awful, awful terms that don’t remotely begin to describe what they refer to, but those are the words the language has settled on.

So point for Card; “homophobe” may not technically be accurate to describe people who hate gay people.

That’s one for the plus column so far.

But wait, we’re only, like, half way through this!

Remember how rapidly gay marriage has become a requirement.

Oh wait, what? We all have to marry people of the same sex as us? Oh man, I don’t even like touching my own body that much, now I gotta kiss some dude on the altar, his stubble all scratching against my stubble? That sucks!

Oh wait, he meant something gay people say is a requirement of theirs…or something. Jesus, are his novels this hard to understand?

Remember how rapidly gay marriage has become a requirement. When gay rights were being enforced by the courts back in the '70s and '80s, we were repeatedly told by all the proponents of gay rights that they would never attempt to legalize gay marriage.

It took about 15 minutes for
that promise to be broken.

Actually, if you’re they made that promise throughout the course of the ‘70s and ‘80s, that’s 20 years right there. So clearly it took longer than 15 minutes. I thought science-fiction folks were all supposed to be really good at math?

And you can guess how long it will now take before any group that speaks against "gay marriage" being identical to marriage will be attacked using the same tools that have been used against anti-abortion groups -- RICO laws, for instance.

I would like to hear more about this, actually, since I haven’t heard anything about anti-abortion groups being prosecuted with RICO laws. I’m also curious who would be doing the “ attacking,” since, again, he’s just talking about what’s going on in the court systems of two states.

Does he really want us to guess how long it will take for the federal government to even make gay marriage legal, let alone openly persecute those who speak out against it? I don’t know…let’s say seven-to-20 years for passage, and never for persecution.

Here's the irony: There is no branch of government with the authority to redefine marriage. Marriage is older than government. Its meaning is universal: It is the permanent or semipermanent bond between a man and a woman, establishing responsibilities between the couple and any children that ensue.

The laws concerning marriage did not create marriage, they merely attempted to solve problems in such areas as inheritance, property, paternity, divorce, adoption and so on.

Yes. Exactly. You got it, Card. That is the irony.

And that is why, for the life of me, I’ve never understood why anyone on earth could possibly oppose legalizing gay marriage for any reason other than that they just plain don’t like gay people (or they want to appeal to folks who just plain don’t like gay people, so as to get their votes, in the case of politicians).

Religious marriage and legal marriage are two completely different things. If churches don’t want to give gay people the sacrament or religious ritual of marriage, but reserve it for only heterosexual couples, that's cool. If gay, religious folks really, really want to get married in their church, well, that’s a fight they’re going to have to take up with their church, not the government, which practices a strict separation between church and state (although not always as strict as they should; and yes, sometimes not strict enough).

And if the state or federal government does want to allow gay people to have the same legal rights in the eyes of the state or federal government, then what right does a church have to get involved? Or someone to argue against such a state decision on religious grounds?

I was raised Catholic (and spent more than half of my life so far attending Catholic schools), and in that church, marriage is one of our seven religious sacraments, with a lot of strict rules about it. If I wanted to marry another man, I couldn’t imagine even bothering to try it in the Catholic church (They're 2,000 years old and still don’t let women or married men serve in the priesthood, so I assume gay marriage might take a few more centuries).

But I sure as hell would expect to be able to go to a courthouse downtown and have a judge declare us married, and I’d expect to be able to use his health insurance or visit him if he was in a coma in the hospital or for him to inherit all my longboxes full of shitty ‘90s comics if I died suddenly.

I couldn’t even imagine telling a legislator, “Hey, you can’t let these folks have that signed piece of paper giving them certain legal rights in the eyes of the state! This one book has a handful of vague passages suggesting that it might be uncool!” Because a) I wouldn’t want to live in a country where everything the Bible says is bad, b) I wouldn’t want to live in a country where everything the Catholic church says is bad is bad (the sexual laws alone…!), and c) there are a lot of religions in the U.S. and, at the risk of anyone who belongs to any of the crazy-ass ones, I would hate to see the words of all these Gods and gods acknowledged in the law.

Okay, almost done now…

Take us home with just one more burst of nonsense, Orson Scott Card!

If the government passed a law declaring that grey was now green, and asphalt was specifically designated as a botanical organism, would that make all our streets into "greenery" and all our parking lots into "parks"?

If a court declared that from now on, "blind" and "sighted" would be synonyms, would that mean that it would be safe for blind people to drive cars?

No matter how sexually attracted a man might be toward other men, or a woman toward other women, and no matter how close the bonds of affection and friendship might be within same-sex couples, there is no act of court or Congress that can make these relationships the
same as the coupling between a man and a woman.

This is a permanent fact of nature.

Hey, you’re right! No law could make the coupling of two men or two women the same as that between a man and a woman, because laws don’t actually reorder biology, and if they could, gay dudes and ladies wouldn’t want to make coupling with members of the same sex the same as coupling with members of the opposite sex because why would gay people even want to couple with members of the opposite sex?

So that’s Orson Scott Card, professional writer who gets paid actual money by people to produce writing for them. You can read more of his columns for Mormon Times here. To his credit, he’s not a one-issue columnist; at least, he doesn’t appear to be by scanning the headlines, which include ones like “Singin’, dancin’ Mormons” and “In praise of what’s inside the diapers.”

So, what does any of this have to do with comics? Um, well, obviously not too terribly much, beyond the fact that Card wrote some Iron Man comics and will be working with Marvel on an upcoming Ender’s Game adaptation (He was just part of a Marvel panel at San Diego last week).

But yesterday’s Kevin Melrose noted that as folks around the Internet responded to this piece by Card, some were mentioning him in regards to his working for Marvel and that folks should write in to Marvel to let them know that they think Card’s a jerk and they won’t by his or their comics if they keep paying the man.

The comments include the predictably sad and hilarious ones, and it's always alternately amusing and frustrating to hear comic book fans rationalize buying or not buying a company’s output based on one certain factor (Usually it has more to do with things like Spider-Man’s marriage or Iron Man’s support of a particular law than the politics and beliefs of the creators).

I liked the one guy who equated emailing Marvel that you weren’t going to buy their comics if they keep giving Card work as crossing the line into Nazi territory. I know that when I think of Nazis, the first thing that comes to mind is the way they were always writing letters to comic book companies threatening to boycott if they insisted on hiring creators and telling stories they didn’t like (One of the Nazis’ chief complaints about American comics at the time was the way Hitler was always being punched out on the covers).

Reading that post at Blog@, and then Card's screed inMormon Times, I was kinda glad that I had never read any of Card’s work, because it can be incredibly disheartening when you find out a creator whose work you really like holds beliefs you find repugnant, an experience I imagine most comic fans have had at some point in our current Internet age of comics.

I wonder if there will be any actual outcry against Marvel over this, particularly since Card has only really worked in the fringes of their comics (a couple of spin-off miniseries in their four-book Ultimate line, an upcoming book adaptation more geared for book stores and libraries than the direct market).

Somehow, I kind of doubt it.

Surely Marvel’s committed enough to Ender’s Game that they won’t cancel the project at this point, and its hard to imagine their core customers exerting enough pressure to cause them to drop a particular creator (Surely Marvel’s learned by now that no matter what fans and readers might say, they’ll never drop all their books as long as Marvel’s the only place where they can get their sweet, sweet Spider-Man. Maybe they’ll want to keep Card away from Iron Man however, now that the latter’s star is on the rise.

*Nothing personal against the genre, its practicioners or its consumers. I’ve just never got into any sci-fi that wasn’t written by Douglas Adams or Kurt Vonnegut (if that counts). Comics and movies have long ago fulfilled whatever desire I was born with for sci-fi.


Unknown said...

This issue (i.e. Card's homophobia and extreme conservatism) has come up previously regarding Card's association with Marvel. I recall Joe Quesada defending Card's position as being constitutionally protected free speech, etc.

The problem is we expect writers to be educated, intelligent, thoughtful and open-minded people. Since most intelligent, thoughtful, open-minded people would accept homosexuality and gay marriage, we reasonably expect writers to be accepting of homosexuality and gay marriage. Card has proved that assumption wrong. He is a small, narrow minded chimp with a word processor.

Baal said...

I always knew Card was someone I wouldn't care to meet from the afterwords he writes in his books but it was disheartening indeed to find a writer whose books have given me such pleasure hates me sight unseen. I'll miss reading his books but there's no way I can contribute my gay money to his wallet.

But he is right about one thing: Popular opinion in the US us against gay marriage. Heck, I'm gay and I'm even against it. He just doesn't have to be so evil and hateful about an issue that will never, ever, ever affect his life appreciably in any way.

Baal said...

Oh yeah, and my curse on Card is this: may one of his children bring home as their life partner a Catholic Black person of the same gender. I get giggly picturing his reaction.

snell said...

Just a note on the "democracy" issue: in both California and Massachusetts, the Supreme Court Justices are appointed by the governor, an elected official.

In Massachusetts, those justices must be ratified by the Governor's Council, a body elected by the people.

In California, every justice must pass a retention vote in the next general election after appointment, and every twelve years thereafter. Every member of the California Supreme Court has been given a thumbs up vote by the people, at least once.

In Massachusetts in 2005, an attempt to overturn the court's decision failed overwhemingly in a joint session of the democratically-elected legislature, 39-157.

So to suggest that there is no democratic process, and that therefore we face the end of democracy, is pretty inaccurate. And if those courts had made a decision Card had approved of, well, their "undemocratic" nature wouldn't have bothered him at all.

Wendy said...

Dude, if you were a lady, I would totally want to gay marry you.

I particularly like the bit where Card says that marriage is older than government....No. No, it's not. It might be older than the American government, but unbelievably, recorded history does not start in the late 18th century! Oh wait, and what's his own religion? Wouldn't that be the one where they thought marriage meant one man and a whole bunch of wives? Hmmmm.

Here's an older article where Card really gets his hate on:

Philip said...

I love this part of the column:

Regardless of law, marriage has only one definition....

Really? A member of the Mormon Church is claiming that marriage only has one definition.

That's just staggering.

Wendy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hdefined said...

I skipped the bulk of this post, because I just disagree with Card's article on a basic level, but Ender's Game is a really good novel, and I don't read much scifi at all. It's basically, "What if Harry Potter took place in space, but Harry wasn't a passive protagonist?" It's a cool story with a powerful ending.

The man didn't become popular for his article-writing. He became popular for books like Ender's Game. Read that and then judge him as a writer, regardless of his stupid beliefs.

B.G. Christensen said...

Wait, so is it a threat or a menace? I was hoping you would clarify that for me.

Anonymous said...

Man, sometimes I really don't want to know about people's private lives and personal beliefs. I am a big fan of Card, and have read many, many of his books. Enders Game is one of my top five novels, and I own a copy and have passed it around to my friends.

However, because of his ignorance, everytime I read one of his books, it is tainted by this kind of thing. Like listening to R Kelly now or what have you.

Gavin said...

As someone who has read much of Card's fiction, I am continually amazed at the non-fiction articles he publishes.

The odd thing, after this whole gay marriage thing and his strong support (read: complete blind faith in) for the Bush administration and their "war on terror", he still identifies himself as a Democrat. But I think he does that so he can say, "I'm a Democrat who..."

Card is an interesting duck. He thinks that his thoughts are centrist and well reasoned, and yet they cannot be read (even by someone like me who has no agenda one way or the other on homosexuality) without seeing the raw passion and hatred in them.

The sad thing is that his politics have crept into his fiction as I could not even finish the last book I picked up of his, a book called Empire about liberals trying to take over the United States in a present day civil war. He spends a huge introduction (or is it a afterword, I can't remember) explaining how his belief that colleges are a breeding ground for insurrection isn't at all prejudiced and how he was totally fair to every side in this book.

But that being said, Ender's Game is quite wonderful and I loved his first few books in the Tales of Alvin Maker series.

mordicai said...

Ender's Game is a very good novel-- not much else of his is, though. It is sort of dissapointing, but I agree with Quesada (!?!) on this: free speech! You can boycott-- that is a valid tactic? But he's allowed his silly, wrong opinion.

California, as I understand it, requires that you now make certain requirements to homeschool-- i.e. you have to be certified. To which I say: good.

Filipe said...

"How long before opposing gay marriage, or refusing to recognize it, gets you officially classified as "mentally ill"?"

How long before this sort of religious belief gets someone classified as mentally ill? 'Cause I don't think I can wait that long.

Gavin said...

To tie this and your next post together, check out Card's reviews of Mama Mia! & The Dark Knight. He gets some things right about The Dark Knight, but he gets a lot wrong as well. And my favorite quote from the article, referring to Mama Mia!: "Don't these writers actually know any gay people? I mean know them, as friends, as family members, as colleagues? I can't believe they do. Because if they did, they could never treat their gay characters with such contempt." He's accusing the movie of showing contempt towards gay characters unlike himself. What?

googum said...

Ah, I liked Ender's Game up until like the last ten pages or so, where it became obvious this wasn't building up for an ending but a sequel. Nuts to that.
So, I get off easy, not caring about his work so I don't have to worry about his jerky beliefs.

Caleb said...

Heck, I'm gay and I'm even against it.

If you're still around and don't mind my asking, why are you against it? I don't think I've heard a gay person articulate an argument against gay marriage before; almost all of the arguments I hear against it boil down to a religious belief that its wrong in the eyes of God/marriage is reserved for those who procreate.

Here's an older article where Card really gets his hate on:

Thanks for the link Wendy. If anyone's interested in the topic, that's a really interesting article. It's by a woman whose favorite book is Ender's Game and was very excited to interview Card, and discovered during the course of the interview his views on homosexuality, which is kinda hilariously awkward when he starts lecturing the (lesbian) interviewer about what gay people's lives are like without knowing her orientation.

Wait, so is it a threat or a menace? I was hoping you would clarify that for me.

It's so bad it's a thremenace.

To tie this and your next post together, check out Card's reviews of Mama Mia! & The Dark Knight.

Thanks for the link; that was actually a pretty interesting read.

Baal said...

I'm against gay marriage because it's just another way the self-appointed leadership is steering the ship towards the rocks. Part of it is, I believe, the part of human nature that insists on wanting what they're told they can't have. Marriage will change gay subculture profoundly and make us basically straight folks who just couple with the same gender. I like being different and it makes me sad so many people want to throw that away.

Hdefined said...

"Marriage will change gay subculture profoundly and make us basically straight folks who just couple with the same gender."

Are you saying it will reduce the emotional depth of gay relationships? Wouldn't it be up to individual gay couples to decide, like straight couples do, if their relationship should be taken to the next stage or not?

Anonymous said...

"Marriage will change gay subculture profoundly and make us basically straight folks who just couple with the same gender."

I thought gay people were pretty much normal people who were just attracted to the same sex. It's a wedding ring, not a power-nullifier.

The thing I notice about Card's article claiming that "judicial activism" has made America less democratic is that the exact same argument can be(and is) used to support racial discrimination. Brown V. Board of Education was "judicial activism" that overruled individual states' rights to restrict the rights of African-Americans. Card's just using the same Southern-strategy that the Republican party has used for nearly fifty years, by whining that their right to discriminate overrules the rights of others.

Unknown said...

Yeah, I think Ender's Game is a great book, but I can't read anything else by Card since finding out his repugnant beliefs. I think he wrote the book when he was younger, and later in life, he developed some awful beliefs (yay religion!). A while back, I read an article in which someone was critiquing something Card wrote about Ender's Game in which it seemed like he completely misinterpreted his own book. I wish I remembered where that was. But anyway, I pretty much can't stand the guy now; maybe he somehow tapped into something that affected me at some point, and then promptly lost it. Bummer.

Oh, and I did read the sequel to Ender, Speaker for the Dead, and didn't like it very much. He did at least two more sequels, and two or three prequels/stories that took place concurrently with the original book, but I've lost all interest in checking any of them out. I've got better things to do with my time, like ignore his comics writing as well.

Evie said...

I think most of what there is to be said on this has been said, but I'd just like to comment that it's very heartening that I can come to a website that is based primarily on comic book fandom and find not a single of the 20 commenters defending this ass-shoe. Defending his right to free speech, sure, but not agreeing with him. I presume this is certainly not the case with every comics site that might be talking about this, but it does convince me that society overall is moving in the right direction. Ok, that's it.