On 1st July 2005, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Prime Minister of Spain, told the Cortes Generales:
We are not legislating, honorable members, for people far away and not known by us. We are enlarging the opportunity for happiness to our neighbors, our co-workers, our friends and, our families: at the same time we are making a more decent society, because a decent society is one that does not humiliate its members. In the poem ‘The Family,’ our poet Luis Cernuda was sorry because, ‘How does man live in denial in vain/by giving rules that prohibit and condemn?’ Today, the Spanish society answers to a group of people who, during many years have, been humiliated, whose rights have been ignored, whose dignity has been offended, their identity denied, and their liberty oppressed. Today the Spanish society grants them the respect they deserve, recognizes their rights, restores their dignity, affirms their identity, and restores their liberty.
On Tuesday 4th November 2008, voters in the state of California will be asked to decide if their state shall remove the right to marry from same-sex couples: Proposition 8.
The campaign for “Yes on 8″ has sent blackmail letters to No on 8 donors in efforts to raise money (for example), used images of children without their parents consent, and supporters of the measure have violently attacked opponents (as for instance), after the attack described (and recorded on vidcam) at the previous link:
I stood there for another minute or two, checking the phone’s applications for damage. One of the other sign-wavers, a teenage boy standing nearby, leaned over and whispered “fuck you, dyke.”
Even though I wasn’t hurt besides a small scratch on my hand, and my phone was okay, being attacked definitely shook me up. I was a bit tearful. Call me naive, but I never thought I’d actually be in physical danger just for shooting footage of their activity and pulling the edge of a person’s sign out of my eyes. Verbal insults, sure. But attacked by an anti-gay activist? In one of the most queer-friendly neighborhoods in the bay area? Yikes.
The man holding the “Vote No” sign noticed that I was in tears and approached me. We hugged to a chorus of jeers, exchanged some reassuring words, and I turned to leave. Someone called after me: “keep crying, and keep walking.”
These people are campaigning to remove a basic civil right from their fellow citizens. They are doing an ugly thing, and they are doing it in ugly ways. Blackmail, using children’s images without their parents’ knowledge or consent, verbal and physical abuse.
Orson Scott Card, though he lives in North Carolina, a state which has passed legislation to ensure that same-sex couples who marry legally can’t have their marriages recognised, has gotten very involved as a Mormon in fighting what is religiously abhorrent to him. (There is a long post here outlining why the Mormon Church is fighting this decision, related to their fight against the acceptance of black people in their church.)
What distress this political attack by their church on the civil rights of LGBT people has caused some Mormons is described here:
The thought of going to church in her southern California LDS ward makes Carol Oldham cry. She can’t face one more sermon against same-sex marriage. She can’t tolerate the glares at the rainbow pin on her lapel.
Oldham, a lifelong Mormon, is troubled by her church’s zeal in supporting a California ballot initiative that would define marriage as between one man and one woman. She feels the church is bringing politics into her sanctuary.
“It has tainted everything for me,” Oldham said, choking up during a telephone interview. “I am afraid to go there and hear people say mean things about gay people. I am in mourning. I don’t know how long I can last.” (Salt Lake Tribune)
In a column entitled Disagree but don’t be unkind, Orson Scott Card wrote on 23rd October 2008:
Some people have misunderstood the LDS Church’s position on Proposition 8 in California, and its opposition to gay marriage. They think that we are “against homosexuals” — that we think of “them” as our enemies, and that individuals who have entered into “gay marriages” pose a direct personal threat to us.
Certainly Carol Oldham, Orson Scott Card’s sister in the church, would say so. As would Wendy Reynolds, who writes:
I grew up in Utah and was raised Mormon. When I first moved from Utah, back in 1995, I was always shocked when people asked me if Mormons were Christian. However, when the church so strongly backs and advocates measures that discriminate, I can clearly understand why people think Mormons are not Christian. What would be truly impressive and the Christian thing to do, would be to take all the money raised by the members of the church in support of this proposition, millions of dollars, and use it to help people that are in need. That money could be put to much better use.
Orson Scott Card argues that in fact the Mormons aren’t fighting the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in order to keep lesbian and gay Mormons from getting married: he asserts that the LDS are “pretty good at going our own way” and claims that lesbian and gay Mormons are as likely to be discouraged from embracing their freedom to marry as any Mormon is likely to be discouraged from “smoking, drinking or taking drugs”. It is a dreadful comparison, really. Discouraging young people from making use of addictive substances which are commonplace and legal in the surrounding culture – coffee, booze, tobacco – is quite a different thing from discouraging young lesbian and gay people from making a lifelong committment to the person that they love. Certainly one may drink coffee and wine in moderation without any ill-effects, but refraining from coffee or wine has no known ill effect. Whereas there is no way to bring children up in the belief that they are disgusting to their parents without ill effects: there is no way to deny people basic civil rights without ill effects.
To quote the rather splendid Kip Manley:
I can only say what I’ve said before, to other homophobes: Mr. Card, do you not dare to presume to defend our marriage. Same-sex couples have been getting married all around us for decades, and they’ll keep on doing it, whether you manage to hold the line or not: men will kiss their husbands as you write your brave polemics; wives will continue to feed each other cake, whatever you think is right. They’ve always had the love and the cherish and the honor, and the recognition of their friends and family, and nothing you can do will take that from them. Nothing. All you can manage is to rewrite the tax code. Make it more of a grinding hassle to deal with insurance and wills. Keep loving families apart at times of illness and accident and death. Condemn children to needless, nightmarish legal quagmires. For this you would tarnish the rings on our fingers, and turn our vows into ashes.
Card goes on to say:
We do not believe that homosexuals, by entering into a “marriage,” are personally hurting anybody. Where the law makes such a thing available, even temporarily, those who “marry” are not our enemies. We believe the law is wrong and the marriage is not, in any meaningful way, what we mean by marriage.
But my family and I are perfectly able to deal with such couples socially and keep them as friends, as long as they show the same respect and understanding for our customs and beliefs as we show for theirs.
My family and I have close friends who are gay, some of whom have entered into lawful marriages. They know we don’t agree that their relationship is the same thing or should have the same legal status as our marriage, but we all accept that strong and clear difference of opinion and move on, continuing to respect and love each other for the values we share.
I guess this would be like the white Mormons who had “close friends” who were black, back in the pre-1978 days when Mormons were required to believe that black people could only enter the Celestial Kingdom as servants? Orson Scott Card does note that where his “close friends” would not accept that he was always going to regard them as inferior people in inferior relationships, who ought to be harassed by the legal system and denied basic civil rights, and insisted that he accept them as his equals, the friendship always ended. But what is sickening is his assertion:
What is odd is that in every case they called me intolerant. They misunderstood the meaning of “tolerance.” Tolerance implies disagreement — it means that even though we don’t agree with or approve of each others beliefs or actions, we can still live together amicably. When we agree, we aren’t being tolerant, we’re being uniform.
I think what Orson Scott Card misunderstands is the meaning of friendship. If you regard someone as your inferior, if you deny them civil rights, you are not their friend. Orson Scott Card may think he has gay friends – in the same sense as a white bigot probably thinks he has black friends – and it’s even possible (indeed, quite likely) that some gay people who know Orson Scott Card have made a point of just ignoring his awful opinions on the basis that public disagreements with a well-known person seldom end well. Card is right that this is tolerance: but it’s not friendship. Card’s real friends were the ones who wanted to be friends – the ones Card drove away because they wanted friendship from him, not a disdainful tolerance. This friendship they asked of him Card calls “uniformity or submission” – and he rejected it. That Card could not bear to be friends with someone who was lesbian or gay and demanded more than passive disdain from him is sad for him: what’s ugly is that he blames them for demanding too much from him:
It makes me sad when people are so intolerant that they cannot bear to be friends with anyone who disapproves of some action or opinion of theirs. But I believe that if we could only be friends with people who never disapprove of something we do, we will end up with “friends” who either don’t know us very well, or don’t care about us very much.
Card goes on to say – it’s his third point:
Even if we fail to overturn the current legal movement toward gay marriage, we can treat our opponents politely and kindly, even when they do not extend the same courtesy to us.
There is no polite and kind way to deny people their civil rights. As I wrote in You cannot invite someone halfway in, you cannot expect to keep people grateful and humble forever for simply not being brutalised. Card’s writing on this topic – I’ve linked to two examples above – has been neither polite nor kind.
I’ve read more than I want to of Orson Scott Card on same-sex marriage over the past little while, and this
Only those who try to use the force of law to promote homosexual behavior and homosexual marriage to our children, and who would forbid us to publicly teach and express our belief that marriage is only meaningful between heterosexual couples, move into the category of enemies of freedom. And that will be because of their attempt to suppress religious freedom, freedom of speech and press, and the right of parents to control their children’s moral education.
is a recurring theme: Orson Scott Card is repeating dreck.
It is dreck, of course: in no state in the US is same-sex marriage “compulsory” (whatever that would look like!), and in no state in the US is it forbidden for homophobic parents to teach their children that they believe same-sex couples ought not to be allowed to marry.
But it is a very peculiar reversal. In 25 states in the US, the enemies of marriage have banned recognition of same-sex marriage: in 19 states, they have banned recognition of same-sex civil unions. Yet, in the view of Card (a view which Mark on A Deo Lumen seems to share: I am in hopes that perhaps Mark will explain why he identifies those who want the freedom to marry as “the enemies of freedom”, since Orson Scott Card himself seems to have nothing new to say on the subject) the people who are using the power of the legislature to enforce their beliefs and repress disagreement are somehow, in Card’s mind, supporting “religious freedom”.
It may be that he is simply lying: he claims outright that even though he is doing his little all at the request of the current LDS President to enforce the current religious beliefs of the Mormon Church of the state of California:
We do not think that any belief system, whether it calls itself a religion or not, should be imposed on other people by law — we won’t impose ours on them, and we won’t let them impose theirs on us or our families.
If this statement were true, Orson Scott Card should be a fervent supporter of No on 8… the question is: is Card consciously and conscientiously lying, in the hope that he may fool some of his readers as to what Proposition 8 is about, or has he fooled himself?
In fact, I believe that even those who absolutely believe in gay [inter-racial] marriage should join us in opposing any law that is forced on an unwilling majority by the dictates of judges. For those that are wise will recognize that once judges are given such power, that power has as much chance of being used against them as for them.
He goes on to ask what reasons Mormons have “as citizens” for opposing same-sex couples having the freedom to marry:
Legalizing gay marriage has huge legal implications far beyond letting same-sex couples enter into marriage contracts. Once “marriage” has been so radically redefined, it will become unlawful and discriminatory for schools or any other public facility to favor, for instance, heterosexual dating or dancing.
Absolutely true, and furthermore, I don’t see the problem. Why should a lesbian student be forced to date only boys, or a gay student forced to date only girls? Why shouldn’t girls dance with girls, if they want to, or boys dance with boys? What is this “freedom” that Orson Scott Card supports, if it doesn’t include the right of high school kids to date and dance as their fancy takes them, and not rigidly in mixed-sex couples only?
Since our culture (like all human cultures throughout all of history) is oriented toward promoting the maximum opportunity for reproductive success for all members of the community, but channeled in a way that will best promote the survival of the community, such a radical change should not be entered into lightly.
Wait, what? The Mormon Church supports high school girls getting pregnant by high school boys? Tell me something, parents: which would you rather: your daugher going to the Senior Prom with the girl she’s currently in love with, or your daughter missing the Senior Prom because she’s giving birth that week: “Hey, I just maximised my opportunity for reproductive success – that guy I was dating last week’s the father.”
He’s got five “reasons” why same-sex couples shouldn’t be allowed to marry, and none of them are worth more than a hill of beans – indeed, less: you can eat the beans.
His final assertion, however, is outrageously untrue:
No serious attempt has been made to consider anything more than a general feeling that “tolerance is good” and “discrimination is bad.” Yet we are proceeding headlong into a vast social experiment whose consequences, as far as we can see, risk serious damage to many in order to create only the most marginal benefit for a few.
The case for giving same-sex couples the same freedom to marry as mixed-sex couples enjoy is one that has been exhaustively discussed for well over 20 years. Orson Scott Card’s claim that no one, anywhere, has expressed anything but a “general feeling” of approval for tolerance and opposition to discrimination is just… a lie. I really don’t think I can assume he’s merely ignorant: if he is, he has certainly worked to maintain his ignorance. The issue is, as every serious person on the pro-marriage side has made clear from the very beginning, that this is about justice: this is about equality.
From the US alone:
Coretta Scott King: Gay and lesbian people have families, and their families should have legal protection, whether by marriage or civil union. A constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages is a form of gay bashing and it would do nothing at all to protect traditional marriages.
Mildred Loving: I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people civil rights.
Brad Pitt: Because no one has the right to deny another their life, even though they disagree with it, because everyone has the right to live the life they so desire if it doesn’t harm another and because discrimination has no place in America, my vote will be for equality and against Proposition 8.
Even Google!: However, while there are many objections to this proposition — further government encroachment on personal lives, ambiguously written text — it is the chilling and discriminatory effect of the proposition on many of our employees that brings Google to publicly oppose Proposition 8. While we respect the strongly-held beliefs that people have on both sides of this argument, we see this fundamentally as an issue of equality. We hope that California voters will vote no on Proposition 8 — we should not eliminate anyone’s fundamental rights, whatever their sexuality, to marry the person they love.
Janis Ian: We got married because we could. If we could have gotten married in the United States, we would have. When the opportunity to get married in Canada presented itself, we grabbed it. As a couple, we wanted the same rights and the same social recognition our heterosexual friends have. We also got married because, just like coming out, public figures need to do that to make the rest of the world aware. I think it’s important that people are made aware, because at the end of the day it’s a civil rights issue.
(To which Orson Scott Card’s response, a few months later, was : So if my friends insist on calling what they do “marriage,” they are not turning their relationship into what my wife and I have created, because no court has the power to change what their relationship actually is. Instead they are attempting to strike a death blow against the well-earned protected status of our, and every other, real marriage. They steal from me what I treasure most, and gain for themselves nothing at all. They won’t be married. They’ll just be playing dress-up in their parents’ clothes. Janis Ian is one of those “former friends”, I guess.)
As for the second half of Card’s assertion, given that the first same-sex civil unions were made law in 1989, nearly 20 years ago, while in the US nearly half the states in the union are still militantly repressing any legal recognition, this is the kind of “rushing headlong” that looks more like a heel-dragging delay on a civil rights reform with long-proven benefits and no known drawback.
But what, I confess to you, finally impelled me to write this – the disgust I feel at the awful self-pity of this self-righteous bigot – was this closing statement, framed as a series of questions, in which this supporter of a widespread attack on religious freedom and civil rights in the United States asks with horrid pathos:
Why the hostility toward even the slightest opposition? Can’t our opponents wait to get their way until they have persuaded a clear majority? Can’t they listen to people with ideas that are different from theirs?
Dude. When you try to take away people’s civil rights because you have majority support, you can at least have the courage and honesty to admit that the people whose civil rights and religious freedom you want denied by law are not going to like you for it.