When I clicked a link and was transported to a column on Proposition 8 by Orson Scott Card, I was fully prepared to be offended. I didn’t expect to be so amused. For a writer so erudite, his arguments are remarkably vacuous. I honestly expected him to make a good case for a bad cause—not so. How can the author of Ender’s Game produce such vacuous drivel?
The premise of this editorial is that he promised to write a set of secular arguments to ban gay marriage, since even he realises that non-Mormons won’t be convinced by
We Mormons think God doesn’t like it. I will not quote it in full—you have the link above—but will cite the parts that made me want to burst out with derisive retorts.
Quoted and indented parts are from Mr. Card’s column; the commentary is mine.
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.
These judges are making new law without any democratic process; in fact, their decisions are striking down laws enacted by majority vote.
Democratic process is great. I really think that constitutional, representative democracy is the greatest…well, the least terrible political system anyone has ever invented. However, a constitutional democracy does not base all of its laws and decisions on popular vote—if it did, it wouldn’t need a constitution (except to codify voting procedures and ensure that they are binding). Any civilised democracy has laws in place to protect the rights of minorities lest they be oppressed by majorities sufficiently large to win elections. Unpopular minorities need this protection sometimes—like gays. Or Mormons.
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.
I presume that he’s talking about
partial-birth abortions; it certainly sounds like it. Now,
partial-birth abortion is a stupid term to begin with; it’s not a much of a medical term, but a political one popularised by the opponents of late-term abortions. During a
partial-birth abortion, the fetus is removed via the cervix, the same path as a birth, but that doesn’t mean that natural birth has begun. It’s one of the procedures used for abortions after the 21st week; it’s used in 15% of those cases. This means that it’s a procedure used for fetuses some of which don’t have any brain activity, let alone higher brain functions, consciousness, or anything psychologically human. Additionally, the procedure is used to remove fetuses that die of natural causes—it’s a method for removing a fetus, not killing it (although for abortive purposes, the fetus is of course killed before it is removed).
But Mr. Card’s rhetoric appears to take an already deliberately provocative term for this procedure and apply it by the most horrifying interpretation of the term itself, ignoring any facts about the procedure, to make it sound as though American courts allow doctors to murder infants in the delivery room (and of course legalising gay marriage leads down the same path). This isn’t merely dishonest; it’s ludicrous.
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"?
I agree that it’s not a very accurate term. I commiserate. I feel the same way about using the term
organic to mean
not grown using chemically synthesised pesticides. However, given the prevalence of the terms in question, I think
homophobe is roughly as subject to misunderstanding in context as the word
organic applied in relation to produce.
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.
There we have it: The meaning of marriage is universal. For starters, it’s either permanent or not permanent. It’s between one man and one woman, or occasionally one man and multiple women. It doesn’t occur across racial barriers, or maybe it does; and the groom’s family always pays a price to buy the bride, or maybe the bride brings a dowry, or maybe neither happens.
Either way, you see what I mean: It’s universal.
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.
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.
the same ≠ morally equivalent ≠ legally equivalent
Women are not the same as men; does that mean they should not have equal rights? Black people aren’t the same as white people; does that mean they should not have equal rights?
There is no natural method by which two males or two females can create offspring in which both partners contribute genetically. This is not subject to legislation, let alone fashionable opinion.
Thanks for telling us this. I’m sure the world was just about dying from uncertainty on this matter.
That many individuals suffer from sex-role dysfunctions does not change the fact that only heterosexual mating can result in
families where a father and a mother collaborate in rearing children that share a genetic contribution from both parents.
Ah, there we have it! Only heterosexual couples (out of all couples) can produce and rear children (factually true, I agree); therefore, because X, only heterosexual couples should be allowed to marry.
The only X that makes this argument hold is X =
only couples likely (or at least able) to produce and rear children should be allowed to marry. Clearly, this must be Mr. Card’s position.
When a heterosexual couple cannot have children, their faithful marriage still affirms, in the eyes of other people's children, the universality of the pattern of marriage.
…What, are we making exceptions already? Even though
marriage is for procreation only is the only logical piece that fits, we are to make an exception because it’s just so important that children realise that, universally, marriages are usually between a man and one or more women, are or are not permanent, and do or do not entail the bride’s family, or possibly the groom’s family, paying a price?
Note also a rather sneaky introduction of the naturallistic fallacy here. Earlier, he was saying that
this is what marriage is and has always been. Now, he proceeds as though he had established that this is what marriage should be. This does not follow from that.
We need the same public protection of marriage that we have of property. If we did not all agree that people continue to own things that are not in their immediate possession, then you could not reasonably expect to come home and find your house unoccupied.
We agree, by law, to make it a crime to take what belongs to others -- even when you need it more than they do. Every aspect of our lives is affected by this, and not for a moment could a society exist that did not protect the right of property.
Marriage is, if anything, more vital, more central, than property.
Husbands need to have the whole society agree that when they marry, their wives are off limits to all other males. He has a right to trust that all his wife's children would be his.
Wives need to have the whole society agree that when they marry, their husband is off limits to all other females. All of his protection and earning power will be devoted to her and her children, and will not be divided with other women and their children.
Apart from the rather obvious conclusions that men own women, and women are exclusive property and protegées of men (in spite of some of the universally identical marriages being polygynous, including within Mr. Card’s own deranged religion), I suppose the point is that (as Jesus taught us, maybe?) we shouldn’t really care about other people’s children, and (literal) bastards deserve no consideration whatsoever, because all that is important for a child to matter to a parent is genetic proximity.
Wait, wasn’t he saying something about adopted children? (Okay, you may not know this—I didn’t bother to cite it. You can check the article, or take my word when I say that Mr. Card is A-OK with adoption.) How does this tie into a necessity that the children he raise be biologically
These two premises are so basic that they preexist any known government. In most societies through history, failure to live up to these commitments has led to extreme social sanctions -- even, in many cases, death.
And if people two thousand years ago killed people for it, it must be morally wrong.
Only when the marriage of heterosexuals has the support of the whole society can we have our best hope of raising each new generation to aspire to continue our civilization -- including the custom of marriage.
Rephrased in semi-symbolic logic:
Only if X is supported by society will society continue to value X.
Similarly, an old-time southerner might say,
Only when the segregation of blacks and whites has the support of the whole society can we have our best hope of raising each new generation to aspire to continue our civilization -- including the custom of racial segregation.
Because when government is the enemy of marriage, then the people who are actually creating successful marriages have no choice but to change governments, by whatever means is made possible or necessary.
Am I to understand that Mr. Card feels that civil war is a price he’s willing to pay to stop gay people who love each other from achieving legal rights commensurate with those of straight people who love each other?
Society gains no benefit whatsoever (except for a momentary warm feeling about how "fair" and "compassionate" we are) from renaming homosexual liaisons and friendships as marriage.
Aren’t justice and compassion held to be rather high virtues in most moral systems, including both secular humanism and most Christian sects? I suppose Mormons are different. Personally, I disagree; I think that justice and compassion are worth making sacrifices for, so that even if gay marriage were detrimental for society as a whole—which I do not believe for a moment—I expect I should still continue to support it, because some goods come only at a price.
Benjamin Franklin said it well:
They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety. I rank justice right up there with liberty, and consider compassion to be a pretty high virtue, as well.
Married people attempting to raise children with the hope that they, in turn, will be reproductively successful, have every reason to oppose the normalization of homosexual unions.
…Because gay marriage causes infertility and/or low sperm count in straight people?
It's about grandchildren. That's what all life is about. It's not enough just to spawn -- your offspring must grow up in circumstances that will maximize their reproductive opportunities.
Personally, I think that life is about a lot of things other than reproducing. Indeed, I think that anyone who disagrees with me is an immoral and frankly terrible person. I also note that a straightforward implication of what Mr. Card here suggests is that infertile and sterile people have no purpose in life.
In a strict biological sense—if we speak of meaning in life strictly in terms of biological imperative—then he’s closer to being right (still wrong, of course, but not nearly as wrong). However, I thought we were talking about morality, which usually includes concepts like rising above our animal nature (to borrow a tedious cliché).
How long before married people answer the dictators thus: Regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down, so it can be replaced with a government that will respect and support marriage, and help me raise my children in a society where they will expect to marry in their turn.
Yes, I guess he is advocating revolution and civil war to stop the gays. He seems rather less sane than I thought, and I wasn’t being generous to begin with.
Biological imperatives trump laws.
Then jealousy and rage trump laws against murder. Greed and desire trump laws against rape and theft. This isn’t a recipe for morality, but for anarchy, a Hobbesian State of Nature where life is
nasty, brutish, and short.
I knew that Orson Scott Card was a man I profoundly disapprove of and disagree with, due to opinions he holds on religious grounds. However, if this is the best effort he can make to
frame our arguments in completely secular terms; if this is an example of what he considers his
compelling secular arguments in favor of giving permanent heterosexual pairings a monopoly on legally recognized status in all societies, then he’s not just blinded by religion—as many otherwise intelligent people are, compartmentalising their beliefs—he is also quite incapable of logic, stupid, and possibly insane.