Malice Towards None: Orson Scott Card, Gay Marriage, and the “Ender’s Game” Film Controversy, Part Two

Note: This is the second part of this essay. Part one can be found by clicking here.

“It was just him and me. He fought with honor. If it weren’t for his honor, he and the others would have beaten me together. They might have killed me, then. His sense of honor saved my life. I didn’t fight with honor… I fought to win.”
–Ender’s Game

“Somebody with that much compassion could never be the killer we needed. Could never go into battle willing to win at all costs. If you knew, you couldn’t do it. If you were the kind of person who would do it even if you knew, you could never have understood [them] well enough.”
Ender’s Game

Perhaps one of the most troubling things to me about the whole Ender’s Game boycott is the chill and fear it creates not only for those who, on personal, religious or ethical grounds, oppose gay marriage, but also to those who choose to work and associate with them. In these scenarios, all tainted parties are punished, even those who happen to be supportive with the gay rights movement.  It’s a modern McCarthyism, creating a feeling that all people who do not pass that sociopolitical litmus test must be shunned and, if you do not shun them as well, you’re suspect as well. Thus, in the case Ender’s Game, Lionsgate, Harrison Ford, Gavin Hood, Asa Butterfield, and the rest of the cast and crew of the film would be punished by this kind of attitude, even though they have all come out staunchly in the favor of gay rights, and insist the story of Ender’s Game is a story about compassion and empathy, so has nothing to do with Card’s stance on gay marriage.

Fortunately, a lot of the more level headed members of the liberal community see the implications of such actions. Juliet Lapados at the New York Times, even though she hardly agrees with Card’s more extreme views, called out this sort of action:

Generally, boycotts are used to pressure companies or governments to end objectionable activities; consider the boycott of Chick-fil-A to protest the chain’s financial support of antigay organizations. What Geeks Out has in mind is closer to blacklisting. The group wants to “send a clear and serious message to Card and those that do business with his brand of antigay activism — whatever he’s selling, we’re not buying.” This isn’t about stopping the dissemination of antigay sentiments; it’s about isolating Mr. Card and shaming his business partners, thus cutting into their profits.

If Mr. Card belongs in quarantine, who’s next?

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Malice Towards None: Orson Scott Card, Gay Marriage, and the “Ender’s Game” Film Controversy, Part One

“But mostly he got to power on words, the right words at the right time.”
Ender’s Game

With the upcoming release of the Ender’s Game film, adapted from Orson Scott Card’s novel (which is rightly considered a sci-fi classic), a flurry of controversy is building up around the release, especially since Geeks OUT called for a boycott of the film due to Orson Scott’s Card vocal views on homosexuality and gay marriage (some of Card’s views on the subjects can be found a little more rationally in his early work here, and a lot less rationally in his later work here). This is not the first time this issue has come back to haunt Card recently, as DC Comics had to temporarily shelve a Superman story Card had written for them due to some backlash the company had received about Card’s views (even to the point of the artist leaving the project). And, frankly, I can totally understand why the gay community wants to color Card as a boogeyman when he issues incendiary, inflaming, alienating statements like this:

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.

Biological imperatives trump laws. American government cannot fight against marriage and hope to endure. If the Constitution is defined in such a way as to destroy the privileged position of marriage, it is that insane Constitution, not marriage, that will die (Deseret News, July 24, 2008).

Now, whoa there, pardner! This style of “vive la revolution” diatribe is seriously extreme, no matter one’s belief system or worldview. And it’s also pretty impractical. This sort of rhetoric did much more to paint Card as a fanatic, than it did to rally the troops around Captain Moroni’s flag (I don’t actually think Card’s crazy, he’s actually really brilliant, but this particular article certainly made him LOOK crazy).

Card can hardly play the victim, nor be particularly surprised that the gay community has organized so thoroughly against him, when he says that he would prefer to see the government destroyed than let gay marriage stand in America. Statements like that are like holding a lightning rod in a thunderstorm. Card put too many of his RISK armies on one part of the board, and the opposition took advantage of his tactical error.

“I will remember this, when I am defeated. To keep dignity, to give honor where it is due, so that defeat is not a disgrace. And I hope I don’t have to do it often.”
Ender’s Game

“Since when do you have to tell the enemy he has won?”
Ender’s Game

Yet such brash words were obviously spoken in the heat of the moment since Card has now given up the fight, stepping down from his position on National Organization for Marriage, and has called the gay marriage debate “moot” (technically not correct, since there are still 37 states who still outlaw gay marriage, but I do think Card is prescient to see the writing on the wall). No revolution, no overthrowing the government, no going down with the ship… Card has presented the “enemy” with his sword and conceded defeat with this statement, “With the recent supreme court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot. The full faith and credit clause of the constitution will, sooner or later, give legal force in every state to any marriage contract recognized by any other state.”

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Beyond Bigotry: The Real Opposition to Same-Sex Marriage

2013-06-25 Gay Marriage Protest

A lot of things are disconcerting about the same-sex marriage debate. One of them–which I’ve already discussed–is the way that social conservatives were silent for too long in pairing a principled stand for traditional marriage (one Christian virtue) with sincere interest in the welfare of homosexuals as brothers and sisters (an even more important Christian virtue). But another comes from the opposite side of the political spectrum.

Eric Teetsel explains it harshly but clearly in a post for the Witherspoon Institute:

Sherif Girgis, Ryan Anderson, and Robert George recently wrote a masterful defense of what marriage is and why it matters. It is no exaggeration to say that their argument is the intellectual foundation for marriage advocates, used by the National Organization for Marriage, the Heritage Foundation, and others (including my own Manhattan Declaration).

What did the same-sex marriage movement do with this seminal book? They ignored it.

They don’t have answers to the authors’ claims; they don’t need them. Advocates of same-sex marriage aren’t concerned about the logic of their arguments or the precedents they establish. Forget facts; theirs is a more powerful weapon in the era of amusement: fad.

As I said: harsh. But I think Teetsel is largely right, even if it could have been expressed with more sensitivity. In almost all cases the “debate” goes something like this: support gay marriage or be tarred a bigot. With some exceptions that seems to be about it. It’s as though Americans who support gay marriage think that the Westboro Baptists genuinely represent the traditional marriage constituency.

They don’t.

With the upcoming Supreme Court decision, this debate may be winding down or moving on. Then again, maybe not. But in either case, I think it would be incredibly beneficial for those who support marriage equality to read the paper Teetsel referenced. It’s called “What Is Marriage?” and it appeared in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy. It’s not exactly short or light reading, but as Teetsel points out, it’s the actual expression of what defenders of traditional marriage actually believe. No matter how this debate plays out, I think that’s something worth understanding. Primarily, I might add, because I think while it may not be what gay marriage supporters want to hear (obviously), it’s notably free of what bigotry, animosity, or intolerance as a motivation. Vocal minority of fearful idiots notwithstanding, that’s not what the traditional marriage movement is really about.

So go ahead: give it a read.

The Institution of Marriage: Gay, Lesbian, and Straight

2013-06-18 gay marriage

So I said a while ago that I was going to write a long post about gay marriage. This is not that post, but it’s related to that post.

Two of the most common arguments in favor of gay marriage I see are:

  1. If Britney Spears can get married for 55 hours and that’s just fine, then obviously heterosexual marriage isn’t so sacred after all.
  2. Allowing same-sex marriage will have no impact on your specific heterosexual marriage.

The problem with these arguments is that they appear to be responding to concerns of those who oppose gay marriage, but they do not. First of all: I don’t know of anyone who is concerned about gay marriage who thinks that it would be the first attack on an otherwise perfect institution. As a society, the traditional family is already in serious trouble from two factors: divorce and absent fathers. I will say that that gay marriage debate has certainly put a renewed focus on what families mean to society, and that’s been the most positive aspect of the debate. I don’t think it’s politically viable just yet, but I’ve seen an increasing number of those who oppose gay marriage also start to question prior “reforms” like no-fault divorce. No-fault divorce was heralded as a way to end domestic abuse and unhappy marriages by making it easier for couples to divorce. It succeeded in making divorce easier–so divorce rates skyrocketed, taking a terrible toll on the innocence of childhood–but it completely failed to increase marital happiness or reduce domestic abuse rates. This is because the appearance of an “easy out” puts additional strain on even healthy marriages in times of stress. It’s one of those initially counter-intuitive findings that actually make a lot of sense once you see the evidence and think through the logic carefully.

As for the second: the idea has never been that if the gay couple down the street is allowed to get married it will somehow have a direct causal impact on my relationship with my wife. That is, of course, absurd. The idea is rather that what marriage means to society as an institution is heavily influenced by how we define it. Traditional marriage proponents have long believed that homosexual relationships are not really interchangeable with heterosexual ones, and it’s vital to note that this doesn’t necessarily imply any judgment of superiority.

I’m not going to pretend that traditional marriage proponents don’t add judgment in quite frequently, but it’s not necessitated by the logic at all. In fact, one reason that I’m skeptical of gay marriage arguments is that they seem to assume that what’s good for straight couples is automatically good for gay couples, and that doesn’t seem like a fair assumption to gay couples. Marriage is an institution that has evolved in a straight world where homosexuality was largely repressed and persecuted. Why does it make sense to assume that such an institution would serve the interests of gays and lesbians? I’m afraid that in an interest to seek dignity and equality for homosexuals (very important goals), same-sex marriage has been swept up in the movement without really thinking it through.

But is this just speculation, or do we have solid, hard sociological evidence to suggest that gay relationships are different than straight relationships? It turns out, we do. Mark Regnerus, writing for the Witherspoon Institute, outlines some of the findings

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