I was disappointed, though not surprised, to see Orson Scott Card’s recent editorial in the Mormon Times on the subject of gay marriage. I admire Card’s writing, and I loved his novel Ender’s Game. I guess our political view points are just somewhat out of sync. I mention all of this because my first professional science fiction story was published last year in his magazine, InterGalactic Medicine Show, and while I don’t want to sabotage my potential writing career by seeming ungrateful, I disagree with Scott’s position on this subject.
He claims that the legal recognition of gay marriage in Massachusetts and California marks the end of democracy. Why? Because judges are overturning voter decisions. I dismiss this argument as anger and frustration at a political process at work. After all, this is democracy at work, checks and balances in action. What I find more disturbing is his reasoning that marriage is older than government, that it is universal, and therefore, “It is the permanent or semipermanent bond between a man and a woman, establishing responsibilities between the couple and any children that ensue.”
The logic doesn’t work out. Take his statement that marriage is older than government. Is this to mean that there was an “understanding” among human beings long before government that marriage is between a man and a woman?” Even if this understanding existed, it’s universality doesn’t make it true. After all, for the bulk of human history it was universally believed that the earth was at the center of the universe. Only recently (relative to all of human history) did we realize that this was not true. Just because we believed a “universal truth” didn’t make it true. As our understanding of the universe changed, our beliefs changed. I think the same is true of marriage and we are simply in the early stages. Recall that Galileo was rebuked for showing evidence contrary to the Church in his day, despite the fact that his evidence was incontrovertible.
Card goes on to say:
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.
I know many married couples, the relationship between each of which is different from the others. Card seems to be implying that there is something in nature that makes relationships between same sexes different than between a man and a woman. If so, I don’t know what that something is. My experience tells me that every relationship, be it same-sex or not, is different from every other relationship. We are all wet-wired more or less the same, but our environment has a powerful influence on our personality and that in turn affects a relationship, regardless the type. Card is right in one respect: no act of Congress can make a relationship between any two people the same as any two other people, period.
What Card doesn’t mention in his article is religious doctrine, which is usually at the heart of all of these controversies, and a strong motivating factor for many people against gay marriage. Frankly, I don’t see the big deal. Who cares what consenting adults do with one another? You might not agree with it, but then you don’t have to participate in it. But it seems to me that there is some pervasive fear that conceding on gay marriage is a stepping stone to other more nefarious notions. To me this is ridiculous. It’s like the argument that handing out condoms to kids in school would encourage the kids to have sex. Of course, as studies showed, kids were going to have sex no matter what; handing out condoms just made sure it was safe sex.
There was a time in this country when people found it unthinkable for two people of different races to get married. They said it would destroy the institution of marriage. Other things chipped away at marriage–mostly infidelity–but interracial marriages did no harm to the institution, and in the long run, neither will gay marriage.