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Thanks for the memories  July 26, 2012

Orson Scott Card makes a plea for homophobia tolerance

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CNET Editor

Michelle Starr is the tiger force at the core of all things. She also writes about cool stuff and apps as CNET Australia's Crave editor. But mostly the tiger force thing.

(Credit: Summit Entertainment)

After a call for a boycott of the upcoming film Ender's Game, author Orson Scott Card has released a statement asking for tolerance.

Ender's Game author Orson Scott Card has a long history of homophobia. Over the years, he has written screed after screed railing against gay marriage. Here's just a selection: in 1990, he wrote an essay defending a Georgia law against sodomy, even in private. In 2004, he disingenuously argued that gay people have the legal right to marry, just not each other. In 2008, he published a long article arguing that homosexuality is a mental illness and a dysfunction, and that gay marriage would spell the end of democracy in the US. In 2012, he argued (incorrectly, at least in the US) that no laws remained that discriminated against gay people.

In response to this well-documented history, queer geek organisation Geeks Out called for a boycott of the upcoming sci-fi film Ender's Game, based on Card's 1985 book — a mainstay of geek teen libraries since its release — saying, "Stand against anti-gay activism and deny Orson Scott Card your financial support by pledging to skip Ender's Game."

In response, Orson Scott Card released a statement to Entertainment Weekly to dismiss the boycott's position, arguing that the book itself makes no mention of gay rights, and besides, since the US Supreme Court recently overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, the battle is over (it's not).

He added the rather audacious statement, "Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute."

That's not an argument that's likely to carry much weight with anyone who was set to boycott his film, especially in Australia, where we're still waiting for the government to introduce legislation that allows gay marriage. On Twitter, the response has been overwhelming.

Earlier this year, Card's appointment to pen a Superman story for DC created a massive backlash against the author, leading to the indefinite postponement of the project after artist Chris Sprouse left.

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JefferyL posted a comment   

Once I found out Card is a pretty erudite proponent of LDS, his stand on the issue made sense. Note that in the battle between freedom of religious conscience (guaranteed in the 1st amendment to the US constitution,) and entitlement based on sexual orientation (where isit in the US constitution?), there's no competition. Entitlement based on SO is the order of the day.

And finally, I wanted to introduce a new term into the dialogue. This kind of thing has been going on for a while now, and I think this new term is appropriate.

Instead of being blacklisted for his stand on gay marriage, I call what's being done to Card, "PINKLISTING."


JefferyL posted a comment   

"The fascism of the left is no more attractive than the fascism of the right."
Orson Scott Card


Decroded posted a comment   

Wow you quick to jump on the band wagon.

I see the irony of a gay community, itself once fighting for "freedom and equality", now attempting to censor anything written by anyone with views that disagree with their agenda.

I read the book long ago. It was fantastic, and I don't remember any homophobic themes.

I doubt a movie will be as good as the book but I've not going to I'm not going to miss out on something potentially great just because I don't agree with the author's personal views that don't even appear in the story.


The_other_side posted a comment   

Michelle, the title of this article is completely misleading and exaggerated. You say Card makes a plea for homophobia tolerance. He simply says there's nothing about gay rights in the book (as I'm sure there isn't in the film). There's also nothing homophobic. It has nothing to do with the text. How is he making a plea for tolerance on homophobia?

If the book is now homophobic because he wrote it, and you can battle homophobia by not reading it and going to the film, then isn't everyone involved in the film supporting homophobia? So now Harrison Ford is a complete homophobe? Should we start clearing Star Wars and Indiana Jones out of our movie collections?

You also categorise being against gay marriage as homophobia. This means former prime minister Julia Gillard is homophobic, prime minister Kevin Rudd was homophobic until just recently and my gay brother, who does not support gay marriage, is also homophobic. That seems a very narrow minded view.

You assume that gay marriage is right and everyone who supports it is wrong. You make it sound like everyone in Australia is eagerly waiting for the government to introduce gay marriage. We're not. And it doesn't mean we're bigoted homophobes. Feel free to mention the other side of the story, or even that there is one.


Michelle Starr posted a reply   

Well, I looked at his words, where he said, "Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute."

But I'm interested in why you think same-sex marriage is a bad thing. If you don't want to get married to someone of the same gender as you, then it will affect you in no way whatsoever.

So far, the only arguments I've seen against it are that it will somehow "ruin" marriage for heterosexuals; and that it will create a slippery slope and soon we will be able to marry dogs. Both those views are homophobic; the first because it presupposes that a gay relationship is somehow tainted; the second because it equates homosexuals with animals.

Also, if you read his essays, which I linked, you will see that he believes homosexuality is a mental illness, a "tragic genetic mixup" and that gay people should not be accepted as equal in society.


The_other_side posted a reply   

Thanks for your response. Sorry, haven’t looked back at this in three months. I can see where you’re coming from now with the title of your article.

I would add that Card’s response refers to those who don’t tolerate opposing views to same-sex marriage. This intolerance could perhaps be exemplified by my gay brother’s report of two lesbians advancing on him threateningly when he said he didn’t agree with same-sex marriage. I don’t believe they were physically going to hurt him, and he shared the experience humourously, but there wasn’t much tolerance for his position. How would we react to two ‘straight’ men advancing threateningly on a gay man who said he supported same-sex marriage? Would we call that bigotry? Intolerance? Many supporters of same-sex marriage condemn the kind of behaviour they themselves engage in.

In response to your question, like Card, I’m a Mormon. We believe God instituted marriage between a man and a woman as the divinely approved union for the birth and rearing of children. It’s the foundation of society, predates government and has stood for thousands of years. Children have a right to be born to a man and a woman who are married and honour marital vows with complete fidelity. This is the best environment for children to be raised. Men and women are different, which in the media everyone seems to want to vigorously deny yet in reality we acknowledge every day. Through marriage, we bring our unique differences and form a union where children can benefit from what each gender brings. Together, men and women form a unity and a oneness that can be achieved in no other way and their physical union can result in the creation of life. That is God’s plan for his children.

Same-sex marriage strikes at the heart of this plan and states that children don’t necessarily need a father or mother except as a vehicle for birth. As a male and as a father, I don’t add anything special or necessary for a child’s development. The same could be said for my wife and her role as a mother. Two dads could apparently do the job just as well.

The other threat is to religious freedom. An Australian same-sex marriage bill was drafted recently that would give an exemption to religious organisations. For example, they wouldn’t have to perform a same-sex marriage if they felt it violated their religious beliefs. That exemption would be appreciated but the reality in many western countries has been that when gay rights and religious rights go head to head, gay rights wins most of the time. In Boston, one of the oldest and best adoption agencies refused to place children with same-sex couples due to religious belief. They were told it would violate the law. They applied for a religious exemption but were refused, so they closed their doors. Could such a thing happen in Australia? I don’t know for sure, but many will dismiss my argument against same-sex marriage on the basis of my religious belief and many think religious belief should have no place in the public square, so I would have to say there is cause for deep concern among many in the religious community on the impact of same-sex marriage on religious freedom.

My gay brother opposes, or perhaps a better wording might be ‘does not support’ (I don’t think he’d march in rally or anything) same-sex marriage because he doesn’t think that’s a ritual the gay community needs for identity and isn’t really part of who they are. Nevertheless, he has lesbian friends who want the white wedding etc and does sympathise with their position.

Back to Orson Scott Card, I must note that not everything he says on homosexuality represents the position of our church, which I’m sure he’d freely admit. For what the church teaches, the best source would be or


Michelle Starr posted a reply   

Thank you for your well thought out response.

Both you and your brother have a right to your beliefs, as does your church. I don't believe that Card's beliefs are universal to or even because of Mormonism, which is why I made no mention of his religion. You can be religious and still tolerant and supportive of rights the rights of others.

Case in point would be another Mormon fantasy author, Brandon Sanderson (whose work I rather enjoy). He doesn't believe that religious institutions should be asked to sanction gay marriage if it's against their beliefs; but, under the law, all should have the same rights.

We have a secular government in Australia; well, at least, we're supposed to. The government also can conduct non-religious marriages. I believe that, legally, that should also be provided to same-sex couples.

As for the adoption agency, I believe unless it's run by a religious institution, they are not allowed to discriminate. If a same-sex couple can provide a safe, loving, stable home environment - which, by the way, many heterosexual couples can't do - why shouldn't a child be placed where he or she will be loved? I appreciate that you have a religious view of this matter, but there is no evidence to support that a child brought up by same-sex parents will be any worse off than a child from a more traditional home.

I'm not asking you or your brother to change your views. We might just have to agree to disagree. But I honestly can't see what is so bad about two people pledging to spend the rest of their lives loving each other, just because they happen to have the same plumbing.


The_other_side posted a reply   

Thanks for your response, Michelle. I appreciate that you draw the distinction between Card’s beliefs and the church’s, and also that we have a right to these beliefs. At my work a poster was put up on a notice board promoting a rally to support gay marriage. It was up there for a long time, long after the rally had occurred, before someone took it down. A week or two ago I put up a pamphlet that promoted a referendum on gay marriage and presented views for each side of the argument. Ultimately, it was for an organisation that supported traditional marriage but it was pretty even in its approach and encouraged Australia to make a choice. After a week, someone took it down. Not everyone is tolerant of our beliefs. Or perhaps they tolerate our beliefs, just not our right to express them?

You raise some good points. Studies have shown no adverse impacts for kids raised by same-sex couples. A major criticism of many of these studies is that the samples are not random enough and there isn’t enough long term data compared to traditional parenting. The topic is also emotionally and politically charged, with bias on both sides of the argument. I did a search on same-sex parenting and found what appeared to be one of the few long term studies of same-sex parenting in Canada. It seemed reputable, independent and from an ‘expert’. It showed that children of same-sex couples were less likely to graduate from high school and noted different graduation rates depending on the gender of the couple and the children. For example, boys were more likely to graduate when raised by two men than two women.

I wanted to confirm its independence and so looked for some independent commentary on this issue and noted that Wikipedia (not necessarily the best source) had referenced the study. I checked back today and the reference to this study is gone. I confirmed the reference’s removal in the history, as well as the subsequent argument from editors on its removal that seemed to boil down to which side of the argument you were on. I searched on Google and the only criticisms of the study were from bloggers promoting gay marriage and the only supporters were organisations supporting traditional marriage. Media coverage of the study from major outlets seemed very small, and I’ve only found a passing reference to it in the LA times that didn’t discredit the study. This brief case example leads me to wonder: are any of these studies truly independent?

You said you can’t see anything wrong with two people of the same-sex who want to pledge to spend the rest of their lives together, which is fair enough. But that’s just about what they want and doesn’t consider the impacts on children or the long term ramifications for society when you redefine the family unit.

I can quote one study on the impact of traditional parenting that is guaranteed to be independent, reputable and long term. Harvard researchers recently released the Grant study, a 75 year study of men and happiness. It found that the most important factor in happiness for men was the ‘warmth’ of their relationships. In particular, a man’s relationship with his mother mattered long into adulthood. Men who had a warm relationship with their mother earned more, were less likely to get dementia when old and was associated with greater effectiveness in their later professional lives. On the other hand, men who had a warm relationship with their father had lower adult anxiety, greater enjoyment on vacations and greater life satisfaction at age 75. Parents of each gender had a different impact – both positive, both important. But the mother’s relationship with her son mattered a great deal. The mother’s importance was indisputable. I honestly don’t see why we are disputing it.

We don’t have similar studies on same-sex marriage and parenting because we just don’t have enough data yet, so you could argue that it’s not a fair comparison. But I think we have enough data on the impact of traditional marriage and parenting to argue that it having two parents of different genders matters, and marriage needs to be preserved as it is, in the interests of children and society as a whole. It’s family that matters most to our happiness, and therefore to the happiness of society, and marriage between a man and a woman is the best family environment.

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