Saturday, May 05, 2012

WTF does a Sci Fi writer know about Human Rights?

(NOTE: Thanks to modern HTML, all links to sources cited are embedded in the text.  You're welcome. --WAD)

Ok, on may 8th, 2012, the citizenry of the state of North Carolina, USA are voting on a new amendment to their state's constitution.  Here is the actual Amendment One wording as it will appear on the ballot:

Tonight, a friend of mine on the Book of Face (Yes I have Facebook, and if I don't know you, no you may not add me), posted this from the Huffington Post. It is a piece about how one of my favorite Sci Fi authors, Orson Scott Card, has written an Op Ed piece for Greensboro's The Rhinoceros Times concerning this vote, and how it affects gay marriage.  Now, while we all know The Huffington Post has their axe to grind, I was actually really upset by Mr Card's absolute ignorance of what the amendment was proposing. His piece was really aimed at one specific thing, confusing signs, but it expounds into the land of fallacy and misinformation; the very thing he's decrying in his piece.

I'm not one to jump into the political realm, as it's just all noise and stupidity for the most part.  But this time, I had to write something. Card is just so talented, and usually so thoughtful and knowledgeable, and his piece just shook me.  So in response to him, I wrote the following.

(Note again: I whipped this up in about an hour  at about 3 am EDT after working all day and driving 4 hours to my home.  Please try to just accept the miscues and typos.  There is a coherency in here, just look a little harder for it. --WAD)

An open letter to Mr Orson Scott Card

"Orson, I'm a fan of your work and have been for a long time. Ender's Game actually changed my life. But I'm sort of shocked how you glibly deny the facts here.

What's on the ballot is clearly worded:

“Constitutional amendment to provide that marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.”

Your argument that "There's no need to legalize gay marriage." is a moot point. The amendment isn't about legalizing gay marriage. Same-sex unions are already illegal in North Carolina. If it's voted down, gay marriage will be no less illegal. This amendment is specifically calling for a clear removal of rights for a group of people by taking away the rights of same-sex couples that wish to be married, AND then giving that same couple no other alternative for legal recognition by the state.

Let's be clear: The yes vote on this law is specifically designed to take rights away from gay people, and the no vote will not give rights to anyone.

Regardless of anyone's morality, this is obviously a way for government to control a segment of the populace it deems less "acceptable", be it for moral or other reasons. After this is ratified, how long before those same couples you wrote about who now have “the same rights as a heterosexual couples” will no longer be allowed the right to do the very things you point to as evidence that, "(t)here are no laws left standing that discriminate against gay couples"? They will have no legal standing under the Constitution of North Carolina to care for their loved ones, make sure they have proper medical insurance for their partner and their family, or any of the other rights granted a spouse. I don't think it's a stretch of logic to think once laws are in place and rights are removed, that these things could happen. And if one of the couple passes away, imagine the legal battles that will ensue just trying to get the property in order; or to deem custody of a child. As they weren't married, according to North Carolina law, the estate will be taken by the state if there are no other living biological relatives. And the child? Who can say, but the guardianship could be dragged out in the courts for years as there is no mandate from the state to allow the partner to keep custody, as there would be in a marriage. Not very family friendly, is it? How is this beneficial to anyone?

Sure, I'm speculating, but so are you, the difference is, I'm basing my logical speculation on the letter of the proposed amendment, while your argument seems to stem from another place.

While I have to respect the right of the state to pass such legislation based on the majority vote of it's populace, its popularity doesn't make it any less bigoted. If a heterosexual couple in North Carolina chooses to live together and not get married, so-be-it. They have a choice to do so and they can accept the legal ramifications therein. The gay couple does not have this same choice; the only right they have are those allowed them tacitly by the state. And if this amendment passes, they may not have them for long.

On another note, for someone like you, who has been a presence online for many years, and who is savvy in print and new media and now has many avenues to reach people, be it on your website, in your books, this op ed piece, or on book tours, frankly I find your piece irresponsible for ignoring the facts and going on with the fallacy that gay couples have every right availed to them as straight couples. You base your arguments on anecdotal information from your perspective. Mr Card, people trust what you write is well researched, thought-out, and intelligent. You've based your work on being historically accurate to the depictions of times you represent by painstakingly researching the era. If you choose to throw your opinion into the political realm, many people that are your fans will take what you write as fact, not just mere anecdotal speculation. The fact that your own state already has legislation on the books prohibiting same sex marriage, and you have the nerve to write that “(t)here are no laws left standing that discriminate against gay couples” is proof that you neither researched or thought out your statement.

I don't care one lick about anyone's feelings on the left or right, or about conservatism versus liberalism. And if you ask me, I'd agree that the sign you mentioned is silly and stupid, but not just because of an obfuscation, but also it insults the intelligence of those that read it. This is a simple question of a state trying to legislate morality and control a minority group.

I just don't understand why allowing two people who truly love each other to be married with the official mandate of the state in which they live is so disruptive to people's everyday lives. No one is trying to take away the rights of those already married, or disallowing anyone from doing anything they would normally do under their own moral code or belief system (except of course if you're gay). People are still free to believe what they want, raise their family how they wish, go to the religious building of their respective faith, and worship in communion with like minded individuals in almost any way they wish. Even if you don't agree with the idea of same-sex attraction, and go so far as to see it as sin, you're free to think that. But according to what I've read in many religious books, God allowed man free will, and for any man to attempt to take free will from another man is to go against the divine. And for the secular humanists or those that wonder what our founding fathers had in mind, I seem to recall something in the Declaration of Independence that read:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

And I'll float this out there for some historical perspective on things, and how morality can change depending on the times. What if someone proposed this same amendment, but changed it to read,” man and one woman of the same ethnic heritage...” Today the idea seems not only incredibly bigoted, but to most it would seem absurd. Who would either present this to be ratified, or would vote to add this to the state's constitution?

Folks were a mere 45 years removed from the Loving v. Virginia 1967 Supreme Court Ruling. In 1958, Mildred Loving (a woman of African and Rappahannock Native American descent) married Richard Perry Loving (a white man). They were residents of the Commonwealth of Virginia who married in the District of Columbia, having left Virginia to evade the Racial Integrity Act, a state law banning marriages between any white person and any non-white person. Upon their return to Caroline County, Virginia, they were charged with violation of the “Racial Integrity Act of 1924”. They were found sleeping in their bed by a group of police officers who had invaded their home in the hopes of finding them in the act of sex (another crime). In their defense, Mrs. Loving had pointed to a marriage certificate on the wall in their bedroom; rather than defending them, it became the evidence the police needed for a criminal charge, because it proved they had been married in another state. Specifically, they were charged under Section 20-58 of the Virginia Code, which prohibited interracial couples from being married out of state and then returning to Virginia, and Section 20-59, which classified "miscegenation" as a felony, punishable by a prison sentence of between one and five years. On January 6, 1959, the Lovings pled guilty and were sentenced to one year in prison, with the sentence suspended for 25 years on condition that the couple leave the state of Virginia.

After many lesser rulings, in 1967 the Lovings had their day in front of the Supreme Court. In a unanimous decision, the Court overturned their convictions. The court ruled that Virginia's anti-miscegenation statute violated both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In its decision, the court wrote:

“There is patently no legitimate overriding purpose independent of invidious racial discrimination which justifies this classification. The fact that Virginia prohibits only interracial marriages involving white persons demonstrates that the racial classifications must stand on their own justification, as measures designed to maintain White Supremacy.”

And more importantly:

“Marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man," fundamental to our very existence and survival.... To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discrimination. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.”

Seems as though this is just another label wrapped around sort of a similar product.

Mr Card, I truly hope you reconsider your stance. The idea of singling out a group of people, (regardless of what you think of them, their lives, how they came to be who they are, etc.) that are law abiding productive members of society and removing the rights granted to everyone else, goes against the grain of everything this country is supposed to stand for. And I hope that you can at least accept that this may be bigger than how we as individuals see morality.

 And remember folks, agreeing with me is not mandatory, but it does save you the trouble and embarrassment of being wrong.  Thanks.

(Note: Comments are now ON --WAD)