Friday, February 27, 2004

Compare And Contrast

Lots of complaints about Orson Scott Card's gay marriage screed are making the rounds of the blogosphere. I've got a major advantage over many of my fellow SF fans - I never thought much of Card's books, so I don't feel betrayed by someone I once admired. (At an American Psychological Association conference a few years back, I talked to a guy who uses Ender's Game in his developmental psychology class. The students are supposed to identify the inaccurate portrayals of children's developmental capacities, which must take them reams of paper. But I digress.)

Card's essay has some strange elements. He shares with many other religious conservatives the conviction that homosexuality is so much more intrinsically pleasurable than heterosexuality that everyone would be gay if there weren't rigorous strictures against it. ("Men, after all, know what men like far better than women do; women know how women think and feel far better than men do," he says, clearly not having met my ex-girlfriend.)

He also comes up with this:
In the first place, no law in any state in the United States now or ever has forbidden homosexuals to marry. The law has never asked that a man prove his heterosexuality in order to marry a woman, or a woman hers in order to marry a man.

Any homosexual man who can persuade a woman to take him as her husband can avail himself of all the rights of husbandhood under the law. And, in fact, many homosexual men have done precisely that, without any legal prejudice at all.
It occurred to me, as I read this, that I'd come across precisely the same argument before - in the Supreme Court's decision in Loving v. Virginia:
The State does not contend in its argument before this Court that its powers to regulate marriage are unlimited notwithstanding the commands of the Fourteenth Amendment. [...] Instead, the State argues that the meaning of the Equal Protection Clause, as illuminated by the statements of the Framers, is only that state penal laws containing an interracial element as part of the definition of the offense must apply equally to whites and Negroes in the sense that members of each race are punished to the same degree. Thus, the State contends that, because its miscegenation statutes punish equally both the white and the Negro participants in an interracial marriage, these statutes, despite their reliance on racial classifications, do not constitute an invidious discrimination based upon race.
The state of Virginia argued that the interracial marriage ban did not constitute discrimination because white people, as well as people of color, were banned from marrying outside their own race. That ought to sound familiar to current defenders of marriage discrimination, and they ought to be ashamed.