As support for LGBT rights becomes mainstream and the tide of public opinion turns irreversibly in favor of issues like marriage equality and workplace protections, proponents of discrimination are increasingly finding themselves relegated to an unfamiliar position: the fringe. And as they're finding out, the fringe is not a fun place to be.
One notable recent example is Orson Scott Card, the author of the 1985 novel Ender's Game, which was made into a major motion picture slated for release this November. Card, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, is on the board of directors of the National Organization for Marriage
Discrimination. He also happens to be a virulent anti-gay extremist who vowed in 2008 to overthrow any government that allowed same-sex couples to marry:
If America becomes a place where our children are taken from us by law and forced to attend schools where they are taught that cohabitation is as good as marriage, that motherhood doesn't require a husband or father, and that homosexuality is as valid a choice as heterosexuality for their future lives, then why in the world should married people continue to accept the authority of such a government?
What these dictator-judges do not seem to understand is that their authority extends only as far as people choose to obey them.
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.
To protest Card's high-profile homophobia, the LGBT group Geeks OUT is encouraging equality supporters to boycott Ender's Game. The group says on its "Skip Ender's Game" website:
Do not buy a ticket at the theater, do not purchase the DVD, do not watch it on-demand. Ignore all merchandise and toys. However much you may have admired his books, keep your money out of Orson Scott Card's pockets.
Card's hateful beliefs have relegated him so far to the margins of society that it's beginning to threaten his bottom line. So how is he responding? Is he publicly recanting his anti-gay views and apologizing for the years he's spent actively working to slander and oppress the LGBT community?
No, of course not. Instead, Card has the audacity to beg his pro-LGBT fans for "tolerance."
In a signed statement released to Entertainment Weekly, Card neglects to apologize for his anti-gay views, claiming instead that the Supreme Court's recent rulings on DOMA and Proposition 8 have effectively ended the marriage equality debate (never mind those 37 states where marriage discrimination is still law). He also smugly writes that it will be "interesting" to see whether LGBTs and their supporters will show him the same tolerance he still denies them:
Ender's Game is set more than a century in the future and has nothing to do with political issues that did not exist when the book was written in 1984.
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.
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.
First, boo freaking hoo. Pro-LGBT backlash has you running scared? Crocodile tears for you, bigot!
Second, huh? Marriage equality is no longer "in dispute?" Don't get me wrong, that is what the facts suggest, but I have a feeling that Brian Brown and the NOM crew will strongly disagree with Card's claim that the equal marriage fight is over.
Third, exactly what kind of "tolerance" does Card expect his hostile bigotry to receive in an increasingly LGBT-inclusive world?
Author Ross Douthat provides the answer. In a recent op-ed published in the New York Times, the socially conservative columnist wrote that the best way for equality opponents to continue obstructing the rights of LGBT people is by lobbying for special religious exemptions to civil rights laws, or as he put it, "build in as many protections for religious liberty as possible." The goal, as Douthat sees it, is to ensure that homophobia remains an acceptable prejudice in society, as opposed to other forms of bigotry such as racism and anti-Semitism:
Unless something dramatic changes in the drift of public opinion, the future of religious liberty on [LGBT] issues is going to depend in part on the magnanimity of gay marriage supporters -- the extent to which they are content with political, legal and cultural victories that leave the traditional view of marriage as a minority perspective with some modest purchase in civil society, versus the extent to which they decide to use every possible lever to make traditionalism as radioactive in the America of 2025 as white supremacism or anti-Semitism are today. [emphasis mine]
Ahh, there it is. So when social conservatives plead for tolerance and magnanimity from those who believe LGBT people deserve basic rights like the freedom to marry and the freedom to work, what they're really asking is for us to affirm their anti-gay bigotry. Because they know they've ultimately lost the equality battle, they've shifted their focus from perpetuating discrimination to protecting privilege. They seek to institute a hierarchy of prejudice in which so-called "traditionalism" -- AKA homophobia -- is viewed as a "minority perspective with some modest purchase in civil society," rather than regarded with the scorn and revulsion that rightfully accompanies other toxic social evils like racism and anti-Semitism. And as far as they're concerned, the only way for equality supporters to be truly "tolerant" is for us to buy into the idea that some forms of hatred are worse than others.
I've got two words for Card, Douthat, and their ilk: hell no. It isn't tolerance or magnanimity that you seek, but rather, capitulation, and an admission that homophobic bigotry is a legitimate worldview that deserves deference and respect.
But that's something you'll never get. Those of us working for equality and justice for LGBT people won't stop until our culture treats your corrosive anti-LGBT prejudice in exactly the same way that we treat other harmful radioactive waste: by banishing it from civil society and pushing it as far out on the fringes as possible.