Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Orson Scott Card Conundrum - Social Ideals and The Purchase of a Superman Comic

All right, here we go.

I don't really want to write this post, but it's about Superman, it's in the news, etc..

Famed Sci-Fi writer Orson Scott Card has some social views that are well known within the comics and sci-fi "communities".  Card has written some highly successful work such as the famed Ender's Game (which I haven't read), and started working in comics a bit with Ultimate Iron Man several years ago now (also - haven't read).

Specifically, Card takes issue with homosexuality and gay marriage.  He sits on the board of an organization that is more or less dedicated to opposing gay marriage in the US, the National Organization for Marriage.

Last week, when the new Adventures of Superman was announced, Card was listed among the writers, and (if you're keeping score), specifically, he was one of the creators associated with the project that made me blink a bit while reviewing the roster of talent.

Full disclosure:  I am fully in support of marriage rights for the LGBT community and believe that this is the civil rights issue of our generation.  Fundamentally, I believe in extending the same legal privileges to all consenting adults in a free society, and am against legal loopholes or half-measures that would place legal or social restrictions on someone based upon race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.  </ lefty boilerplate>

The questions then arise:

  • Some are asking for Card to be fired from writing Superman for his anti-gay stance and dated statements regarding the failure of democracy if gay marriage is legalized.  Do I think he should be fired?
  • If I do want him fired, isn't that a form of censorship for his beliefs?  And isn't that just as UnAmerican?
  • Do I choose, instead, not to purchase the comic, speaking with my wallet?
  • Is a decision to not purchase a Superman comic based upon someone's beliefs that will not appear in the comic a form of censorship?  

Yesterday I saw a Tumblr blog post going around from Michael Hartney, and while I'd sort of grimaced at seeing Card's name associated with the new Superman comic, I don't think I'd realized he was selected to kick off the new series.  Hartney made some provocative statements, but in many places his statements do reflect my feelings on the topic.   I consider Card's opinions his opinions, and his actions in concert with National Organization for Marriage a form of support for social injustice.

On the same day, Top Shelf announced a triptych of graphic novels created with a shared by-line by Civil Rights leader and Congressman John Lewis entitled March.  From the Top Shelf site:

March is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights (including his key roles in the historic 1963 March on Washington and the 1965 Selma-Montgomery March), meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation.

We're also here in the shadow of Rosa Parks' 100th birthday, and I got to thinking.

Card's beliefs are his own.  He can join whatever activist group he likes, and I won't sign a petition asking he be fired.

However, as much as I wanted to read this first comic in the classic Superman style, and the damage I suspect low sales on such a comic will have on DC seeing red-trunks Superman as a viable product, I'm not buying that comic.

It's a strange place to find oneself, as I know my one purchase wouldn't mean much of anything one way or another, and there's so much mixed up with censoring someone when the work in question isn't, in theory, tied to their public statements.  But I also don't buy comics from writers who I probably agree with on social issues simply because I find the author's public persona ridiculous.  But, more to the point, I wouldn't buy a Superman comic - as Michael Hartney suggests - from someone who sat on the board of an organization trying to reinstate Jim Crow laws.

The free market means I'm free to buy or not buy whatever I like for any reason I choose.  And that feels pretty American.

When I consider the very real, often very dangerous things folks like Rosa Parks or John Lewis experienced during the Civil Rights movement, choosing against the purchase of a single comic or two is a pretty small price to pay.  But I also wouldn't shop at a store that didn't allow gay people into it, and I do consider other social issues when I make other purchases.  No, I haven't eaten at Chik-Fil-A in a while.  It's also kind of gross and I don't miss it.

It's not exactly boycotting the local bus system and enduring miles of walking to reach work each day, but that doesn't really diminish how I'll feel about it later.

I suppose freedom of speech and freedom to believe what you like runs both ways, and Orson Scott Card is free to not buy my goods as well.  Fair is fair.

DC doesn't deal well with the non-comics/ mainstream press looking over their shoulder as evidenced by the Action Comics 900 debacle about two years ago, and that had reverberations across DC for a while.  But, I assume the lure of having Card's name on a comic and the general audience for comics these days means that nothing is turning this ship around, and I don't really expect it would.  DC is in the business of selling comics, and if I've noticed anything in comics, its that there's no such thing as bad publicity (unless Frederich Wertham is involved).  And Card's name alone should move some funny books.

In the end, for me, it's a personal decision, guided by principles that I actually think reflect what I consider best about the ideal of Superman.   I have a choice to do something easy or to do what I think is the morally correct thing.  Yes, for obsessive Superman collectors, the easy answer is to buy the comic, not show it to anyone, and then put it away.

There are, of course, those of us who have a certain, fairly lefty view of Superman and want our Superman to want truth, justice and that elusive, indefinable American Way for everyone.  We can't imagine Superman of 2013 agreeing with opinions like Card's, and it's tempting to want to find Card's writing of the character to be a sort of blemish.  But one thing I believe is true is that Superman, as a character, is such an ideal that even when the writing is weak, s/he's a writer thinking of the best kind of person he can think of - a super good guy - and the aspirations of the character really show us more about what we have in common as per ideas of decency and goodness than what we see in the red cape and tights that drives a wedge between us as readers.

So, here's to picking up The Adventures of Superman with the next writer and all the arguing that's likely to brew up in the comment section.


Simon MacDonald said...

I have read Ender's Game and it is an incredible novel. It was my go to recommendation for people who wanted to get into science fiction for many years. Sadly, I can't keep recommending it due to Card's views.

I think you are correct in voting with your pocket book. I won't be buying the first two issues which are the ones I believe will have Card's stories in them. It's too bad that these are digital as I'd like to be able to see an up tick in numbers for issue 3 which should have the Samnee drawn story which is the one I'm really interested in. Then everything will be collected into a paperback which, once again, I won't buy because of Card.

This is the only rational thing we can do to show our displeasure with DC's decision. I'm happy to be on board with you on this one.

Also, I refused to eat at Chik-Fil-A last time I was in Florida. I'm just not going to support a business who's views run contrary to basic human decency.

J.S. said...

Interesting post. I've read Ender's Game, and I enjoyed it. I disagree with Card's political views, but he has an interesting perspective, and his political views don't always play into his writing. It seems like everything has become politicized these days. It's sort of exhausting to think that I need to cross check the political stances of the products that I buy against the politics of the person who made them. Maybe art is different, and we can assume that there's always a political viewpoint contained within it. I'm not sure that's true, though. Maybe he has these views on gay marriage, but they'll be totally divroced from his work on Superman.
I'm not sure what the right answer is, but I think it's worth considering the possibility that maybe we should all just be voting for leaders that we agree with and then avoiding products that specifically offend us (i.e., if Superman voices anti-gay thoughts in a particular issue). I also have to wonder if any prominent gay artists are working for DC as part of their writing team, and if so, whether there are similar concerns if they work on behalf of Human Rights Campaign or some other LGBT advocacy group. If they don't have any LGBT artists on staff, perhaps they should consider finding some talented people who fit the bill...

The League said...

For me, there's a difference of supporting Card's right to have an opinion and express it, and sit on a board - all of which is, of course, his choice and right - and if I'm censoring him or not supporting him. I don't think I ever answered that fourth question, but I'm not "censoring" anyone, I'm not giving him money, and that's different. My choice, as he's made his choice, it to do the two things I can, which are (1) not financially support the guy - just as I choose not to shop at come retailers and restaurants and (2) say why I'm not going to buy a Superman comic on a web page about enthusiasm for Superman.

I do buy comics, books, etc... that contain intellectual material I don't agree with all the time. I don't, for example, support dressing up as a bat and using one's fist and throwing razors to beat mental patients, drug addicts and those driven to crime through poverty or other misfortunes.

There are some LGBT folks working at DC at least some of the time (I'm a big fan of the work of Phil Jimenez, for example), and there's no shortage of folks in the comics "community" that would certainly be happy to vote with their wallet and voice displeasure online (see: any message board. Bigotry is alive and well in the forums of any comic site).

It seems you're suggesting that a stage has been set for possible organized retaliation against LGBT creators, and thus - not buying this comic or throwing my hat in the ring will lead to something ugly. Possibly, comics culture is so steeped in normative culture that there's a de facto boycott of most material by, for or featuring minorities of any stripe that it's taken as status quo.

And, yes, this is ugly. And its uncomfortable. And if I thought most folks buying comics weren't going to bypass whatever twinge of liberal guilt they might feel in order to have the shiny new comic, I'd be concerned. This issue or two will be just fine.

To me, it is not overly simplistic to equate Card's participation in the National Organization for Marriage to any form of bigotry (a group who's reasoning, by the way, would suggest that my own marriage was also an act against God and nature as we're only faking the look of breeders). I wouldn't buy a comic written by David Duke, if we want to go old school.

I don't count on elected officials to make my choices for me. That's outsourcing responsibility. It's a small and somewhat pointless protest, but it's what I got.

RHPT said...

How much merchandise have you sold?

The League said...

It's my primary source of income.

Actually, I don't think anything ever sold from that site that I didn't buy

The League said...

By the way, PRO-TIP: nothing is better than the awkward moment you get when you give your pal a pillow with in image of you eating cereal printed on it as a Christmas present.

Jake Shore said...

Ryan, first of all I want to say I appreciate your willingness to have an open dialogue on this forum about something that we all probably wish we didn't have to talk about. I also appreciate you being up front with your point of view on the issue of gay marriage and I respect your opinion. As you already know, I'm a pretty conservative chap, socially and politically, so let me say up front that I, like Mr. Card, oppose the redefinition of marriage.

I suppose there are a number of conclusions that could be drawn from that statement about what kind of person I am or what my other views must necessarily be, but I hope you will hear me out before making those judgments.

As a conservative, trying to calibrate my choices in the market of popular culture based on my values is a lost cause, unless I basically choose to abstain from most movies, television, contemporary music, literature, professional sports, video games, and comics. Virtually everyday conservatives are constantly faced with art, messages, values, etc. they find troublesome, if not offensive. Celebrities, whether they are actors, musicians or athletes, routinely say and do things we don't like or disagree with, to say nothing of their opinions. Charlie Sheen thinks our government was behind the 9/11 attacks. I find that to be disgusting and pathetic. Should I therefore choose not to watch Red Dawn, Hot Shots or Wall Street? I think Sean Penn is a brilliant actor, but the guy is chummy with the dictator of Venezuela who is one the most anti-American people in the world. Does it follow that I should avoid his next film? Oliver Stone tears down America whenever he gets a chance and is pals with Fidel Castro who runs a police state and throws people in jail for just being gay. Should that effect our decisions in the marketplace? The composer Wagner was an anti-semite. Should I refuse to purchase or listen to his music?

Now, a logical response to this might be, "hey, that's up to you." Fair enough, but where does it stop? Do we have any sort of duty to be apply our values consistently?

In 1977, Roman Polanski drugged, raped, and sodomized a 13-year-old girl. He is unrepentant, unremorseful to this day. Has it ever occurred to you not to watch Chinatown on that basis? What about the celebrities who defend him? Woody Allen, Guillermo Del Toro, Whoopi Goldberg (who said it wasn't "rape-rape"), Adrien Brody, John Landis, Martin Scorsese, Sam Mendes. If Orson Scott Card's opinion, unreflected in his work, is enough to prevent you from buying something you otherwise would, why give Polanksi a free pass?

I'm not trying to be combative. I really do sympathize with the conflict you're expressing. I think about this stuff all the time given the culture I often feel at odds with. In most of these cases, it has pretty much has no effect on my choice of entertainment. Right or wrong, I have largely separated the message from the messenger. Bringing it back to comics, it bothered me A LOT when DC printed that Superman story where he renounces his citizenship. Rather than boycott it, I went out, bought it and read it so I could make my own determination not based on news reports. And I will still read Chris Nolan's stuff. Not long ago, Marvel portrayed the Tea Party as racists, and after 9/11 printed a Captain America story where suggesting the U.S.'s complicity in the attacks. Last year they crammed a third tier character's gay wedding down the public's throat. That stuff pissed me off, but I will still buy Marvel's stuff, if it's good (big if). Does that make me unprincipled? Aren't my values hollow if I can't apply them to the entire spectrum of my choices? Maybe. Probably.

Jake Shore said...

Either way, the idea of not purchasing something I really like based on the creator's opinion on particular issue, which is in no way expressed in the product, is ...curious.

But if you believe, as you stated, that gay marriage is a fundamental civil rights issue, then I get why this may be a more compelling issue for you. Which leads me to my next point...

I'm sorry, but Invoking the civil rights struggle of the 1960s into the debate over the definition of marriage; to compare the plight of blacks under Jim Crow and segregation to the effort to gain government endorsement of same-sex marriage is ugly and insulting. Gays in America fighting for what they believe to be marriage equality aren't being forced to drink at separate water fountains or eat different restaurants or attend different schools . They aren't being beaten by police or sprayed with fire hoses. Their churches aren't being bombed and they don't live in fear of being lynched. Gays in America are better educated and earn more money than the rest of the population. Respectfully, I find it remarkable that you and others make this comparison. If you believe this is fair, then does it naturally follow that Mr. Card is a modern day Bull Connor or George Wallace? Does my opposition to gay marriage put me in the same class as David Duke? What about the at least half of Americans who also oppose gay marriage? Was Barack Obama in this same league until 9 months ago when he changed his mind on the issue? Back in 2008, did Senator Obama's avowed opposition to same sex marriage prevent you from voting for him? Someone who could actually affect policy?

Equally frustrating is the insinuation that opposition to same sex marriage necessarily reflects an overall hatred or bigotry toward homosexuals or the LGBTQ community at large. This hyperbolic tone is reflected, I'm sorry to say, by civil rights hero John Lewis (since you cited him) in a speech at the DNC last year (http://youtu.be/f5TEHBG4asA), in which he suggests that a Romney presidency would return us to the days of segregation and racial violence. The point is, vilifying those with whom you disagree by making false analogies and conclusions is problematic, at best. The vast majority of those who oppose the redefinition of marriage do so not out of bigotry, but because they view marriage as a standard for a particular kind of relationship, not a right. For what it's worth, I have a gay family member. I'm in favor of civil unions. And I support gay adoption.

If my remarks are unfair or I've misrepresented your point of view or if I'm being too contentious, I apologize. But, like you, I have strong feelings on this issue.

One last thing...

I understand your passion for the character of Superman and what he represents. It's perfectly natural to want your heroes to reflect your values. I absolutely do. Having said that, I have no desire to see Superman come out in support of the traditional definition of marriage, because I recognize that would alienate him from people who, like me, need and want heroes. And in spite of our differences, Ryan, when it comes the big blue, I think you and I agree far more than not.

The League said...

On the first point - I understand where you're coming from to an extent, and why conservatives bristle so often at Hollywood. Entertainment can be pluralistic and will not always reflect our own opinions and values. And, yeah, over on Facebook some of the issues you brought up, including Polanski, came up there as well. I loved Chinatown, and years later I found out THAT'S why he doesn't come back to the US, and, you know what - I haven't paid to see a Polanski movie since and I find Hollywood's tacit approval disgusting.

I enjoy the work of conservative creators, and don't, in general, consider that an impediment to my enjoyment of their output. Unless, as is the case with Card, he's actively involved with a particular social issue I take very seriously, and his involvement with NOM signals a level of involvement that has done two things: made me not buy his work, and say "I am not going to buy his work, and here's why". That's as far as my influence goes.

One day I may post on why I won't buy Mark Millar's work, and it has nothing to do with politics - but that the man is a boob.

I do recall the Action 900 issue, and while my read on it was different from how I recall you interpreted it (maybe it was another reader? It's been a while), I understand curiosity about the intellectual content of the story. This isn't about Card's comments within the comic, which, by the way, I would reckon I might enjoy. It's a choice about purchasing a comic for reasons outside of that comic, itself.

The world is more connected, and it is changing. Just as comics in the 70's started welcoming characters of color and not referring to them as "Chop-Chop" or The Spirit's "Ebony White". It's going to be as clumsy as the first appearances of John Stewart, Black Lightning and... yeah, Vibe.

The League said...

On the second point - I do believe in equal rights for consenting adults. The gay rights movement has been fortunate not to suffer the torments of the Civil Rights movement, but to say that gays have not been systematically harassed, haven't been the target of hate crimes, and have enjoyed the same privileges as heterosexual couples is not factually accurate.

Your opposition to gay marriage doesn't lump you in with David Duke until you run for office on the promise of legislating to work against the rights of other Americans and institutionalize second class status on your fellow citizens.

As "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was a half-measure at one point that eventually came to be seen as an offense, I strongly suspect that the half-measure of Civil Unions will eventually be seen much the same way. But, yeah, it's a major step from where we were at Stonewall.

As with all elections, I choose the person with whom I find the most in common, and its usually a matrix with a lot of blank spaces on it. When someone runs who fills all those columns, that person will be terribly, terribly unelectable.

Please understand, when I hear the argument that the purpose of marriage is for the procreation of the species - my marriage doesn't fall into that realm. We won't/ can't ever have children, and if that definition applies to the biology of other people, it also applies to Jamie and myself. At the heart of that sentiment is also a condemnation of my own marriage.

As always, I deeply appreciate the reasoned discussion.

When it comes to The Man of Steel, the ideals we hold highest seem to apply, and I appreciate that includes open conversation of ideas. It all feels so... American!

Jake Shore said...

Thanks for responding to my challenges, and for your candor. I would like to respond to one point you made. To borrow phrase from our President, "Let me be Clear," I did not and do not claim that gays have not experienced discrimination or harassment. There is not doubt they have endured their own civil rights struggle. I was referring specifically to the analogy being drawn between the Black civil rights struggle and the current debate over gay marriage.

I think the difficulty of this debate comes down to a fundamental misunderstanding and mischaracterization of the debate itself. It is NOT, as you said several times about equal rights for consenting adults. It's about the definition of marriage. You and your gay neighbor have the EXACT same legal rights under the law. There is no one you can marry that he cannot. He can't marry a man*, neither can you.

If you say the difference is that you can marry the person you love, whereas your neighbor cannot, that is not true either. You cannot marry the person you love if he/she is already married. You cannot marry the person you love if that person is a member of your immediate family. You cannot marry someone you love if they are below a certain age. And you cannot marry more than one person you love. In other words, the government already makes distinctions about what marriage is and isn't.

What advocates of gay marriage want is not equal rights. This is demonstrated by the rejection of "everything but marriage" civil unions that include all the same legal rights/benefits as marriage. They want government endorsement of gay relationships, and validation that they are just as good and consequential as heterosexual relationships. In other words, they want to alter the definition of marriage from what it has always been to include same sex relationships.

* Actually he can get married at any church or synagogue that's willing, even if the state does not legally recognize it.

Jake Shore said...

From here, I think there can be a more honest and productive debate. Unfortunately, the debate only gets more difficult due to the gulf between the two opposing views of what marriage is.

If you believe marriage is a basic civil right conferred by society upon its members, and that it should reflect the needs/values/character of all those members, then it's perfectly understandable why excluding participation in, or withholding government recognition of that right from one group in favor of another, would be unjust.

On the other hand, if you view marriage and as a timeless human institution that is defined by a specific kind of relationship in order to perpetuate the human race and to be the fundamental component in building a society, then it's reasonable to believe that altering this institution would be viewed as a threat to society.

I understand and appreciate why you believe this definition excludes your marriage. I don't believe it does, but that's another discussion.

I know you're not looking for a debate about gay marriage here. And I'm not really either. I just feel like this discussion about what values are important enough to compel you to abstain from something you enjoy, can only be understood if there is clarity about the issue at the core of the debate. You believe it's about civil rights. I think it's more fundamental than that. The question is:

Does our ever growing regard for the value of egalitarianism necessarily reject and/or diminish traditional notions of family and human sexuality to such a degree that we are justified, if not obligated to redefine one of the core institutions of human life?

You seem to be saying yes. I say no.

J.S. said...

If your "timeless institution" doesn't reflect a paramount respect for the fundamental human rights of others, than I have no interest in protecting it as you envision/describe it. Any time people try to denigrate human rights and equality on the basis of "tradition" or "core institutions" they're just creating a platform for institutionalized discrimination and the solidification of a social strata that creates a secopnd class of citizenry. I have a number of gay friends who are raising families with happy, healthy children, and I work in a criminal courthouse that sees more than its fair share of severely dysfunctional families with straight parents. The preservation of a productive civil society has nothing to do with sexual orientation.
Does a defense of the family have to include a fear and intolerance of people with a different lifestyle who aren't harming anyone? Why do other people have to feel that an institution is diminished just because another group of people are allowed to take part in it? Is there any other real reason than believing that the other group of people aren't worthy of the right?

Jake Shore said...

J.S., I am happy to respond your questions, but I would first like to address the tenor of your remarks. I understand you disagree with me, and that you feel strongly about this issue, but is it even conceivable to you that anyone who opposes redefining marriage does so for reasons other than fear and intolerance? Is it axiomatic that anyone who thinks marriage should remain as it has been throughout all of human history, has no respect for the fundamental human rights of others? It appears as though you believe opposition to gay marriage can only be rooted in discrimination and bigotry.

That would be like me telling you that your desire to change marriage reflects a lack of moral values; that your support for gay marriage is a rejection of decency and promotes the destruction the family. Is that an accurate characterization of your position? Have I gotten to the real reason why you support gay marriage?

You need not respect my views J.S., but do you think you could consider taking me at my word that I don't hate or fear gay people? I don't really see how we can have a conversation if you're already convinced that I'm a bad guy. After all, why should you listen to a bigot? This is what's wrong with our politics today. It's not enough that the other guy is wrong. He's got to be evil too. George W. Bush? Just like Hitler. Barack Obama? Evil socialist trying to destroy the country.

Whether you intend to or not, calling gay marriage opponents intolerant homophobes is a way of bullying/shaming people into silence, while providing cover for not even considering their point of view.

All right, off my high horse.

Jake Shore said...

@J.S. "I have a number of gay friends who are raising families with happy, healthy children, and I work in a criminal courthouse that sees more than its fair share of severely dysfunctional families with straight parents."

I don't claim that homosexuals cannot be good parents. And as I mentioned above, I support gay adoption. But I am convinced that children are best served by having a mother and father, and I think the evidence bears this out. But the fact is, this isn't always possible. And having worked with neglected and abused kids, having parents, regardless of sexual orientation, is far better than no parents.

I would even concede that households today made up of gay couples with children are more stable on average than heterosexual households. This only makes sense since gay families will almost exclusively be made up of people who desperately want children, and must be stable and wealthy enough to afford, and be approved for, adoption. In contrast, heterosexual couples can produce children at any time whether or not they want them, are ready for them, or can take care of them. Were homosexual couples capable of producing children the same way, I'm sure that contrast would disappear.

Jake Shore said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jake Shore said...

@J.S. "Any time people try to denigrate human rights and equality on the basis of "tradition" or "core institutions" they're just creating a platform for institutionalized discrimination and the solidification of a social strata that creates a second class of citizenry."

Really? So what you're saying is, the universal development and institutionalization of marriage in human society throughout human history is based not on the nature human sexuality, the differences between men and women, but rather "discrimination and the solidification of a social strata that creates a second class of citizenry."

You're saying that marriage today has no basis in human history.

Since the 1980s and the dramatic rise in single parent homes, mountains of evidence have shown beyond a doubt the negative outcomes associated with fatherless households. These children do worse in school, are less likely to graduate, earn less, and are more likely to be involved in drugs, alcohol and crime. Over the weekend, President Obama spoke about problem of fatherless homes, and the need to promote fatherhood. In what I thought was a moving moment (even to a conservative curmudgeon like me), he said even though he, as the child of a single parent, turned out "O.K.," he wished he'd "had a father who was around and involved."

Gay marriage endorses, what are by definition, motherless and fatherless homes. It institutionalizes the idea that children do not need a mother and a father; that they are the same, and that one is as good as the other.

Recognizing gay marriage makes government complicit in a lie. And it demands that everyone participate in the lie; a lie that says men and women are the same; that they are interchangeable. They are not. Men and women are different. This is self evident, and the law recognizes it in all sorts of ways. Women do not have to register for selective service. There are separate public bathrooms for men and women. We allow separate male and female sports leagues. If you work in the legal system J.S., you know that men are treated differently than women, both as perpetrators and as victims, in sexual assault cases because of, among other things, their ability to impregnate.

So on what basis do we say that a relationship between a man and a man is the same as a relationship between a man and a woman? Or between and woman and a woman for that matter?

Gender differences matter, and they are at the very core of the human enterprise. To make a distinction between a marriage between a man and a woman, and a marriage that involves two men or two women is not discriminatory because it recognizes the differences between men and women that exist under the law and in tradition.

Jake Shore said...

@J.S. "Why do other people have to feel that an institution is diminished just because another group of people are allowed to take part in it? Is there any other real reason than believing that the other group of people aren't worthy of the right?"

Then by that logic, on what basis would you exclude polygamy? Polygamy has an actual historical tradition, whereas gay marriage has none. Would you consider the institution of marriage diminished if we allowed adults to marry minors? What about two brothers? I mean, there's no chance of producing children, so the negative consequences of incest are not applicable. How about two minors, say 12-year-olds? After all, history has plenty of examples of marriage between very young adults. Are 12-year-olds not "worthy of the right?" Or is their exclusion from the definition of marriage based on something other than individual or group worth?

Sorry if I've over-killed this. I just wanted to make sure I responded to challenges. J.S., I appreciate the conversation and especially your strong point of view.