I don’t normally do this, this isn’t the typical content you’ll find on my blog, but today I came across this Time article from 2015.
This 66-Year-Old Woman Is Suing All Gay People—Yes, All of Them
And the article links to a pdf of her petition, which is handwritten in cursive, and friends, it is a riot to read, because from where I’m standing, it reveals so many truths about the lengths to which people will go with a combination of religious dogma and poor logic at the wheel.
And because I found I had so much to say about what this woman said, I felt like giving over a little bit of blog space to sharing my comments on this… hilarious piece of something that I’m fairly certain the woman in question might prefer to forget.
Starting off strong. The whole petition is written by Sylvia Ann Driskell, Ambassador “God, and His, Son, Jesus Christ.” Commas and all. So, 4 people? Got it. Is everyone’s surname Christ? God Christ, His Christ, Son Christ, and Jesus Christ? Because that’s how this all reads.
I understand how commas crop up randomly when typing, but that many extra commas in handwriting is another thing entirely.
Also, the defendants are, “Homosexuals, Their Given Name Homosexuals, and Their Alis Gay.” I’m assuming she means alias, because I guess all gay people take on pseudonym when they come out. True story.
“[D]o set forth on this 30 days of 2015.” Uh, think you forgot to write in the month there, Sylvia. And you possibly moved to the great state of “Nebraka.”
And she does the comma thing as “and His” again! I guess at least this time, God is a “plintiff” instead of a plaintiff, though.
You’d think if you were going to make this your official document to kick off your lawsuit, you’d at least take the time to make sure said document was free of spelling errors…
After questions, you put a question mark. “Is Homosexuality a sin, or not a sin?”
And we’re still in Nebraka. I wonder if they have any good restaurants there.
I’m particularly impressed by the way she manages to spell “and” 2 different ways in the same sentence.
Also, I submit this document in the Supreme Court case of “they’re” v “their.”
Now, from here she goes on to use passages from the bible to address whether or not homosexuality is a sin, and frankly, that’s kind of the boring stuff so far as I’m concerned. At least here. Because yes, by the definition that dear Sylvia later gives (quoting from “Webster Dictionary”), it might be.
Sin is the willful breaking of religious or moral law. So if a religion says that being gay is a sin, then within that religion’s laws, being gay is a sin. If someone’s morals state that being gay is a sin, then yes, being gay is a sin.
But here’s the thing: no matter how much you might agree with a religion, no matter how much you might think it is the truth, no matter what your morals say is okay or not… None of these things are universal, or even global, absolutes.
We have this tendency to assume that our legal laws are, by definition, moral ones. Which isn’t remotely the case. It can’t be. Everyone’s morals are different. Something you’re fine with might be illegal. Something you think is wrong might be legal. And because we often get our morals from religion, we thus make the connection that our legal laws should be based on religious ones. And that also isn’t the case. Sylvia here is making that conflation, and attempting to argue that a moral and religious transgression ought to be treated identically to a legal one.
Heck, even looking at things purely through the lens of Christianity — which influenced much of Western culture’s, well, culture, and also its laws — this doesn’t hold true. “Thou shalt not kill,” is a pretty strong religious command in Christianity, as in many other religions the world over. But by US law, the definition of murder specifically defines it as an “unlawful premeditated killing,” which implies that there are lawful ways to kill a person. Such as the death penalty. Which definitely involves planning the death beforehand. Loopholes like that are how the US can literally get away with murder, only not really, because legally that’s not actually murder.
But it’s a good example of moral, religious, and legal laws not quite meshing. We accept this in our daily lives in many ways. We accept that legality isn’t always going to match with what we believe to be right and good in our hearts, according to our lived experiences. And when we feel passionately about something, we may try to make our legal laws adjust to our moral ones.
But typically, in a situation of reflection and understanding, we don’t assume that religion = morality = legality.
Anyway, back to Sylvia’s stunning lack of logic and preparation.
This was the point where I started to wonder if Sylvia thought that the closet was, well, a literal closet. As though gay teens discovered themselves and then hid, bat-like, in their bedroom closets, refusing to see sunlight again until their demands were met.
Also… Gee, I dunno, Sylvia. Could it be that society was so very good at treating gay people like crap for centuries, both from a legal perspective and the perspective of everyday living, that they felt the need to hide their identities to avoid being punished, imprisoned, even killed, for the crime of merely existing?
This is another thing that I hear get talked about a lot, and it usually comes from a place of impressive ignorance. People like Sylvia see gay people being allowed to get married, raise kids, get all the same rights as straight people, and think, “My goodness, but being gay is bad! Bad people shouldn’t have these rights!” without stopping to think that it’s not just a matter of being able to marry or not, being able to adopt kids or not. For a long period of history in this society and the ones that strongly influenced it, being gay was something that could be punished by death. And while that hasn’t been a thing for a good long while here (thankfully), it’s not like that sort of thing doesn’t cross the minds of gay people at some point. There are moments where pretty much every queer person will just stop and think, “Fucking hell, there was a time, and there are still places, where I could be killed just for being myself.”
Even in lesser ways, we’re not so far out from other “being myself” punishments. Not so long ago, a gay person couldn’t visit their significant other in hospital, because they weren’t family. Allowing marriage equality meant that loved ones could properly say goodbye in a terrible time, or simply just check in on their partner after medical procedures. Legalized marriage meant that if a gay person died, their partner of 30 years might have more say in the funeral arrangements than the gay person’s parents, who might not have spoken to their kid in all that time. This is the reality that so many gay people have lived within memory, and frankly, I think that level of grief trumps your “but gay people are icky” argument.
That’s my moral belief, Sylvia. If your morals say otherwise, I advise you to reflect on what kind of person would actively wish that on others.
Also, you forgot that question mark again.
So, here begins a huge section of the petition where Sylvia just kinds of states things and assumes that everyone will arrive at the same conclusion she did. She states a thing gay people say they have rights to, defines that according to the dictionary, quotes a part of the bible that suggests gay people shouldn’t have that right… and then doesn’t actually tie it all together. Not even so much as a, “So as you can see, the bible clearly states that this should not happen.” It’s like she thinks that merely quoting her religious book will make people go, “Sweet fancy fuckery, you’re right! How could I have missed that?!”
This part is about marriage. God stated that a man will leave his family when he gets married, and implies that he shouldn’t cheat on her and that they should probably have sex at some point. Then she defines marriage according to the dictionary, which… actually contains information that destroys her own argument.
“2. to take as husband or wife.”
So, by the dictionary definition, if a woman takes a wife, then that’s marriage. If a man takes a husband, then that’s also marriage. One aspect of the definition is “to join as husband and wife,” yes, but since words can have multiple applications and uses, the second definition doesn’t say anything about how the one taking a wife has to be a man, nor the one taking a husband has to be a woman.
So, according to what words mean, marriage equality isn’t problematic, now that legally, same-gender marriage is a thing.
Quoting a passage from the bible that disagrees with you doesn’t make for a sound argument. All you’re telling me is that your holy book doesn’t agree with what’s happening. You’re not telling me why that should supersede legal definitions. You’re not telling me why your holy book has more authority than the legal system. You’re telling me that you think it does. You might even be telling be that your holy book says it does. But that’s not telling me why. You’re not providing any sort of compelling argument for why I should give more of a damn about your morals than I should about my own.
Which is another place I see people fall down in this debate. Now granted, Sylvia didn’t do this, but I see a lot of people trot out the “religious freedom” argument and say that because they’re legally allowed to worship as they see fit, that means everyone else should do what they say because their religion says they should be allowed that privilege. And quite frankly, even though that’s a bad piece of logic, had Sylvia even said that one during her little petition, it would have made for a more compelling argument than what she provides here. She’s just assuming that everyone takes for granted that the bible is the ultimate moral authority, because she thinks that it is. Because it says it is.
I can say I’m the ultimate moral authority too. That doesn’t make me so. And people can easily argue my claim. Nobody in their right minds would take me seriously if I tried to claim that.
But we grant religions a measure of authority that we don’t grant to people… unless they’re speaking on behalf of a religion. We just kind of assume that something is right if there’s a religion attached to it, that religious morals mean more than personal morals, even if those morals turn out to be the exact same. I’m not areligious, but I can’t deny that really frustrates me. What makes my claim any different than a religion’s claim? Not a damn thing. But people will put more stock in a religion by default.
Anyway, got a little off topic, there.
Gay people think they have the right to be parents. The dictionary defines parents as… something that doesn’t dispute that statement.
Sylvia goes on to talk about how everyone knows that the ability to create a child isn’t what makes a good parent, which is both true, and also not related to her two previous statements. Gay people aren’t all claiming they have the right to create children (most do, just not always with their partners), and the dictionary didn’t define a parent as anything to do with directly creating said offspring by sperm-meets-egg stuff. So the whole, “it’s got to do with more than just creating life,” thing came entirely out of left field, and wasn’t what was being debated to begin with.
This woman makes a whole lot of leaps and expects people to follow along with her, and I mean, have you ever seen legal arguments? Those things can sometimes take entire pages to specifically define the meaning of a word within a particular context, and Sylvia’s over here going, “A parent is a mother or a father. GAY PEOPLE CAN’T BE PARENTS BECAUSE THEIR CHILDREN WILL GROW UP TO BE LIARS!”
Now that I’ve recovered from the mental whiplash that gave me, I want to take a moment to point out that Sylvia is making some bold and insulting claims here. In her mind, I’m sure she honestly believes that gay people, because they’re gay in direct defiance to what they know to be right and good, are thus bad people who do bad things. And kids who grow up around people who do bad things will learn to do those bad things themselves, will learn that doing so is acceptable. Thus a child with gay parents will probably grow up to be a thief or a swindler or Donald Trump or something.
Sylvia goes on to talk about how gay people insist that God loves them despite their homosexuality, and concedes that they’re right… but that being right still makes them wrong because God gave Jesus to die for everyone’s sins and so when people sin, it’s and affront to that sacrifice, and again, that’s the stuff that’s more boring to me because I can’t really comment on it. I mean sure, the bible does say that stuff, but I’ve already stated that legal laws aren’t the same as religious or moral laws, and you can’t always apply one to the other. Sylvia’s basically summing up her argument with, “In conclusion, I think I’m right and my god agrees with me probably, so everyone should do what I say.” And that’s not a sound legal argument.
Her spelling mistakes sure do make me chuckle, though.
I wrote this piece because frankly, sometimes I have to. When I find people making weird-ass claims like this, I have many thoughts, and I need to get them down somewhere. Usually I end up going through them piece by piece and tearing them down because half the time, doing so methodically is the easiest way to stand up against them. It’s a thing I do. I did it when Elizabeth Moon went on her Islamophobic BS rant almost a decade ago, and I’ll probably keep doing it in the future.
But this, friends, is something that can give you a good idea of who I am. If you didn’t know before, if you’re new to anything I do, whatever, this whole rant is a good place to start in the “getting to know me” section. This is the sort of person I am. I am against people who use religion to bully. I am for gender equality, I am for marriage equality, I am for queer equality and disabled equality and general fucking equality, and I will happily tear apart your arguments as to why these things are Bad and Wrong, and if that’s something that you disagree with, then you’re probably not going to like me very much.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, this queer trans/non-binary person is going to have a cuddle with their queer trans partner.