Gay rights advocates often say that the laws should protect homosexuals from discrimination because people are born gay. This tactic might be politically expedient but it's scientifically questionable and philosophically invalid. Laws should protect homosexuals from discrimination because this is America, where we don't let one person's prejudices, hatreds, or doctrines get in the way of another person's freedom.
Scientifically, the conclusion that people are born straight or gay is premature, even doubtful. Among male identical twins, if one twin is gay, the chance is about 50-50 that the other twin is gay. Considering that the general male population includes 4% gays, and that you don't see this strong correlation with fraternal twins, that's a clear indication that people can be born with a strong predilection toward being gay. Maybe the predilection is mostly genetic and maybe it's mostly hormonal; the twin studies don't distinguish. In any event, these studies show that genes and hormones don't determine homosexuality, the way genes determine whether one has five or six fingers on each hand. Some other influence must make the difference when two people with identical DNA have different sexual orientations. The other influence could be in the womb, in early childhood, or in both.
Even so, the finding that genes and hormones don't totally determine sexual orientation doesn't prove that being gay is a choice. People in general do not choose their sexual preferences—whether they prefer Asians, submissives, or members of their own sex. Gay rights advocates can still get pretty far by saying that being gay isn't a choice, and that it's therefore unfair to discriminate against homosexuals. Opponents of gay rights like to call homosexuality a "lifestyle," as if it's a habit that one consciously adopts.
Defending homosexuality on the basis that it's not chosen, however, is flawed in two ways.
First, some people do indeed choose to engage in gay sex, and that should be protected, too. While the numbers may be small, there are straights who experiment with gay sex or engage in it regularly as part , maybe a small part, of their overall sex life. They can't use the defense that they aren't making a choice because it's really behavior we're talking about, not a deep-seated orientation. Even so, the laws should protect them from being fired, denied housing, put in prison, kept out of public school jobs, etc.
Second, just because a sexual orientation isn't chosen doesn't mean that the laws should protect it. don't choose to be pedophiles, but I wouldn't repeal the laws against child rape on that account. The laws should prohibit discrimination against people who engage in homosexual acts because those acts are the business of nobody but those who engage in them.
Sure, gays should be able to marry, adopt, live where they want, and work where they want. So should straights who don't limit themselves strictly to straight sex. Likewise, the Boy Scouts have the right to be bigots and, in the case of barring atheists, hypocrites. And gay-hating Christians have the right to carry signs that say "God hates fags" at the funerals of gays who've died of AIDS. Because this is America.
PS: Treatment of gays is a point of conflict within Christianity. This is where the Christian tradition of egalitarianism bumps up against the Biblical tradition of murdering gays.
Gay Rights and Religious Sensibilities: bad rhetoric on the other side
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Seattle Gay Pride Parade. Click on the photo for more.
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