12.23.2004

Just A Thought On An Ongoing Debate

Just a quick thought that may have something to add to the ongoing debate on gay rights. This thought just went through my head, so for what it's worth, I'm going to take a minute to write it down here.

Let me begin by saying I honestly don't know what I think the right answer is to many of the current debates involving gay rights, i.e. legalized marriage, civil unions etc.

But I wonder how many people opposing any measures that would afford civil gains for homosexuals and homosexual couples oppose it out of a kind of reflexive sense of justice. What I mean is the kind of thing where somebody has done something wrong, and you don't want to do anything that would benefit or make life more pleasant for them. Opposing something because it benefits a party you deem as reprehensible is sound ethics, in principle. As an example, most people would be against providing convicted criminals with lavish and luxurious living arrangements, and are repulsed whenever stories to that effect are exposed, because criminals don't deserve these things. I, for one, am against providing convicted criminals with comforts and luxuries such as golf courses and TVs in their cells, not for fiscal reasons, but because I think criminals don't deserve to live as comfortable a life in prison as they would be living in the real world had they not been convicted of a crime.

Some people, and a fairly substantial number I would assume, oppose the advancement of certain gay rights causes on the basis of law, policy, or principle (although the latter is hard to define). All these considerations are valid and should be freely debated. On the other hand, how many people oppose gay rights causes because they oppose homosexuality and see any kind of concession as capitulation to it? There's something wrong with this position in my mind. It scares me that there may be a real religious (or perhaps just profoundly ethically driven) majority that opposes all these gay rights causes simply because they feel it in keeping with just principles of punishing (or at least discouraging) a vice.

When Bush was asked if he thought homosexuality was a choice in the third debate he answered that he didn't know. I thought this was a great answer, because I myself don't know the answer, and I don't think anyone knows the answer. But here's the thing, if no one can say whether it's a choice or not, how can you at the same time definitively say it is wrong? This may seem unclear, but let me make a parallel to an aspect of our criminal justice system. If someone is accused of a crime, they are generally considered culpable UNLESS they can prove that their actions were not a choice. This can be established under many guises. They may have been acting in self-defense, and hence it was not a choice but a matter of live or death. They may have been insane at the time and not able to make choices. They may have been acting out of passion, and the criminal justice system is significantly less harsh in dealing with these criminals.

If homosexuality ISN'T a choice, that it is something that someone is either born with, fated to develop, in their makeup etc., then all (or at least some major) arguments that it is wrong lose their foundation, and this in turn invalidates any opposition to gay rights causes that is based on the rationale of vice punishment. Moreover, it's important to realize that a fundamental function of retributive policies is that they are coercive. That is, someone who is likely to experience negative consequences for doing something is less likely to choose to do that thing. Yet if homosexuality is fundamentally not a choice, a retributive policy, or perhaps put a little more mildly, a policy that makes being homosexual less attractive, will not prevent people from becoming homosexuals. That is, it won't work.

This doesn't settle the debates. As I said before, there are legal, social, and religious factors and arguments that have a legitimate place in the debate, and should not be discounted. I myself am not fully decided on many of the issues yet. But I think this analysis might have something to contribute

1 comment:

Byron said...

Adam,

Just for the heck of it, I clicked on "next blog" from a blog I was reading, and Blogger sent me to your blog. Hope you don't mind me reading, and adding a thought or two--I'm gonna bookmark your page and come back to it again, because I like THINKERS; goodness knows we have enough knee-jerk REACTORS who think with things other than their brains!

A few thoughts on this well-voiced post! First, I think you are accurate when you suggest that a lot of people react to any advancement of the "gay rights" agenda out of sheer animus. I am an evangelical Christian, unashamed to say so, but it grieves me when I see this kind of thinking. I supported, for instance, President Clinton's "don't ask, don't tell"--unlike most of my evangelical friends, because to me it hit the right balance: why should homosexuals not be allowed to serve in the military if a structure is put into place whereby military readiness will not be compromised thereby? If you are homosexual, but no one knows it, it's hard to see how the military is compromised, such as studies have suggested it might be in the event this were known.

Further, I don't think it ought to be illegal for people to engage in homosexual sex. The fact that I consider it immoral doesn't mean it ought to be against the law. There are many things that are NOT immoral that are illegal (driving on the left side of the road) and others that are clearly wrong (lying to your boss) which shouldn't land you in court. Most evangelicals are against removing laws that prohibit homosexual sex, but I am not.

At the same time, I am dead-set against "gay marriage" for this is not an issue of equal rights at all--"gays" currently have equal rights when it comes to marriage, and always have. "Gay marriage" is about changing the entire definition of marriage to suit the proclivities of a particular group of people; the entire institution of marriage would be demeaned thereby.

I think that evangelicals have lost credibility by opposing anything/everything that might in some way benefit homosexuals; I for one do not think that that is right or wise. I guess I'm saying all of this to basically agree with your point.

Now, as to the whole question of "choice", I'd offer that you might go to www.drthrockmorton.com. The whole gay movement has a pretty strong propaganda machine to convince people that it isn't a choice, and the media has bought in. The studies that have been done, though, show just the opposite. NOW...that's not to say that we can CHOOSE our feelings; sometimes we can, sometimes we can't. At the same time, a fundamental question that no one ever poses--but which I believe is THE central question--is, "what is a homosexual?" Is a person a homosexual because they FEEL a certain way, or are TEMPTED in a certain way? If so,then the gay lobby is correct; people "discover" that they are homosexual, and then ought to act on those impulses. I disagree wholeheartedly with the assessment and the conclusion. I am not a thief because I think seriously about stealing; I am only a thief as a result of my behavior. So with homosexuals, I believe, and I'm not certain that one or two isolated acts of homosexuality would qualify a person for the label.

Further, from an evangelical perspective, it does not follow logically that one must ACT on one's impulses.

Anyway, your post is thought-provoking, and I thought I'd add a few thoughts as well.

Best to you for a Merry Christmas!

Byron

www.byron-harvey.com