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devil duck

politics, logic, and sexuality

A few minutes ago I was listening to an NPR story on the Democratic Presidential candidates at an LGBT issues forum. Apparently Richardson answered wrong to the question "Do you believe homosexuality is a choice or biologically determined?", and his campaign promptly issued a "clarification" which flatly contradicted what he had actually said.

Why should it matter? The question of "choice" in sexuality matters only because of a syllogism from the Religious Right:
(a) homosexuality is wrong;
(b) homosexuality is voluntary;
(c) homosexuals should be punished for making a voluntary wrong choice, just like people who choose to commit murder or burglary or rape.

For some reason, the LBGT community has decided to take on premise (b). But realistically, the "scientific" answer to premise (b) is probably fuzzy: like any "nature vs. nurture" debate, the answer is probably not 100% one or the other. It makes much more sense to me to challenge premise (a).

I don't like raw onions; is that a choice, or biologically determined? Nobody cares, simply because nobody imputes moral value to liking or disliking raw onions.

There are serious moral issues involved with sex. It is immoral to knowingly give somebody else an STD. It is immoral to create children that you can't or won't support. It is immoral to use sex and/or children to manipulate someone into a relationship or commitment that that person really doesn't want. Some might go so far as to say that it's immoral to create children at above replacement rate, because that exacerbates population-based hence hunger, pollution, depletion of natural resources, etc. All of these activities hurt somebody, they cause pain and suffering, they're wrong. But why should there be any particular moral value to having sex with people of the same vs. opposite sex?

I can only assume that the tactic of challenging premise (b) rather than premise (a) is because a significant fraction of the population has an unshakeable belief, tied to their religious faith and self-image, in premise (a), and challenging premise (b) is the only way to budge a few of these people away from conclusion (c). But the less-educated of these people probably couldn't care less about premise (b); they equate (a) with (c). And as for the more-educated believers in premise (a), we've seen what happens when people buy (a) but not (b): out of Christian charity, they start trying to find medical "cures" for homosexuality, like what happened to Alan Turing.

If the Democrats are ever going to undo the damage Dubya et al have done to our country, they need to stop avoiding questions of morality and faith and ceding that ground to the Republicans; they need to take on these issues face-to-face. We shouldn't punish gays and lesbians, not because of the dubious claim that they can't help it, but because they're not doing anything wrong. Same-sex couples should have the same legal rights as opposite-sex couples, not because of Constitutional technicalities about separation of church and state or full faith and credit, but because it's morally wrong and unfair that they don't.

(Speaking of same-sex marriage, the vast majority of Americans, no matter how open-minded, grew up with "marriage" defined as involving one man and one woman. For many of these people, changing this definition is a direct assault on their faith, their self-image, and the terms by which they understand the world; forcing same-sex marriage down their throats will only make them fight harder. The right answer is, and always has been, to separate church and state: if you want to be married in the eyes of your God(s), have a religious marriage according to the rules and standards of your faith, and if you want to be united in the eyes of the State, have a civil union. If you want both, have both.)