morality, now in weaponized form
Just a few days ago, Iowa’s Supreme Court struck down a state law banning same sex marriages and opponents of gay rights launched a campaign to add a constitutional amendment to override the judge’s decision. Voters will usually vote for measures to ban gay marriage but they generally don’t want to change constitutions so religious think tanks with the word “family” somewhere in the name feel like they’ve defended our society from imminent collapse, and it seems unlikely they’ll succeed. But expect a lively debate.
Usually, when tackling a powder keg of a topic, a writer is supposed to start out with something really diplomatic. But so much has been said on this subject that I’ll just to cut to the chase and point out that a key reason why gay marriage is so opposed is because so many of us grow up with the idea that gay people are either disgusting or misguided and we couldn’t possibly allow them to do what we do. Homosexuality is unusual and only 3% of the population are thought to be gay so if you find it evil and unnatural, this rarity can be used to justify your stance. And the heavy handed use of religious quotes and opinions on homosexuality will give you plenty of fodder for condemnations and speeches about being on a mission to preserve mortality. A few quotes in a literalist view could become the basis of an entire religious denomination.
Ultimately, it’s a question of scale. Imagine living in a neighborhood with 99 other people. If we apply accepted statistics, three of them would be gay. Now, if those three people have relations with someone of the same sex and that makes you feel as if whatever relationship you have has lost its meaning or suddenly became less valid, you have some thinking to do. On what do you base the validity of a relationship? On your personal approval? On the genders of the partners? People do a lot of things with which we disagree and yet 97% of them are allowed to get married and have the same legal rights as any other married couple regardless of what the local church goers think about them and the very loud and pious speeches of popular televangelists. People can marry because they’re lonely or because they feel they need to for legal reasons, we’ll even allow infertile couples to marry while insisting that marriage is deigned to produce children so a union that doesn’t, violates this basic principle. And we do it because it’s between a man and a woman so it doesn’t look so strange and alien to our society.
But of course there’s more to it than that. Homosexuality isn’t a decision someone makes and as hard as it may be for many of us to imagine, gay people don’t decide to be with someone of the same sex or “just think they’ve decided” to do it. We know that certain genetic mechanisms passed on from mothers play a major role in the development of sexuality. Genes are in a state of constant flux and it makes perfect sense that once in a while, their effects would vary to give humans various degrees of sexuality. This would explain why many women admit to having an intimate fantasy about another woman as well as bisexuality in general. Because these are gene structures being inherited from a parent, the arguments that homosexuality is an evolutionary dead end are irrelevant. Homosexuality or the propensity for it, is inherited from heterosexual parents and the genes are sustained in the population. It’s been documented throughout all of our recorded history so clearly, it’s mechanisms must have been around for countless ages.
The same problem applies to our insistence of labeling things we like as natural and things we aren’t so fond as not. The same edition of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual used by doctors to declare S&M activities as a psychosexual pathology listed homosexuality the same way. But we did a lot more research into both phenomena and found that what was driving the DSM writers were societal biases rather than sound science. When we revise important guidelines to reflect that natural phenomena doesn’t care about what we like or don’t like and what we believe to be normal, it doesn’t sit well with moral brigades who seek to control our sex lives, thinking they have been chosen by a god to do so and given the authority to render absolute authority on all natural phenomena. But arguing with nature is a losing proposition. Nature is varied and what happens when genes and environmental factors combine is not up for debate. Facts are a very tyrannical construct. The chant that “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” makes a pithy slogan but doesn’t negate the fact that Adam and Steve are still here nonetheless.
In the grand scheme of things, there are legal rights that go with a marriage and campaigning to deny someone the same rights and benefits you take for granted, on which nobody votes or against which no one speaks out, solely because what you think this person does in the privacy of his or her own home makes you feel icky, seems rather petty and authoritarian. The kind of sexual stimulation you enjoy shouldn’t be the basis for the legal system. More telling still, after a whole lot of noise and dire warnings about collapse of traditional families and entire Western civilization in nations where gay marriage was ruled legal, nothing has changed except giving a small percentage of the population the same rights as the overwhelming majority. Perhaps it’s yet another sign that the opposition to gay rights is driven by antagonistic emotions instead of solid science and sound facts? Maybe if we treat people like people and leave judgments of their sexual habits to whatever deity you believe in (or don’t), nothing terrible will befall us?