Tuesday, November 18, 2008

the red herring of gay "choice"

William Saletan posted an article titled, "Original Skin: Blacks, gays, and immutability" on Nov. 13, 2008. In it he argues that the reason blacks are less likely to support marriage equality is that they are more likely to believe that sexual orientation is a choice. Saletan argues that the way to win black support for marriage equality is to educate them with the science that shows sexual orientation is not a choice, but is, in fact, an immutable characteristic just as is a person's race.

that's probably a good strategy, but my problem with this approach is that it continues the false position that discrimination is unacceptable only if the discrimination is based on an immutable characteristic. This is untrue. A Christian who converts to Judaism (a choice) should not be discriminated against based on their new religion. A transgender man who chooses to become a woman should not then have to accept sex discrimination. On the other hand, a pederast may argue that they were born with a sexual orientation toward children but that should not prevent society from discriminating against the man in terms of where he can live or work.

The important issue is not choice but whether the discrimination serves a purpose in protecting society from some danger. The only important argument concerning marriage equality is whether same-sex marriages present a danger to society (clearly they don't) not whether the persons seeking same-sex marriage chose to be gay or lesbian. Although I didn't choose to be gay, it shouldn't matter if I did. Society has no legitimate purpose in denying homosexual persons equal rights and protections because society gains nothing by its discrimination while its homosexual citizens are gravely damaged.

1 comment:

Joel Monka said...

I completely agree that the strategy is wrong in principle; no one owes an explanation for their behavior, as long as it harms none- whether it's a "choice" or not. But that strategy is doomed to failure in practice as well.

The problem is the basic premise- that the opposition comes from ignorance. The opposition comes from the church, and the church is even more important to black sociallife than white. As long as the churches oppose gay marriage, so will the parishoners- regardles of any "education" anyone offers them. In fact, it's likely to be counterproductive; their are few things more offensive than telling people, "Your opinions cannot possibly be the result of faith or logic- you must be ignorant>"