Friday, November 21, 2008

what about the children?

I've argued elsewhere that the issue of whether homosexuality is an immutable characteristic or a choice should be irrelevant to the discussion of civil rights. The only valid reason for denying any person civil rights would be that the person poses a danger to society.

But some people do hold that gays and lesbians pose a danger to society, and that part of the danger is their belief that homosexuality is a choice. One of the most effective lines of argument in the recent Proposition 8 argument warned that if marriage equality were allowed to stand in California "gay marriage [would be] taught in our schools." Although that isn't in fact true, it's also hard to see the problem in that except for the real point of the argument. The Yes on 8 ad showed a young girl coming home from school and excitedly telling her mother, "At school today we learned that when I grow up I can marry a princess."

The main argument from the Yes on 8 side was that allowing gays to marry supposedly weakens the institution of marriage such that the next generation will not take marriage seriously and will choose not to be married at all. But this ad shows a different and probably more common fear: that hearing about same-sex marriages will entice otherwise heterosexual children to enter same-sex marriages.

So the case against marriage equality boils down to this: because homosexuality is a choice we must make homosexuality unattractive and therefore for the safety of our children we can legitimately make life more difficult for gay and lesbian adults. Notice that there's a circular feedback in that argument: because homosexuals are second class citizens I must strive to prevent my child from choosing to become homosexual, therefore I will work to make sure homosexuals remain second class citizens.

Even if you stubbornly continue to believe that people choose their sexual orientation (against all evidence and common sense) wouldn't it be better for your children to help create a world where all people are treated with dignity and respect just in case you child happens to make a "bad" "choice"?