Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Some of my best friends are Black -- er, Gay

Since I'm a freeloader there are ads at the top of my blog. These are served up by Google, which apparently scans my blog to choose relevant ads. The choices that Google makes are fascinating. At the moment, there's an open letter to John Crossman defending the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin, and a Lesbian and Gay blog list, which is interesting because I haven't said a thing about lesbian or gay issues. But since Google raised the topic, I'll say something now.

Watching the recent furor over the Anglican Church's approval of an openly gay bishop I feel like I've been transported back to 1947 watching the furor over Jackie Robinson becoming a Brooklyn Dodger. The arguments for discriminating against gays and lesbians are just as prevalent and just as bankrupt as the arguments for discriminating against blacks were in 1947.

The arguments for discriminating against gays seem to fall into three major categories:

1. Biblical prohibitions against homosexuality (e.g. Romans 1:26-27, I Corinthians 6:9, and many others). For me, of course, being non-Judeo-Christo-Islamic-theist, what the Bible has to say about this carries no more weight than what the Kama Sutra has to say about it, or the Q'uran, or the Baghwan Bible, or Beowulf. But as an interested observer of those who do put stock in these things I find it fascinating how deeply in denial people can be about the fact that they pick and choose those parts of Scripture that suits them, and rationalize away the rest. For example, I have yet to meet a person who professes to be a Christian who takes I Corinthians 14:34, or even the Second Commandment, seriously.

(The Second Commandment, incidentally, makes an interesting case study. It says (Exodus 20:4), "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth." Anyone who has ever taken a photograph has made a "likeness" of something that was "in the earth beneath." Muslims, by the way, really take the second Commandment seriously, and that is why you only see abstract art in Mosques, never portraits. One can quibble over whether the intent of the second Commandment was not to prohibit family photos but rather to prohibit idol worship. Still, I have to wonder at the capacity for rationalization of Catholics who bow down before statues of Mary and the Saints. But I digress.)

(Digression #2: I have never understood how those who advocate posting the Ten Commandments in government buildings in the U.S. can keep a straight face when they argue that it is a cultural and not a religious text. Have none of them ever bothered to read them? Commandment #1 says, "I am the Lord thy God. Thou shalt have no other gods before me." It's hard to imagine how you could get any more religious than that. But I digress again.)

In any case, regardless of your stand on what the Bible does and does not condemn, there is supposed to be separation of Church and State in the United States, and so the issue of what the Bible does or does not say is moot when it comes to decisions of public policy. This, of course, says nothing about whether it was correct for the Anglicans to induct Gene Robinson as a bishop. That is for them to decide. For what it's worth (which ought to be very little since I'm not an Anglican) I think they did the right thing.

2. Approval, whether tacit or overt, of the "homosexual lifestyle" (whatever that means) contributes to the unraveling of the fabric of society. I simply see no evidence that this is true, or at least, that the contribution of gays to the unraveling of society is miniscule compared to the rips and tears that have been made by non-homosexuals. It was by and large heterosexual priests who molested young children in the Catholic church, and heterosexual bishops and cardinals who covered it up. It is heterosexuals (exclusively, since gays are not allowed to marry) who produce the more than 50% divorce rate we have in this country. From my own personal experience, all of the gays I know are to a man (and a woman) fine and decent people. The idea that gays contribute disproportionately to societal ills is untenable.

3. Homosexuality is "unnatural." Rand Simberg has debunked this notion thoroughly in his blog though I don't have time to look up the exact reference at the moment. Suffice it to say this idea is also untenable. Many animals (notably chimps and dolphins) engage in homosexual behavior.

A related argument is that homosexual couples should not be given societal support because they do not produce children. This argument is also so untenable I'm amazed that anyone can advance it with a straight face. First off, it simply isn't true. Homosexuals are perfectly capable of reproducing, and many do. But even if it were true, if one were to take reproduction as the gold standard of what does and does not deserve societal sanction then infertile people, or people who do not wish to have children, should be prohibited from marrying on those grounds. The argument is just so ridiculous it feels like a waste of time to even bring it up.

There are no tenable grounds for denying equal rights to homosexuals, just as there are no (and never were any) tenable grounds for denying equal rights to blacks. This one is a complete no-brainer. Why does it have to take so long for society to figure these things out?

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