It has long been asserted, primarily by
various religious and politically conservative groups, that homosexuality
is detrimental to the well-being of any society in which it occurs.
In this essay, I plan to examine this sort of assertions and,
ultimately, demonstrate that they are without rational foundation.
In other words, it will be shown that homosexuality does not per
se constitute a threat to society.
The structure of the essay is as follows. First, a list of the most some common negative arguments against homosexuality will be considered, namely:
After the critical analysis of these arguments,
some concluding remarks are offered.
II. Arguments Against Homosexuality
In this section, I will present nine arguments
against homosexuality and, in each case, analyze them carefully
in order for us to see whether or not they are valid.
Argument #1: "Homosexuality is
harmful for society"
It is not altogether clear what this claim
means; in fact, I consider it meaningless. First, we have to ask
ourselves what is meant by "homosexuality". If it refers
to a sexual orientation,
which denotes a non-chosen condition, it is trivially clear that
homosexuality, in itself, cannot be harmful in any direct sense.
The reason for this is that a condition cannot perform acts: it
just defines a passive state. It thus appears as if the statement
above is incoherent.
However, it might be argued that what is
meant is that the condition of homosexuality influences
acts, both acts performed and acts not performed, in a manner
which is harmful. On this reading, the statement above is not
incoherent; rather, to invalidate it, it is necessary to evaluate
each suggested way in which homosexuality allegedly influences
behavior in a harmful fashion. To this we will return shortly,
in the analysis of other arguments.
If "homosexuality", on the other
hand, is not meant to refer to a sexual orientation - that is,
if the existence of such a thing as sexual orientation is denied
- then the statement is simply a shorthand way of writing "homosexual
acts are harmful for society". In essence, this amounts to
the same thing as the coherent view espoused in the preceding
paragraph: in no way is the condition of homosexuality
said to be harmful (in the one case because it is realized that
only acts - performed or not performed - that are influenced by
this condition can be harmful and in the other case because it
is thought that this condition does not exist).
Second, we must define what we mean by "harmful".
On both an objective and a subjective ethics (these are two mutually
exclusive meta-ethical views,
one of which must be held with regard to normative statements),
whether one considers a certain phenomenon harmful or not depends
on what one's moral guidelines assert. A believer in an objective
ethics may refer to a sacred rule book which states that certain
acts are always harmful, whilst a believer in a subjective ethics
may refer to his sentiments or some consequentialist arguments.
My counter-arguments generally belong to the second genre: as
a believer in a subjectivist ethics, I wish to motivate my normative
views by referring to effects of certain types of behavior. If
a person who advances Argument #1 thinks that this approach is
agreeable, it is possible to meet in rational discourse. If, however,
such a person believes that a set of acts is intrinsically harmful,
no matter what anyone has to say about its consequences, then
it is not possible to discuss this issue rationally. It is my
hope that this category of persons is insignificant in number.
Third, we come to the term "society"
in Argument #1. This is normally taken to mean some aggregate
of individuals (along with their formal and informal institutions)
who live together in some politically defined area. Hence, when
one says that a set of acts is harmful for society, one implies,
in some way, that these acts are harmful for a large number of
individuals who live together in some political arrangement. This
understanding then reduces the argument to the micro level, although
this is seldom made explicit. So, in order to explain how a some
acts are harmful to society, one must (i) explain how they are
harmful to individuals and (ii) that the number of individual
thus harmed is quite large or that the harm in question is of
a particularly serious nature.
So what about Argument #1? Is homosexuality harmful for society? My claim, based on the reasoning above, is that this is a meaningless question. For it to obtain meaning, it must be rephrased as "Are the acts which are influenced by homosexuality harmful for a large number of individuals?". And then, to answer this question, it must first be specified what acts that are being discussed, how they relate to homosexuality, what our normative view of what we consider harmful is, and how the effects of these acts spread to encompass a large number of individuals or, alternatively, how the effects of these acts are sufficiently serious to render them harmful for society. Below, such detailed arguments will be conscientiously considered.
Argument #2: "Homosexuals do
not reproduce and thus threaten the survival of society"
On our tour of the more precise arguments
for why homosexuality could be said to pose a threat to society,
we begin with this classic argument. This argument is rather unique
in that it bases its view of what is harmful by defining it passively:
homosexuality does not lead to the good act of having children
and, for that reason, is harmful.
To this, one might offer the following replies.
First of all, if the one who advances this argument believes it
to be true, one wonders why he holds this belief when one of the
major problems for the survival of many people, and perhaps human
life as such, is the serious overpopulation of the earth. With
this in mind, it should rather be welcomed that not all reproduce
as intensely as most heterosexuals do. If one holds that the problem
of overpopulation is only a problem in certain third-world countries,
then at least one should modify one's argument to say that homosexuality
is harmful only in the Western world, or something like that.
Second, one wonders why all people must
have children, even if there is no problem of overpopulation.
Homosexuals have existed as a small minority in all cultures throughout
history (see the essay "Revolutions, Universals, and Sexual Categories"
by historian John Boswell), and obviously, most societies have
been quite able to sustain themselves over long periods of time
anyway (assuming that homosexuals have not reproduced). People
who do not bear children may fulfill other important duties in
society, such as support other families, work more for the benefit
of others, etc. We do not generally look down on spinsters who
do not want children or sterile couples because of their inability
to have children. This reveals that Argument #2 seems to be used,
not because the ones proposing it really think it good, but because
of other reasons: this argument is just added on, because it sounds
useful in the overall effort to defame homosexuals.
Third, the fact is that many homosexuals
do have children. Historically, due to social disapprobation,
many homosexuals have married persons of the opposite sex and
have had children with them - and this is certainly not an unknown
phenomenon in our modern days (I personally know of quite a few
such situations). In addition, many homosexuals who are not in
heterosexual-type relationships inseminate and hence have children.
Ironically, the very same persons who claim that homosexuals pose
a threat to society because they do not reproduce also combat
any attempt to legalize or facilitate insemination - which leaves
homosexuals in a Catch 22 situation.
Fourth, what about the common claim that
homosexuality is harmful because if all were homosexuals, the
human species would die out? First, this is not true, since homosexuals
can and do reproduce, e.g., via insemination. Second, this claim
considers a hypothetical situation which has never been, and never
will be, realized. The fraction of homosexuals, as far as we can
tell, has always been rather small in any society, and for that
reason the claim is not really interesting when discussing reality:
a homosexual minority coexists well with a heterosexual majority.
To conclude, Argument #2 does not hold,
both because it may be good not to have children (or at least
not bad) and because many homosexuals do have children and do
want to have children.
Argument #3: "Homosexuals pose
a threat to children"
"I have known few homosexuals who did
not practice their tendencies. Such people are sinning against
God and will lead to the ultimate destruction of the family and
our nation. I am unalterably opposed to such things, and will
do everything I can to restrict the freedom of these people to
spread their contagious infection to the youth of our nation."
- Pat Robertson, May 24, 1994 letter
This argument is based on several misunderstandings:
that homosexuals are more prone to molest children and that it
is possible to recruit children into homosexuality and that homosexuals
carry out such acts of recruitment.
On the issue of molestation, this is what Dr. Gregory M. Herek at the Psychology Department of the University of California at Davis has to say: "The empirical research on adult sexual orientation and molestation of children does not show that gay men are any more likely than heterosexual men to molest children. This is not to suggest that molestations of children by adult homosexual men never occur. They do. But molesting children has nothing to do with whether a man is heterosexual or homosexual." For more on what Dr. Herek has to say, including an exposition of the false claims of right-wing favorite Paul Cameron (ousted from the APA), click here.
On the issue of recruitment, this idea entails
two theories: (i) that homosexuality can be induced by conscious
acts, and (ii) that homosexuals wish to and do recruit. As for
the first theory, this is clearly at odds with almost all expertise.
Let me offer two arguments as to why it is false. First, almost
all the research in psychology and biology indicate that homosexuality
is a part of a person's inner personality, just like heterosexuality,
which is not the result of conscious acts (see The American Psychological Association,
The American Psychiatric Association,
and the site The Gay Gene,
which documents the biological findings of a genetical component
to homosexuality). And if this is so, it is not possible to recruit.
Second, an overwhelming majority of homosexuals surveyed by The
Advocate (over 90 %) a few years ago stated that they did
not choose to become homosexuals. I know, for one, that I did
not choose to be gay, nor did anyone act consciously to make me
gay, and all my gay friends have the same experience.
As for the second theory, that homosexuals
wish to and do recruit, this is without any basis. First of all,
as has just been argued, homosexuals would have to know how to
make someone gay, if they were to engage in attempts to recruit.
Yet I do not think anyone can safely say that they know how to
determine the sexual orientation of someone. Parents, that spend
much more time with their kids than anyone else, do not possess
such knowledge, presumably, since straight parents often have
gay kids. Traits like sexual orientation are very complexly determined,
and homosexuals in general do not think that it is possible to
change a person's sexual orientation, period, and if so, that
no one really knows how to do it. (On the so-called ex-gay movement,
see several articles on my homo page
under the heading "Is It Possible to Change from Gay to Straight?")
Furthermore, why would homosexuals be interested
in recruiting youngsters when, clearly, each new generation brings
with it gays and lesbians quite spontaneously? And why is it assumed
that gays and lesbians want everyone else to share their sexual
It is often said that homosexuals wish to
portray homosexuality in an attractive manner in the media and
in the schools in order to attract young, impressionable children.
This accusation is incorrect, for the reason that almost all homosexuals
do not think it possible to influence the sexual orientation of
a youngster by means of movies, articles, or factual classroom
information. Even if that were the case, the heterosexual lifestyle
is clearly so predominant in society (which heterosexuals most
often do not even reflect upon), that the impressions taken by
youngster must be much stronger from that side than from the side
of homosexuality. As President Weinberg of The American Psychiatric
Association stated in 1977: "A parent's fear that their child
will be recruited at school or elsewhere is without scientific
Rather, the information about homosexuality
in media and schools is desired by gays and lesbians solely to
help kids who feel attracted to kids of their own sex to accept
those unchangeable feelings. The sole purpose is to make these
kids feel better about who they are, because most of us who grew
up with homosexual feelings felt quite lonely and scared of society's
reaction. Good information can help these kids to grow up to be
healthy and self-confident. This must be considered especially
important, since gay and lesbian teens are two to three times
more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers and
account for up to 30% of all completed suicides among teens -
in 1989, suicide was the leading cause of death among gay, lesbian,
bisexual and transgendered youth (U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services, 1989). It should be obvious that honest information,
positive role models, support from well informed teachers, counselors
and friends could be immensely helpful to a teenager who is struggling
to come to terms with his or her sexual orientation.
And, in addition to this, the argument presupposes
that there are solid reasons to think homosexuality harmful in
the first place. As we shall see in this essay, there are no such
reasons, and hence, even if homosexuals did recruit (which they
do not), this could hardly be considered a bad thing, aside, possibly,
from the negative attitudes that one has to endure as a homosexuals,
not the least from condemning Christians and conservatives.
But what if it were the case that there
was a larger proportion of homosexuals than heterosexuals who
molested children, for instance (which is not the case)? Of what
use is that information? Consider if it was found that the proportion
of heterosexuals who molested children was higher than that of
homosexuals, what conclusion would be drawn from that information?
Should we therefore make life as hard as possible for all heterosexuals
(perhaps on the belief that they would become homosexuals, and
hence less prone to molest kids, through that type of treatment)?
Clearly, such ideas seem bizarre and at odds with basic notions
of justice: both because all would be punished for the activities
of a minority (the molesters) and because the actions are probably
counterproductive (repressed molesters are probably more prone
to molest). And we must not forget that underlying this idea is
the erroneous theory than one can consciously change the sexual
orientation of people.
To conclude, then, the claim that homosexuals
pose a threat to children is defaming and without basis. Homosexuals,
just like heterosexuals, generally love and care for children
and wish them only to lead good, rewarding, and honest lives.
Argument #4: "Homosexuality is
a depressing and sad lifestyle"
As we can see, one argument easily leads
to another: the high incidence of suicide among gay teenagers
could also be used as an argument against homosexuality, along
with other problems, such as discrimination or violence. But let
us first ponder upon why gay teens feel depressed to a large degree.
I know, as I have been a gay teen (you can
read my personal story
for a fuller explication), and it is not because of something
inherent in homosexuality. The reason is instead to be found in
the religious and social attitudes of the surrounding society.
Everyone is brought up on the presumption of heterosexuality;
one hears questions all the time to that effect while growing
up along with movies and examples from real life around you which
illustrate that boy meets girl. When one feels that this is not
the case, one feels confused and sad, because there is discordance
between the signals you receive from society and your inner feelings.
This conflict can be made more severe in a religious context,
where also a god may be said to be against what one feels inside.
This is hard to handle for a young person. Ironically, those who
think that they do gay and lesbian teens a favor by withholding
information in schools and by preaching harshly against homosexuality,
they are the ones who are largely responsible for causing them
As for discrimination and violence, these things unfortunately occur, but it would be as incorrect to deem homosexuality a sorry condition because of that as it would be to deem being black a sorry condition as a result of the discrimination and violence that happen to blacks. In addition, although it is not a tactic that I mention here without some reservation, it is possible to lead a life as a homosexual without others knowing about it. In that manner, discrimination and violence can be avoided. But, of course, this problem should not be overstated. I have never been discriminated against or been subjected to violence, although I am quite open with my orientation; and this holds for all my gay friends as well.
To conclude, most people are sad sometimes,
for some reason or another, and there is no reason to think that
homosexuals are sadder, on the whole, than others. One exception
might be during the teenage years, when it is hard to come to
terms with oneself sometimes. That is why encouraging information
is so vital and should not be suppressed.
Argument #5: "Homosexuals are
obsessed with sex with different partners"
This argument may be true, but then it is
also true of most heterosexuals (especially heterosexual men).
If there is a difference, on average, between hetero- and homosexuals
in terms of how much sex they actually have, this difference,
I argue, stems from different views on sex between the two sexes
and not from anything inherent in the respective sexual orientation.
But no such reliable knowledge is available, so we may merely
speculate about it. In any case, I think that the argument is
of no relevance.
First, there seems to be a difference between
male and female sexuality, which probably accrues both to biological
and social factors. Biologically, it can be argued that the role
of the woman for the survival of genes over evolutionary history
has been one of nurture, building on her limited capacity for
having children. Men, on the other hand, have acted so as to spread
sperms quite a lot, since they can father a very large amount
of children, which is in their interest. Thus, men are more keen
on temporary sexual encounters and are more direct in their sexuality
than women, who desire more of romantic love in order to have
rewarding sex. For more on this, see Chandler Burr's review of Gabriel Rotello's book Sexual Ecology: AIDS and the Destiny of Gay Men (which I highly recommend). The gender roles have been supported by social
traditions over time. Now, this has some implications for the
argument under consideration, since sex between men then incorporates
two or more persons who have a sexuality which probably is more
directed towards temporary sexual encounters. It is not that they
wish to have more (or less) nonmonogamous sex than heterosexual
men, but it is probable that they have some more sex, simply because
of their gender. The woman is, so to speak, a "stabilizer"
on the male sexuality which is absent in homosexual sex encounters.
But the opposite holds for lesbians: there, the total wish to
have sex with different partners could be expected to be lower
than in heterosexual relationships. So, if the number of gays
in relation to lesbians is about the same, that means that the
average fraction of persons that are "promiscuous" is
about the same for homo- and heterosexuals. It is possible that
the average number of partners is higher for homosexuals, as it
could be harder for heterosexual men to find willing women.
But however interesting this might be, I
claim that it is of questionable relevance. Argument #5 presupposes that
"promiscuity" is harmful, but my own position is that there is nothing morally wrong with having multiple sexual partners per se. Rather, if
anything, I think most people value sex positively, and homosexuality
enables "promiscuous" men to have sex with each other
and "faithful" women to cling to each other, which means
that preference satisfaction is quite easily secured. If one does
not subscribe to the absurdly strict view of sex espoused by conservative
Christians, sex with different partners is something to enjoy.
I fail to see how my having safe sex with different partners from time
to time affects anyone at all but myself and the ones I have sex
with. If we all enjoy it, how can it possibly be inferred that
our behavior is harmful to society? (I comment on diseases in
my response to the next argument. And then, if it turns out that "promiscuity" leads to disease in a large amount of cases, I think there may be a case for voluntary attempts to promote mongamy.)
It has been suggested, in the Swedish Pentecostal
daily Dagen (July 25, 1997), that casual sex is damaging
to people's mental health, that it is intimately connected with
violence, drugs, and prostitution, and that it prevents people
from developing a sense of closeness to others. Of course, these
are nothing but absurd, unsubstantiated allegations which are
proclaimed, not on the basis of facts, but on the basis of a reactionary
ethics and an interventionistic political philosophy, which I
think should be rejected. In fact, these statements remind one
of the warnings that used to be issued, not the least by Christians,
on the dangers of masturbation - warnings which today are viewed
as seriously erroneous.
However, as always, this argument rests
on the mistaken idea that one can choose one's sexual orientation.
Since that is not the case, this argument is not really pertinent,
since even if gay men are more "promiscuous" than straight
men, and even if that is viewed as a bad thing, there is nothing
one can do about being gay. The question is, if one is against
casual sex, how to best alter such behavior.
This, in turn, hinges on what one perceives
to be the reason behind the possible relative "promiscuity"
of gay men. In addition to the male biological sex drive, with
the characteristics referred to above, there might be an influence
from the ostracism which has traditionally accompanied open
and stable gay relationships. That is to say, religious and conservative
people seem to have a hard time dealing with homosexuals who live
just like them, in form and content, and therefore such "traditional"
homosexual lifestyles have been socially (and legally) punished.
These enemies of homosexuality seem much more content with gays
and lesbians remaining "in the closet" - but interestingly,
that might foster "promiscuity" among gay men. If there
are no traditions of, say, the institution of marriage, there
is every reason to think that people will be less inclined to
form stable unions and instead satisfy their sex drives with different
partners. So, to reduce casual sex between gay men (if one should
view that as desirable), my suggestion is to institute same-sex
marriage, which would add stability to gay unions.
To conclude, while gay men may be as keen
on sex with different partners as heterosexual men, lesbians are
probably as inclined to be faithful as heterosexual women. But
since it might be easier for gay men to find willing sex partners,
it is possible that they actually have more sex than their heterosexual
counterparts. This effect might be reinforced by the traditionally
negative treatment of gays and lesbians in open, stable relationships. But "promiscuity" need not be a negative thing, so long as sexual acts are carried out safely (e.g., by mutual masturbation); and it is not a necessary thing either - which is important for all gay men to realize. If one dislikes casual sex, then one should, and can, stay away from it.
Argument #6: "Homosexuality causes
AIDS and other diseases which are costly and deadly"
According to a fact sheet
from UNAIDS, the joint AIDS program sponsored by the United Nations
and The World Bank, between 5-10 % of the total HIV infections
in the world at the end of 1996 had been caused by male homosexual
intercourse - which corresponds to most estimates of the proportion
of homosexuals in the general population. Almost no cases
of lesbian sex has resulted in HIV spreading. And over 70 %
of the total number of HIV infections had been caused by heterosexual
intercourse. Are we to conclude that "heterosexuality causes
AIDS"? Of course not: unsafe sex may cause one to become
infected with the HIV virus, and this holds for all persons. (But
to be on the safer side, we should perhaps recommend all girls
to become lesbians? - This, of course, is an ironic note to those
who argue as if it was possible to choose one's sexual orientation
on the basis of how many with a certain orientation that contract
a certain disease.)
So it does not do to argue that homosexuality
threatens society because homosexuals cause AIDS more than heterosexuals;
as we just saw, the opposite holds. Actually, it is more fruitful to analyze the types of behavior that are conducive to HIV infection, and such behavior can be displayed by gay and straight alike. That is, e.g., why gay men in the West and straight people in parts of Africa and Thailand experience high rates of HIV infection: because they engage in high-risk behavior. Hence, there is nothing inherent in homosexuality that causes AIDS. How to change risky behavior is an issue which I do not go much into here, but I have strong sympathy for the message of Gabriel Rotello. That is, even though I do not perceive "promiscuity" as bad in itself, when it is common in a context where people seem unable not to take very high infection risks, I think there is a case for attempting (through voluntary means) to encourage gay men towards more of monogamy.
In any case, it is somewhat hard to see how AIDS threatens society as a whole. It threatens
the AIDS victims, of course, and their close ones, in a very direct
way. It could be costly for the government, if the government
finances hospital care - but then, that is a political system
chosen democratically and cannot be blamed on the small minority
of gay men. (Do the enemies of homosexuality attack fat people
for eating fat foods and for not exercising, as this causes diseases?
Do they attack smokers in the same manner? If not, why?)
As for other diseases, there are some statistics that indicate that gay men are overrepresented in cases of sexually transmitted diseases. Again, it is hard to see how this, in any clear way, threatens society. It is, admittedly, a negative thing for those affected, but it is the result of a choice of behavior which presumably entailed a net utility gain for the person who chose it. In addition, lesbians can be expected to have
very few instances of diseases of this sort, which is normally
not taken into account by those who attack homosexuality.
And if one is concerned with diseases, is
not the proper question to ask: How can their incidence be reduced?
Gay men are gay men, and that cannot be changed. But certain patterns
of behavior can be changed, such as inducing people to use condoms.
Interestingly, those who complain that homosexuals spread diseases
are unwilling to supply condoms in schools, colleges, etc. - which
reasonably contributes to the continued spreading of these diseases
(as free condoms would increase the demand for them, as revealed
to us by the basics of economics). More transformative changes of sexual patterns of behavior may also be called for.
To conclude, there is no basis for stating
that homosexuality as such causes more diseases than heterosexual
behavior. Furthermore, it may not hold that homosexuals are more disease-ridden than heterosexuals - especially not when including lesbians. But even if
they were, one wonders what the point is, since homosexuality is
not a choice that can be avoided if it was shown that it was linked
to various diseases.
Argument #7: "Homosexuality undermines
religion and hence stability in society"
This argument is problematic on several
counts. First, many of us think it highly beneficial if religion
is undermined (see my atheism page),
and we furthermore think it incorrect to equate the spread of
religion with "stability" (whatever that is; probably,
the definition is tautological, such that stability is defined
as following some religion). As is clear from several essays on
morality on my atheism page, it is quite possible to have a well-functioning
society with caring individuals without any religion at all.
Second, even if it is probable that quite
a few homosexuals are negative towards (conservative) Christianity,
due to the simple fact that (conservative) Christianity is negative
towards homosexuality, there are, in fact, many gay and lesbian
Christians. The total effect in this area, if there is one at
all, must be considered small.
Third, for an orthodox Christian, leading
a non-celibate life as a homosexual involves going to hell. This
could be considered harmful. However, it is both possible to question
the existence of hell and, if one believes in the Christian god,
to question whether he would send gay and lesbians to hell simply
because of their loving someone of their own sex. Such a cruel
god could be capricious enough to send anyone to hell, so perhaps
even (conservative) Christians are in peril.
To conclude, this argument wrongly presupposes
that religion is need for "stability" and also thinks
that gays and lesbians are less religious than others, which is
Argument #8: "Homosexuals want
special political rights"
Different homosexuals want different things
in the realm of politics. What almost all agree on is that there
should be equality under the law, which means that if a
certain favor is granted to one group of people, then it should
also be extended to other groups. More specifically, this means
that two particular areas are important with regard to homosexuality:
marriage laws and government discrimination.
As for marriage laws, it is clear today
that heterosexuals can enjoy a number of economic and practical
favors that come about through marriage. In the meantime, this
is denied to those who wish to form homosexual marriage unions.
(Notable exceptions: the Nordic countries and the Netherlands.)
This is a clear case of inequality, which could easily be rectified
without causing any major problems (in fact, if anything, it would
promote an institution which is anti-promiscuous, which should
appeal to conservative Christians). Why are some against it? It
is clearly not a "special right" for gays and lesbians
to be married; rather, heterosexuals today have that special right.
The most common argument against this measure is that it threatens
the "family", by which is meant the traditional, heterosexual
family. But how does it do so? Allowing homosexuals to marry does
not in any way make it more difficult for heterosexuals to marry.
And since being straight or gay is not the result of a choice,
giving equal rights to homosexuals would not cause more people
to be gay. The only plausible effect would be for gays and lesbians
to be able to enjoy the safety and comfort of a legal union.
As for government discrimination, this means
that the government, who supposedly represents all citizens, does
not treat gays and lesbians differently solely because of their
orientation. In the U.S., this implies that the virtual ban on
gays and lesbians in the military be lifted (as it has been in
most other Western countries, with no negative effects) and that
they, as well as everyone else, are judged on conduct, not on
who they love.
As for anti-discrimination laws, there are
different views among homosexuals. Although it is probably true
that most are in favor of laws outlawing their being discriminated
against at work or in housing solely because of their orientation.
Are these special rights? Not really, since they would state that
sexual orientation is no grounds for discrimination. This means
that it would also be unlawful to discriminate against someone
who is straight. Anyway, I am opposed to these type of laws on
principled grounds, as I am a libertarian,
but I do think that as long as they are offered on some grounds,
such as religion or ethnicity, sexual orientation should be included
As for adoption of children, this is clearly
no special right either, since heterosexuals today can be tried
as adoptive parents. Their is no basis for thinking homosexuals
less capable of taking care of children (see the current research
from The American Psychological Association on this issue). But
what about the children? Well, children may be bullied for many
reasons, but it would be wrong, I think, to yield to ignorance
and hatred: that would give the opponents a triumph they do not
deserve. In fact, the studies that have been conducted indicate
that children to gays and lesbians cope as well as other kids,
To conclude, gays and lesbians do not want special rights; they just wish to be able to take part of government favors, just like all other taxpayers. This involves marriage rights, adoption rights, an end to government discrimination in the military, and, possibly, anti-discrimination rights.
Argument #9: "Homosexuality threatens
This argument involves similar considerations
as the first one, namely, that it is thought that people involved
in homosexual acts - either in stable, monogamous relationships
or in temporary encounters - somehow undermine a collective entity
referred to as "family".
What, first of all, is meant by this term?
If one defines the term as "two married adults of the opposite
sex with one or more children", then the argument reduces
to a few of the arguments above, as is seen when considering what
is threatened in this constellation of persons. For instance,
are children threatened by homosexuality? We saw above
that this is clearly not so - neither in the sense that reproduction
is hindered overall nor in the sense that children are more at
risk to be treated badly.
Is the institution of marriage threatened
by there being gays and lesbians around? Clearly not, since gays
and lesbians have existed throughout history alongside heterosexual
marriage. And even if same-sex marriage would be allowed, it is
hard to see why opposite-sex marriage would not continue to be
the option for many straight persons.
Is fidelity threatened, such that
if gays and lesbians exist, some (bisexual?) spouse is more prone
to have sex outside of the marriage? To this, one might first
reply that the principle that Jesus put forth in his Sermon on
the Mount was that adultery can also be committed in the mind.
Hence, even without an actual possibility for, say, a married
man to have sex with a gay man, the married man would still have
fantasies about other men and, in that manner, still be unfaithful
in the heart. So there being gay men around does nothing to alter
this. Besides, most married men, when unfaithful, have sex with
women. Should we therefore say that heterosexuality poses
a threat to the family? That, rightly, seems bizarre. It is not
a particular sexual orientation which causes infidelity, it is
Lastly, could this argument mean that the
forming of alternative family arrangements in itself threatens
the family? Well, this view only seems coherent on the view that
sexual orientation involves a choice and if one thinks of "family"
as meaning the future predominant existence of the arrangement
"two married adults of the opposite sex with one or more
children". But since sexual orientation is not the result
of a choice, there is no reason to think that the predominance
of straight marriage in any significant way will be undermined
by gays and lesbians. Even if it sexual orientation was the result
of a choice, this would probably not threaten straight marriage,
at least not in the short run, since - given the negative attitudes
that still exist in connection with homosexuality - most people,
if given a choice, would opt for this arrangement. Generally,
given an appreciation of non-paternalism, it seems odd to question
the free choices of individuals: if more people in the future
decide that they will be more happy in same-sex relationships,
what could anyone have to say against their revealed preferences?
To conclude, the assertion that homosexuality
poses a threat to the family is empty. In fact, gays and lesbians
today form their own families, some with children, some without,
and they strive for love, care, and stability just as much as
any heterosexual couple. It is, evidently, time to widen the definition
of "family" and to embrace nontraditional arrangements
in this realm of affairs - without fear that traditional arrangements
will lose out.
This exposé has clarified that there
are several common arguments that have been proposed to demonstrate
that homosexual acts, in various ways, pose a threat to the a
large number of individuals. Likewise, it has been clarified that
all these arguments are built on loose ground indeed; in fact,
most of them are either meaningless or false.
So if there are no sound arguments to the
effect that homosexuals contribute negatively to their fellow
human beings, are there arguments to the contrary? I think that
most gays and lesbians - and I know quite a few - regard themselves
as just as compassionate, caring, loving, generous, intelligent,
ambitious, honest, etc. as their heterosexual friends. We are
not really different than others in terms of values or behavior
which hurt others. And is it not quite clear from history that
homosexuals have contributed greatly to society? Need I mention
more than Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Tchaikovsky, Benjamin
Britten, W. H. Auden, Leonard Bernstein, the most recent vice-chairman
of Ford Motor Co., Versace, Elton John, k.d. lang, Martina Navratilova,
Henry James, Walt Whitman, Tennessee Williams, H. C. Andersen,
Oscar Wilde, Arthur Rimbaud, Julius Caesar, Aaron Copeland, E.
M. Forster, Rock Hudson, Lytton Strachey, W. Somerset Maugham,
Sir Ian McKellen, Sir Peter Pears, Alan Turing, Gertrude Stein,
Ludwig Wittgenstein, Niclas Berggren (just kidding )
At this point, I think it proper to briefly
touch upon the idea of the liberal democratic state vs. the idea
of theocracy, advanced by some Christians. The basic idea of the
former is that everyone in society are allowed to do whatever
they wish so long as they do not inflict harm upon others. Clearly,
as discussed above, it is crucial how one defines "harm"
here. It is clear that some Christians have a much stricter definition
than most, but I think I have showed, quite in detail, above that
there is no real basis for viewing homosexuality as being harmful
for anyone else. Hence, as long as we remain democrats in the
Western tradition, it seems utterly hard to retain the oppressive
view towards homosexuality which some give voice to. If individuals
wish to associate in churches which dislike homosexuality, I think
they should be so allowed, but they should not be allowed to legislate
on the basis of such views, viewed as irrational and demeaning
by many other citizens. In fact, due to the irrational foundation
of such views, it may be divined that a general and quite cruel
underlies them. And if so, the reason is ever the greater to resist
and argue for tolerance and full inclusion in society of all,
including gays and lesbians. Some of us may dislike Christianity,
and it is our legal privilege to do so; some others may dislike
homosexuality, and it is their legal privilege to do so. But it
is wrong to use the law as a tool for advancing views on the private
morality of others. That is the tenet of liberal democracy, and
that is worth fighting for.
To conclude, I have shown that the arguments against homosexuality do not stand up to critical scrutiny: homosexuality is as good or bad as heterosexuality. I have also demonstrated that being gay is not something one chooses, and hence, any political actions based on the erroneous view that sexual orientation is a choice are bound, not as their supporters think to reduce the number of homosexuals, but rather only to cause unnecessary discomfort and misery to those of us who happen to have been born as gays or lesbians. Such treatment is unworthy of a modern society.
Note 1: There is one "researcher" who is cited more than others by antigay groups, Paul Cameron. Be warned! Click here for a detailed critique of his methodology, which seriously undermines his credibility.
Note 2: If you have an argument which you think could be used to assert that homosexuality in some way poses a threat to society, I invite you to mail it to me for consideration, and I might include an analysis of it above.