It was encouraging to read an intelligently-framed and almost-timely presented Op-Ed piece in this morning’s Los Angeles Times. Dean Hamer, a molecular biologist, and Michael Rosbach, a medical investigator, wrote an article entitled “Genetics and Proposition 8.”
They present the case that there is constantly-increasing evidence supporting a biological basis for sexual orientation. There is no single “gay gene” that makes us gay, but neither is a single gene that dictates our height, the color of our skin or predisposition to many diseases. Whether we are left– or right–handed also has a genetic basis but there is no one gene that controls this.
Genetics, of course, plays a huge role in the discussion of whether gay or lesbian people choose to be sexually oriented to a member of the same sex rather than the opposite sex. And as we all know, choice constantly hovers in the background in the discussion of religion and of civil rights.
Civil rights are particularly singled out where there is the possibility of discrimination because of things we cannot choose, for example, having a particular ethnicity and skin color. Some things are protected from possible discrimination which are a matter of choice, however, such as religion. But in the current so-called Culture War, our opponents (dare we say “enemies”?) insist that being lesbian or gay is a choice and so try to make the argument that lesbians and gay men are not entitled to special rights.
Hamer and Rosbach’s pointed connection with Proposition 8 is that genetics was an “elephant in the courtroom” in the U.S. District case Perry v. Schwarzenegger when testimony was heard last month. (See a case profile here; we await further proceedings and Judge Walker’s verdict.)
One point made by the writers is worth singling out here, especially as we are still caught up in the passionate arguments about only one item on the so-called Gay Agenda: the right to enter into a civil marriage. Another major element of the Religious Reich’s agenda, you will remember, is to block any and all efforts to “teach homosexuality” in the schools.
The school angle has been part of their war chant ever since California State Senator John Briggs tried to ram through an initiative that would have prevented homosexuals from teaching in California schools. Such a move seems almost quaint now, except it was extremely real 30 years ago that drove thousands of lesbian/gay teachers deeper into their closets. One public opinion poll during the campaign showed the Briggs initiative leading 61% to 31%. Fortunately, the measure was defeated, in part because former governor Ronald Reagan reassured votes that the measure wasn’t needed to protect children. “We have the legal protection now,” he said, allowing voter bigotry to rest in the arms of complacency. (A sympathetic assessment of Reagan and gay people by Dale Carpenter can be found at the Independent Gay Forum.)
But ever since “protect our children” has been an anti-gay chant. It was used again quite openly in the arguments in favor of Proposition 8 in 2008. For example, the anti-gay ProtectMarriage.com site lists three bullet points on “Why Did Proposition 8 Win?”
“In the campaign, voters were told clearly that voting YES on Proposition 8 would do 3 simple things:
- It would restore the definition of marriage to what the vast majority of California voters already approved and what Californians agree should be supported, not undermined.
- It would overturn the outrageous decision of four activist Supreme Court judges who ignored the will of the people.
- It would protect our children from being taught in public schools that “same-sex marriage” is the same as traditional marriage, and would prevent other consequences to Californians who will be forced to not just be tolerant of gay lifestyles, but face mandatory compliance regardless of their personal beliefs.”
If homosexuals can marry each other, they argued, schools will be teaching homosexuality in our schools.On January 12, in Attorney Ted Olson’s opening statement in Perry in support of the lesbian and gay plaintiffs seeking to overturn Proposition 8, he drew attention to this gay marriage–schools connection:
“When voters in California were urged to enact Proposition 8, they were encouraged to believe that unless Proposition 8 were enacted, anti-gay religious institutions would be closed, gay activists would overwhelm the will of the heterosexual majority, and that children would be taught that it was `acceptable’ for gay men and lesbians to marry. Parents were urged to `protect our children’ from that presumably pernicious viewpoint.”
In the summer and fall of 2008, we thought the voters’ natural b.s. detectors would flag all that as a fraudulent argument. But we underestimated the power of a stupid idea to gain momentum through voter complacency corrupted by evil intent.What Hamer and Rosbach do is to pinpoint an aspect of the education issue and the gay agenda which many of us have not made clear to reasonable and intelligent minds.
“Recent studies in college classrooms show that exposure of students to information on the causes of homosexuality has a direct influence on opinions about gay rights. This fits with polling data showing that people who believe that gays are `born that way’ are generally supportive of full equality, whereas those who believe it is “a choice” are opposed.”
Here is where it gets really scary. Hamer and Rosbach go on to say:
“One national survey found that 70% of those who think being gay is a choice favored the reinstitution of sodomy laws. This would turn some 15 million Americans into common criminals for simply being who they are.”
The point is this: it is not merely the (horror of horrors!) idea that if lesbian/gay people have any “special rights” and win the Culture War, little children will learn all about homosexuality and then decide to become queer (it is a choice you know!). It is the deeper homophobic fear that if students of any age learn all about homosexuality, they will simply be more tolerant and accepting of the reality of sexual variance and be disinclined to try to stamp it out through draconian legal measures.
The drum beat of homophobic fear has not relented–not after defeats such as the failure of the Briggs initiative, nor after victories such as Proposition 8. Our enemies continue to hammer away that the Gay Agenda must be stopped everywhere, because otherwise we will insidiously normalize everything about homosexuality. As I have argued elsewhere, the fabrication of “choice” of sexual orientation is the linch-pin of the anti-gay wagon, and education (not same-sex marriage) is the slipperier slope, because an educated populace (not just children) will be measurably less bigoted.
—Pastor Dan Hooper