Another Bad Argument against Marriage Equality

Andrew Rosenthal at the New York Times:

Perhaps the most ridiculous argument against marriage equality is the one voiced most recently by David Bates, a Republican member of the New Hampshire legislature – that homosexuality is a choice, and thus same-sex marriage is not a civil rights issue.

“Civil rights have to do with intrinsic qualities that a person just can’t change,” said Mr. Bates, the sponsor of a bill that would repeal New Hampshire’s marriage equality law. Being gay, he said, doesn’t qualify. “There’s no other example of any basis that we afford a civil right based upon a behavior or a preferential choice,” he said.

It’s astonishing that anyone in the 21st century would hew to the notion that humans choose their sexual orientation. I wonder when Mr. Bates made the affirmative decision to become a heterosexual.

But in any case, the preference issue isn’t sufficient to end the conversation. We choose our religious affiliations—or at least we have the freedom to choose—and yet it’s illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of religion.

READ THE REST: David Bates of New Hampshire Describes Sexuality as a Preference – NYTimes.com.

  • Kevin

    Thanks Tony,
    I’m wrestling with this issue. I have too many friends in the (GLBTQ) community to buy the notion that homosexuality is exclusively a lifestyle choice. There certainly are biological factors, although we still don’t know for sure how those factors impact sexual orientation.

    I’ll agree that I can’t put my finger on a moment in time where I decided, “yep, I’m straight”, but I have made decisions throughout my life in how I navigate, manage, and act socially on that biologically engineered orientation.

    To be blunt, I like brunettes. I married a brunette , I love her deeply, and am committed to be faithful to her. Is it a biological predisposition that I find brunettes attractive overs? Maybe. Has my marriage to a brunette taken away that attraction to other brunettes? No. Does my biological attraction to brunettes make it acceptable to chose to hook up with a brunette I’m not married to? No way. I have to choose different than my biological construct. Besides, my brunette wife warns that if I cheat, no one will find my body :)

    I guess I understand biological factors related to sexuality, but I can’t seem to divorce the element of choice from those factors. Again, I’m trying to think this through, so I welcome input from you and others.

    Thanks for making me think, Tony. I really appreciate you!

    • Charles

      Ah, the old “it’s choice” discussion.

      OK, IF sexual orientation is a choice, I want to hear some stories from those who chose heterosexuality. Stories about their homosexual fantasies before they chose heterosexuality. You must have been attracted to the same sex since, after careful deliberation, you chose the heterosexual life style. [sarcasm]

      I’ve always been attracted to the opposite sex. I don’t recall any choice in the matter.

      • Patrick

        One could easily argue that if heterosexuality is a choice, then homosexuality is as well (even a “wrong” or “bad” choice), and the acceptance of marriage in whichever state of existence could be at the discretion of the society of the time.
        Also, if heterosexuality is not a choice, then homosexuality must be an abnormal deviation from nature, and then the acceptance of marriage in the deviant state is itself abnormal.
        Point being, the “did you choose to be straight?” retort is rather flawed when used in support of homosexual marriage rights.

        • Frank

          What’s ironic is that most pro SSM advocates start with rationalizing what they believe and try and works backwards to find the proof. Exactly what they claim the other position does. That’s why all their arguments are weak and not supported.

          I would love to be able to make up my mind about something and then create the evidence to support it but reality and truth does not work that way.

        • Charles

          Patrick – Same-sex attraction is a normal variant, like being left handed, or red hair.

          • Patrick

            I am not making a statement of my beliefs, though I think to consider homosexuality to be a genetic mutation such as red hair is not correct. In fact, I don’t believe this to be part of any argument (any more) as it is generally accepted that homosexuality is more than likely not due (at least solely) to genetics.
            I am simply saying that whether or not heterosexuality is a “choice” has no bearing whatsoever in the argument for the validity of homosexuality as a defensible social construct.

  • Scot Miller

    While my hunch is that sexual orientation is more a matter of biology than choice, the moral argument for marriage equality probably shouldn’t hinge on whether sexual orientation is a “choice” or not. A colleague of mine pointed out to me several years ago that opponents of homosexuality (and other sexual orientations) could argue that sexual orientation is not a choice, but a biological “defect” that could perhaps be “fixed” some day. So the real issue is whether there are any good reasons to be opposed to marriage equality, whether homosexuality is a choice or not. I have yet to hear any plausible moral argument against homosexuality.

    The most passionate arguments against marriage equality are religious, not moral (i.e., “God considers homosexuality a sin”). When pressed to offer a reason that a non-believer could recognize as plausible, most opponents try to talk about “harms” to society or to marriage or to families, etc. But of course, it’s never explained how anyone is “harmed” by homosexuality, least of all children of same-sex couples. As reported by the American Academy of Religion,

    Research comparing children raised by homosexual parents to children raised by heterosexual parents has found no developmental differences in intelligence, psychological adjustment, social adjustment, or peer popularity between them. Children raised by homosexual parents can and do have fulfilling relationships with their friends as well as romantic relationships later on.

    Those with religious objections to homosexuality and marriage equality of course have the religious freedom to believe whatever they want. Members of the KKK and other racist organizations also have the freedom to believe on religious grounds that the white race is superior to all other races. And while both racists and homophobes have promoted laws discriminating against people of color and homosexuals, such laws are fundamentally immoral: they are expressions of either religious conviction (at best) or irrational prejudice and fear (at worst) that have no place in a pluralistic society like ours.

  • Dan Hauge

    I agree that talking about sexual orientation itself in terms of ‘choice’ is not accurate, but making the case against Bates is a lot easier than that. We actually do have “a civil right based upon a behavior or a preferential choice”: our rights based on religion.

  • http://mpzrd.blogspot.com Marshall

    “Civil rights have to do with intrinsic qualities that a person just can’t change”
    That sounds as if civil rights just has to do with accomdating handicaped people. “So-and-so can’t help it that he racially/culturally/congenitally inferior, so therefore we will be treat him like a full-fledged human.” Whereas actually modern civil rights spring from the ‘essential’ equality of humans, from the assumed freedom to make choices.

    Scott, I would like to buy you a beverage of choice while we dig into your contrast between religion and morality.

  • Evelyn

    Since sexuality is so pure and acceptable and beautiful, I think that Tony should try pairing up his kids with partners of their choice so that they can enjoy all the beauty that our God-given sexuality has to offer. Do you find this repulsive? Maybe you should think about why. Then again, maybe you’ll just rationalize it away so that you can maintain your illusion of righteous masculinity.

    • Scot Miller

      Evelyn, it’s really simple: children are not adults. Children aren’t capable of making voluntary decisions about having sex. NAMBLA and other pedophiles make this specious argument, too, which helps illustrate he difference between reasoning and rationalizing. Rationalizing takes place when one has a conclusion in mind and then one cooks up reasons to support their desired conclusion. Reasoning, on the other hand, is the attempt to reach a conclusion based on the best evidence available.

      When it comes to marriage equality, opponents can only offer their deeply held religious convictions and religious interpretations that have absolutely no authority over anyone who doesn’t also share those convictions. As a matter of public policy, you need public reasons that are supported by evidence. When you ask the question, “Why is it wrong for same-sex couples to marry and enjoy the same benefits as heterosexual couples?” the answers are typically pretty thin, which make them insufficient for public policy.

      • Frank

        It is in humanities best interests to preserve the uniqueness of the man-woman bond.

        SCOTUS will rule with that in mind and if we asked our country:

        Should the uniqueness of man-woman marriage be protected while affording the same legal rights to same sex couples who choose to spend their life together, a super majority will say yes.

        Either that or SCOTUS will kick it back to the states.

        • Scot Miller

          Marriage equality does absolutely nothing to harm the “uniqueness” of man-woman marriage. It will remain “unique” (as if that’s some sort of important value….)

          Like I said, the arguments of the opponents of marriage equality are pretty thin…

          • Frank

            Sorry Scot but no it does. Marriage as one man and one woman is a unique social construct that the state has vested interest in. Time will show us that most believe that is true.

            As for public opinion it’s all in how you frame the question. Up until know SSM supporters have been allowed to frame the question, but no longer. Emotionalism only works in the short term.

  • Frank

    Well if we are to believe the current science homosexuality is not genetic so it is not hardwired. The current theories revolve around the fluidity of sexuality. That sexual preferences can change during the course of someone’s life.

    Therefore it comes down to what we choose.

  • Ethan

    When do I get to vote on Mr. Bates’ marriage?

  • Steve Swope

    Ultimately, all this comes down to some people thinking homosexuality is somehow “bad,” and in the final analysis that judgment comes from religious belief. But in a democracy, religious values cannot stand alone; they must be translated into universal terms accessible to all, including those of faiths other than my own and those of no faith at all.

  • Ryan S.

    No offense Tony but this article is far more ideological than rational. I’m sure its appealing to what you want to be true but the idea that homosexuality is fully “caused” and one has no choice in the matter is nonsense. Not only that but its terrible science. See the multitude of studies in this matter.

    http://allpsych.com/journal/homosexuality.html

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_orientation#cite_note-twin-adol-55 (yes I quote wikipedia but particularly check footnotes 56-57)

    http://www.boston.com/news/globe/magazine/articles/2005/08/14/what_makes_people_gay/

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biology_and_sexual_orientation

    http://www.narth.com/docs/fluid.html

    Because its the prevailing view of people like yourself who see this as a justice issue (which it may well be), this does not make it true, or the people who are on your side of the issue truthful. Personally I have a great deal of sympathy for GLBT individuals who have been oppressed, but at least have a decent argument for it.

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