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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Homosexuality vs Religious Rights Revisited

Over at The American Conservative, I found an article about the history and ramifications of homosexuality on our American laws. It has received mixed attention and reviews, yet I found a couple of things on point.
Same-sex marriage is a radically new notion; its apologists have to stretch exiguous evidence to find any foreshadowing in past societies. This should not be surprising, since homosexuality itself, as a thing parallel to heterosexuality, is a recent invention. Homosexual activity may be as old as civilization, but the idea of a category of person whose sexual identity is primarily defined by same-sex attraction, yet who is otherwise quite like the mainstream of society, is of recent vintage. That people in this group are not negligible in numbers—amounting to perhaps 5 percent of the general population—has also been a slowly dawning realization.
I've been thinking a lot about this, both before and since I read this article. Why is it that in the entire history of man that only now is homosexuality thought of as part of one's identity? I've heard of all too many cases of sexual orientation changing over time, other cases where societal forces (decay, if you want) brought exposure of homosexuality or sodomy to children, leaving them homosexual themselves. It's hard to know whether the same thing would happen or to what degree in a more principled society where children aren't exposed to sexuality before they're able to understand what it means. What would be the rate of homosexuality in such a society? We can only guess. My gut instinct says it would not be quite as high.

I suppose that's the question, then. How can we accommodate both gay rights and religious freedoms? From the same article:
Are the stakes as high as they think? Same-sex marriage will not lead to civilizational collapse; the social atomism of which it is a symptom is more likely to do that. But there are tough questions about how nondiscrimination and public-accommodations laws will be applied against religiously affiliated institutions, even if churches themselves are exempt from having to participate in the public status of same-sex marriage. Traditionalists are right to be worried: religious liberty too is treated as an exception to liberalism, one for which powerful arguments must be made and which always faces an uphill battle. But the key problem here may not be whether or not there’s gay marriage, but the reach of non-discrimination and public-accommodations law.
From my position as a Mormon, I believe that God created His children male and female, and that His plan for families is for a man and a woman only (See The Family: A Proclamation to the World). I'm not naive enough to think that other people believe the same as I do, and no one should try to force other people to believe differently or act out of step with their beliefs. As the gay-rights activist Savage did in bullying Christian students attending an anti-bullying conference with him as the invited speaker! Maybe he hasn't yet learned that tolerance is a two-way street. The more we can have this conversation of mutual tolerance, the more hope I have that the rights of two different entities may be preserved.

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