Is sexual orientation analagous to race?

Many people have claimed that the current gay marrige movement is a watershed moment in civil rights movement.

That made me think. Skin color and sex (i.e. boy or girl) are physical traits that are determined at birth. Should sexual orientation be considered in the same way?

I can easily make the argument that a person is guaranteed certain inalienable rights regardless of skin color of sex. But it seems to me that sexual orientation is only meaningfully identified by a person’s behavior. And I find it harder to make the argument that a person is guaranteed those rights regardless of their behavior. Not because I think we have the right to withhold rights from people based on their behavior. But because I don’t think that a person’s behavior is relevant when it comes to their fundamental rights.

Let the debate begin.

Well, do you think that people have a right to practice their religions w/out fear of government censure and be protected from their fellow citizen’s aggression? People can always convert to the majority religion you know, or practice theirs in secret.

As for the race/sexual orientation thing…I tend to equate the two, if only because so many of the counter arguments seem to be pulled straight out of 1950’s segregationist rhetoric. I am also strongly in favor of full rights for homosexuals because I know that there is no good reason to deny them.

And if we want to talk about the marriage thing in particular, I’ll say that I know that I love my wife, and it galls me to know that a generation ago, there were places in this country where we might not have been able to marry (due to racial constraints). I know that that there are gay people out there whose capacity for love is at least the equal of my wife and I, and to deny them the right to marry and have all of the rights, privileges, and obligations that we share can not be called just.

No. There is no such thing as “race”. Sexual oreintation is a fact, race is a myth.

The main connection between race and sexual orientation (and gender) is that they have a history of being used to justify an inequity of basic human rights, despite the fact that all these people are human beings.

I do concur that a person’s behavior should have a bearing on their rights. For instance, I think there is some merit in curtailing the rights of pedophiles, that they should be supervised in the presence of children. Moreover, if we want to talk about marriage, I would go on to say that people whose behavior shows the capacity for love and commitment should have the right to be married.

Why is this such a difficult concept to grasp? Is it because Joe & Jill Average hate fags and lesbos?

Another interesting distinction is that people generally grow up with people of the same race as them (eg if you’re white, chances are your family also is), so any ‘culture’ is shared by people around you. If you’re gay, on the other hand, you’re pretty much on your own, until you find others like you.

Correspondingly, it’s possible to say that anyone could know/love someone who is gay, while a lot of people can honestly say they don’t know anyone of race X.

Don’t have a clue about what these things have to do with rights/equality, but I’d be interested to hear what others think.

This would largely dependent on whether you accept the idea that homosexuality is a genetic trait. That is that people are bon that way, if so then corollary is that it is in fact analogous to the civil rights movement. With the caveat that race is a social construct, of course. But I understand your usage. If you think it’s just a learned preference, they you probably would think it’s comparable. If it matters I hold the first view.

Up until this sentence I thought you were against same-sex marriages. This looks like you’re saying that people shouldn’t be denied fundamental rights because of their behavior. Where, if anywhere, am I misreading you?

i believe the claim is that behavior should be something against which laws can be made, whereas natural characteristics should not be discriminated against legislatively.

this is clearly not true, as pointed out by Stonebow. other examples of fundamental rights that are behavioral include the right to free speech, the right to vote, the right to marry and procreate (case law has determined that these are in fact “fundamental rights”), and the right to petition the government for redress of grievances.

also, i would note that sexual orientation is probably at least as much a social construct as race is. there are many examples of societies where the concept of gender has nothing to do with one’s sex, or the concept of sexuality has little to do with one’s gender or sex. the concept of sexual orientation might not even exist in these societies, and it seems rather arbitrary to make social distinctions based on it.

to address the op (finally), i think the current struggle is very much analogous to the civil rights movement. it seems there are two groups left that are ok to discriminate against, overweight people and homosexual people. once the myth that one’s sexuality can actively be chosen is eliminated, i think active discrimination based on sexual orientation will seem as arbitrary as it is, as arbitrary as discrimination based on skin color.

It depends on how we are defining “fundamental rights” here…

If you mean to argue that, for instance, serial murderers, should be able to walk around free of restraint in the wider community, then that is obviously not acceptable.

Indeed, the right to live and breath will be removed from such, if you happen to reside in certain American states or various middle eastern countries.

Probably yes, but untill it is determined once and for all that it is fixed at birth, and/or not just a social effect, can we really class them together?

ujan]…it seems there are two groups left that are ok to discriminate against, overweight people and homosexual people…

I would like to go on record as supporting the right for overweight people to marry.

Can we look forward to your condemnation of race based Affirmative Action in future threads? :slight_smile:

The problem isn’t that you’re misreading me, it’s that I’m contradicting myself because I’m really confused. I guess what I’m doing is trying to walk a very fine line. (Anyone who’s read my recent posts won’t be surprised to hear that, I’m sure). And I readily admit that my OP is not as clearly worded as I would have liked it to be because this is a subject that I am still wrestling with intellectually.

FWIW, I fully support gay marriage. And I count a large number of homosexuals as close friends and coworkers. But when I hear people claim that the fight for civil rights for homosexuals is the same thing as the fight for civil rights for blacks and women, something rings hollow to me.

I think that skin color (the term I should have used instead of race) and gender are physical traits. And while sexual orientation may not be a choice, it is only made manifest through one’s behavior. To deny someone their right to vote based on the color of their skin is a heinous act of prejudice because it makes a judgment about an individual based solely on a physical trait. The person in question didn’t “do” anything to warrant such treatment. But to deny someone the right to marry a person of their own sex isn’t so much an act of prejudice as a judgment about a person’s behavior. To some this may be splitting hairs, but I think its important to acknowledge the distinction in order to more effectively argue for equal treatment. Especially if you want to having a conversation with someone who opposes gay marriage that goes beyond: “You’re a bigot.” “No, I’m not.”

So I guess what I’m trying to figure out is whether or not this is an important distinction for other people.

Bravo! Best response I’ve seen on this board in some time. If only more people could really gasp these concepts.

My deep suspicion regarding Affirmative Action is a matter of record here on the SDMB. I fear that it is an earnest, but ill-conceived, effort to do something positive to ameliorate the damage of racism. I do not, however, condemn any attempt, however stumbling, to do good. Little enough, as it is.

You suffer from a misconception: that all of us who occupy the conservative wing of the extreme left think in lockstep. It might well be better if this were so, it is not. To quote the esteemed political philosopher Will Rogers “I don’t belong to any organized political party, I am a Democrat.”

E. blushes becomingly, and shrugs in an “aw shucks” sort of fashion, in an utterly futile attempt to appear modest and unassuming.

I don’t quite get the relevance of behavior here. Perhaps that is why Wrenchslinger is confused. (I assume the behavior in question is sex, not getting married.) First, the “behavior” is going on anyway. Second, by the recent Supreme Court ruling, the behavior is legal and constitutionally protected. So I don’t understand why SSM should be outlawed to prevent legal behavior.

In fact, considering what marriage does to most people’s sex lives, the prudes should be all for it. :slight_smile:

I’ve wrestled with this issue myself. Ultimately, regardless of whether sexual orientation is biological in origin (best evidence indicates that at least partly it is) or comparably socially or genetically to the texture of one’s hair*, or for that matter even if it’s 100% a choice and all gay people secretly choose to be gay (which I don’t even think most people in Kabul would believe) it doesn’t in any way change my belief in the rights of gay men and women to marry. As another poster commented, nobody is genetically Pentecostal or Eastern Orthodox or a Voodoo practitioner, yet religious freedom is granted without question.

As for blacks v. orientation in terms of “civil rights groupings”- the similarities definitely seem to outweigh the differences. Neither race nor orientation can be convincingly argued (i.e. using studies based on scientific evidence properly gathered and analyzed by qualified persons) to be a choice. Both represent a minority of the population in western cultures (although black people have Africa to claim as a homeland and gays have reclaimed urban areas with warehouse lofts). Both groups The subject of prejudice and have a history of persecution from others that is based on learned belief systems rather than on empirical merit. Both have had their marital ranges limited by laws based on non-scientific religious and political beliefs. Both have to endure stereotypes and really bad cardboard television portrayals (often by David Alan Grier in both cases).

(Certainly some black people would agree with the comparison judging by the voting records on whether state constitutions should be amended to ban gay marriages; consistently, the majority of black legislators have voted on the “gay side”.)

As to whether it’s easier to be black or be gay in modern times (assuming you’re not both, in which case you really have some bitching rights), that’s a real debate. OT1H, gays usually have a much easier time “passing” as the majority when convenient and aren’t that likely to be pulled over by cops for no apparent reason. OTOH, I believe it was E. Lynn Harris (the gay African-American author) who said “At least you never have to worry about how to tell your mother that you’re black.”

*Hair texture, not skin color, is the measurement of “race”. I believe I’m correct when I say that DNA testing will not reveal a person’s “race” (or, of course, their sexual orientation) with current technology because on the genetic level there’s no real difference (and besides which, we’re all muts).

Not true. DNA testing for certain genetic markers will correlate extermely well with what we call race. Actually, there are a number of genetic markers than can be used to determine the geographic location of a person’s ancestors. Geographic location correlates well with race. The technology does have problems with someone who is recently racially mixed, but there are different techniques that could be used to determine a person’s maternal and paternal background. And the science is getting better all the time.

There is no known genetic marker for gayness, however.

Is sexual orientation based only on behavior? I mean, couldn’t one be a virgin/celibate gay? And are you automatically gay if you have a homosexual encounter?

And is skin color a better term for race? As I sit here at the beach, my skin color shifts each minute.

Yes, I see the current struggle for SSM to be analogous to the civil rights movement. In fact, it is the civil rights movement! All the gays are asking for is civil rights (and not “separate but equal”).

I’ll equate them in this way:

1 - The person is different than I am
2 - The person cannot choose to become the same as I am
3 - The difference is entirely benign

It is #3 that makes it so awful that these people are denied rights.