Why is the "Is Homosexuality a Choice?" question even important?

In last night’s debate, Bob Schieffer asked the candidates whether they thought that homosexuality was a lifestyle choice. Why is this even an important question? With all the discrimination to which homosexuals are subjected, I don’t know why anyone would choose to be gay. But even if someone had control over their own sexual preference, what would that change? Should he or she have reduced rights because of that choice?

Ah, but see, that’s the whole point. If religious nuts are forced to admit that gays can’t help being gays, it becomes a whole lot more difficult to argue that we should be discriminating against them.

God would never force someone to sin. Since homosexuality is a sin, it must be a choice, evidence be damned.

Part of the answer is that if homosexuality is not a choice, then it is a immutable characteristic and homosexuals would qualify as a suspect class. If a group is a suspect class, then discrimination against it receives the highest level of scrutiny under the equal protection clause of the Constitution. That makes it much more difficult to justify discrimination when it comes to marriage or any other issue. Google “suspect class” and “homosexuality” and I’m sure you’ll find a more detailed explanation.

As a general rule you find that those who sympathize with gays and believe they should have equal rights recognize that it’s an innate characteristic. Those that oppose equal rights believe it is simply an immoral lifestyle and they should just cut it out. The moderator said he was trying to probe deeper to see where their views came from.

Q: Why is the “Is Homosexuality a Choice?” question even important?

A: It isn’t.

Really? I was an undecided voter last night, and that one pretty much sewed it up for me.

It’s based on a conflation of two definitions of “homosexuality”.

Orientation is not consciously chosen, and most religions do not teach that a homosexual orientation is sinful in and of itself.

Behavior is chosen, and it is this that most religions teach is sinful.

Can you stop yourself from being gay? Doubtful. Can you stop yourself from having sex with members of your own gender? Obviously.

From that point of view, it is like alcoholism. You may be genetically or otherwise predisposed to drink excessively. But you can, in theory, refrain from drinking.

Please note that I am not saying that this is easy, or always successful. But it is a different matter from trying to make yourself feel one way or the other, as well as from saying “I can’t stop myself - it’s who I am”.


From no legitimate point of view is sexual orientation like alcoholism. Period. End of sentence.

The official doctrine of the Catholic Church is that homosexuality is not a choice (it’s a “disorder”) and that has not stopped the religious nuts in the Vatican from doing everything they can think of to convince people to discriminate against homosexuals.

You think? I wonder. If a religion preaches that it is only behaviour that is sinful, why then do many churches have a problem with allowing celibate homosexual clergy?

The distinction between orientation/behaviour, love the sinner/hate the sin is a furphy. Sexual behaviour cannot be separated from sexual orientation, except only in the minds of a few desparate to justify their bigotry. The sin–as it were–is part and parcel of the so-called sinner.

Care to share on which side you fell?

Harry: “That sure is a tall drink over there”
Shodan: “I thought we were getting you help?”

I though Bob Schieffer was pretty much the useless tool last night for asking questions like this rather than about something more important like energy policy. The questions could have been much better.

Definite Kerry vote. I really dislike some of his policies, but could not in good conscience vote for a man who “doesn’t know” whether or not my sexuality was a choice.

I’d like to know what people’s opinions of Kerry’s mention of Dick Cheney’s daughter are. There’s currently an AP article where Cheney expresses some outrage. Personally, I think he has a right to be angry - Kerry’s quote just doesn’t resemble what he’s now saying it means:

Something just doesn’t parse correctly.

It was a poor, out-of-place question, so I don’t fault either candidate for an awkward response. But Kerry’s debate quote says nothing about families, or the Cheneys. I dunno.

I don’t know of many who do. None of the mainstream Protestant denominations, nor the Roman Catholics, object (AFAIK)to ordination of celbate homosexuals.

I don’t know what a furphy is, but you are correct that one side is determined to imply that sexual behavior is outside of human control.

It is not, fortunately, else every straight man would be a rapist.

Um - :confused:


Hee hee…

I’m not sure I agree that it’s an accurate analogy, but it’s clever. Inaccurate because when he says…

Shodan is comparing wanting a drink to having homosexual desires. Neither can really be averted, but actually acting on those urges can. This assumes that

Not that acting on the urge to diddle your same-sex partner has the consequences of an alcoholic relapsing, since as far as I’m concerned what one does in his bedroom is his own business, while I think the consequences to friends and family of an alcoholic (even ignoring an alcoholic’s greater possibility of driving while impaired etc due to the inherent lessened ability to control the amount that one drinks) are fairly well-documented.

Very crude but very true. Logically I suppose. From the view point of a literalist.

God hardened Pharoah’s heart against Moses, didn’t He?

Behavior is controllable. Orientation isn’t. How difficult is this to comprehend? Hell, I didn’t lose my virginity until I was 25. It is perfectly possible not to have sex…regardless of which gender you want to get it on with.

Bingo. “What causes homosexuality” is a semi-interesting biological/sociological question, but it no longer has any relevance whatsoever to a discussion of politics or social policy. (Assuming it ever had any relevance).

It’s used by opponents of gay rights, usually those who oppose them on religious grounds, who rationalize their opposition by saying, “love the sinner, but hate the sin.” In other words, it’d be “wrong” to hate someone for being gay, but it’s perfectly acceptable to condemn a person for “indulging” in homosexual acts. It’s the same line of thought as “I don’t mind gay people; I just don’t see why they have to act gay.”

To one of these opponents, the whole “ex-gay” movement is crucial, because it “proves” that people can choose not to act on their sexual impulses and can live their lives as normal, straight people. By that reasoning, it’s completely unlike so-called real civil rights movements, because unlike race or sex, sexual orientation can be changed and therefore should not be protected.

For many of these opponents, the “Gay Agenda” is perceived as saying, “We can’t help being this way! Pity us and leave us alone!” And opposition reinforces the notion that someone who is openly homosexual has either chosen to buck the standards of society, or was too weak to suppress his or her base, carnal desires.

Fortunately, it’s 2004, and most of us have progressed in our understanding of human sexual desire and behavior to where we no longer make statements such as this:

which implies that no heterosexual women have sexual desire or get pleasure from sex, and that every heterosexual man is driven by nothing more than sexual desire and would have sex with every woman available if not for moral, religious, and societal constraints.

Obviously, this is a complete (and somewhat disturbing) fallacy.

Hopefully, more people are realizing that the burden of proof isn’t on homosexuals to prove that they can’t help being the way they are. They are right, in a sense, by saying that it’s not homosexuality itself that’s important, it’s homosexual behavior. And the reason it’s important: the burden of proof is on the opponents of gay rights, to show how homosexual behavior is damaging, harmful, or even “less” in any way.

Unfortunately, as long as people cling to all the connotations of “homosexual” that they currently have, the distinction will be lost and the question of whether it’s a “choice” will continue to be important to them. It would be nice if people understood that the choice is whether or not a person wants to live well and have an active, healthy, and respectful sex life, instead of living out the rest of his life in promiscuity and hedonism, or shame and self-loathing.