Morality and the ‘Homosexual Rights’ Debate

The subject of “homosexual rights” is controversial for many reasons. Too many Americans, in spite of all their supposed enlightenment and tolerance, can’t handle the voicing of certain strong opinions particularly if those opinions include talk about morality.

The problem, as professor and author Gertrude Himmelfarb wrote a few years ago, is that too many of us “are embarrassed even by the idea of passing moral judgments in private affairs, let alone by the ‘intrusion’ as we say, of such judgments in public affairs.”

If this is to be a society run by adults, we need to get over that. Morality is simply defined as “a system of ideas of right and wrong conduct.” The purpose of such a system is not to impose random values but to set rules for those human behaviors that impact the social fabric. It’s what keeps billions of people on their side of a two-lane highway.

Supporters of traditional values have thus far done a poor job of explaining why they oppose the advance of the “homosexual rights” agenda. A more effective argument will prevent the aggressive “homosexual rights” community from achieving the kind of success the pro-abortion rights community did in 1973. After all, there isn’t going to be any Justice Harry Blackmuns coming to the rescue to overturn the laws of all fifty states through one ill-conceived court decision.

Homosexuality is not the next great crusade in the civil rights movement. Scholar and author James Q. Wilson has pointed out that following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, “Public attitudes toward race began to change dramatically.”

According to Wilson, this has not been the case regarding homosexuals: “Though the campaign to aid them has been going on vigorously for about a quarter of a century, it has produced few, if any, gains in public acceptance, and the greatest resistance, I think, has been with respect to homosexual marriages.”

Homosexuality is not the equivalent of skin pigment. Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell summed it up nicely several years ago when he said, “Skin color is a benign, non-behavioral characteristic. Sexual orientation is perhaps the most profound of human behavioral characteristics. Comparison of the two is a convenient but invalid argument.”

The issue of “homosexual rights” should be always discussed in its proper context – morality. Unfortunately our society still suffers from the confusion generated during the 1960s and 1970s. It still seems to want to keep the discussion of morality separate from the discussion of political issues. It’s as if the separation of the institutions of church and state somehow means an issue is either moral or political.

Part of this societal confusion is driven by moral relativists who see the existence of any ethical code as medieval, primitive, and unsophisticated.

I approach issues of morality independent from any church doctrine. This should disarm the religious bigots who have an ongoing holy war against any kind of moral standard. In fact it’s a matter of enormous curiosity to me that so much religious bigotry is tolerated within the very communities arguing for tolerance.

An example that homosexuality is primarily an issue of morality is the nod given to First Amendment freedoms when “religious exemptions” are added to non-discrimination laws. With such exemptions, religious institutions maintain their right, for example, to refuse to hire someone because of their sexual orientation. No such exemptions exist within non-discrimination statutes when it comes to the categories of race, gender, or age.

Many in our media driven pop-culture have fallen prey to the “can’t we all just get along?” argument. Well, yes, we can all get along, but that’s not the same as saying we’re all going to embrace everyone’s lifestyle.

The homosexual community will have to deal with that fact that this isn’t about race, this isn’t about religion, it’s about sexual behavior.

Homosexuals and their supporters have to realize that they will never be able to overcome the beliefs of countless millions of religious and non-religious Americans when it comes to “sexual orientation.”

Laws they seek to change have their basis in nature and moral tradition. History has taught us that civil societies remove those yellow lines from highways at their own peril.