A new battle over sexual orientation
When did you choose to become straight?
By demographic distribution (about 95 percent of the population identifies as heterosexual), the majority of you reading this column are straight. You no more chose this sexual orientation than gays or lesbians choose theirs. Yet a new study published in the fall issue of the nonpeer-reviewed journal The New Atlantis by Johns Hopkins University’s Lawrence S. Mayer and Paul R. McHugh on “Sexuality and Gender” claims that “our scientific knowledge in this area remains unsettled,” that there is no “scientific evidence for the view that sexual orientation is a fixed and innate biological property,” and that no one is “born that way.” This sounds so 1990s, the last time the gender wars heated up. What’s going on here?
One clue comes from the journal’s co-publisher, the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC), “dedicated to applying the Judeo-Christian moral tradition to critical issues of public policy.” Already we’re off the science page. EPPC scholars, its Web page continues, “have consistently sought to defend and promote our nation’s founding principles—respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, individual freedom and responsibility, justice, the rule of law, and limited government.”
Shouldn’t such principles apply to everyone regardless of whether or not their sexual orientation is biologically determined? Of course, and in most Western countries today they do. But in Judeo-Christian America, the argument goes like this: The Bible says that homosexuality is a sin (Leviticus 20:13). If sexual orientation has a strong biological component, then gays and lesbians can hardly be held morally culpable for their sinful ways. But if it’s a choice, then they can be rehabilitated (through “conversion therapy”) and forgiven (“love the sinner, hate the sin” goes the popular trope). Evangelist Jimmy Swaggart articulated the logic this way: “While it is true that the seed of original sin carries with it every type of deviation, aberration, perversion, and wrongdoing, the homosexual cannot claim to have been born that way any more than the drunkard, gambler, killer, etc.” (continue reading…)