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The Racism Analogy:

Various comments on my post below have raised the racism analogy -- if we wouldn't worry about the burdens that the civil rights movement have imposed on racists (or anti-Semites or what have you), why should we worry about the burdens that the successes of the gay rights movement may impose on those who are anti-gay?

Well, as I mentioned in my earlier post, one can certainly conclude that the burdens are justified; if that's so, then my point is still relevant, but only as a way to better "understand why those who do not value gay rights highly -- because, for instance, they believe that homosexual behavior is immoral and harmful to society -- would fight hard against expansions in gay rights, and resist claims of the 'It's none of your business whom I have sex with, so why are you objection to various gay rights proposals?' variety."

On the other hand, while I (as I said) support a good deal of gay rights claims, I'm far from convinced that opposition to homosexuality is quite comparable to racism. I hope to have somewhat more on this later (though not a vast amount, since I'm not sure how much beyond the obvious I can add to that debate). But it's not clear to me that, for instance, the Catholic Church should be viewed as tantamount to the Church of the Creator, or even to considerably less militant racist groups. It's likewise not clear to me that the Boy Scouts should be viewed as tantamount to a "whites-only Scouts." (I'm also pretty sure that many people, including those who, like me, oppose laws that would make homosexuality into a crime, oppose the exclusion of gays from the military, and support same-sex marriage, would say something similar.)

Perhaps, even if I'm right on this, the reason for this isn't some logical distinction between hostility to homosexuality and racial hostility, but rather just cultural history: Because the big battles over racism happened some decades before the big battles over gay rights, many otherwise decent groups and individuals still have a blind spot about homosexuality. Then, even if hostility to homosexuality and racial hostility are morally equivalent, those who are hostile to homosexuality may often be decent people who haven't yet caught up to the truth on gay rights, while racists are likely to be generally bad people altogether. Nonetheless, even if that's so, we might still be more concerned about burdening (even in constitutionally permissible ways) these often-decent-but-on-this-wrongheaded people's speech and religious practice than about burdening racist's speech and religious practice.

On the other hand, perhaps my tentative judgment on this is wrong; perhaps the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts really are morally tantamount to racist organizations. But if that's so, then that just further explains the intensity with which many traditionalists are fighting the gay rights movement: If the essence of that movement is to suggest that traditionalist religious and social groups are morally tantamount to racists, those traditionalist groups have a great deal to lose (whether rightly or wrongly) in this particular culture war.

Greedy Clerk (mail):
EV: I'm far from convinced that opposition to homosexuality is quite comparable to racism. I hope to have somewhat more on this later (though not a vast amount, since I'm not sure how much beyond the obvious I can add to that debate). But it's not clear to me that, for instance, the Catholic Church should be viewed as tantamount to the Church of the Creator, or even to considerably less militant racist groups.

I am afraid this is typical Eugene Volokh straw-man. It is possible, indeed very possible, to believe that homophobia is akin to racism and antisemitism and still believe that the Catholic Church is NOT tantamount to the Church of the Creator. Just because the Catholic Church is wrong on one issue (among the thousands of issues upon which it has a position) does not mean it is tantamount to the Church of the Creator, the existence of which is for the purpose of racism, etc. What a poor, poor effort at argument.
6.16.2006 9:02pm
Fishbane (mail):
Greedy Clerk: I caught that, too. There's also an intensity issue: racism, for instance, comes in in degrees. (Having lived in the rural south for some time, there were many otherwise fairly decent people who were what I came to think of as casual racists - they'd say foul things, but not about "the good ones" they knew, etc. These types would never think of joining the CoC.)

OTOH, your tone isn't very helpful to the discussion.
6.16.2006 9:19pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
Do you really think that it was this long ago in this country that it was not only socially acceptable to be virulantly racist, but was practically a requirement to climb in certain social circles. We are talking about in the last fifty years.
6.16.2006 9:28pm
Greg (www):
In 1948, 90% of Americans opposed interracial marriage. In 2000 it was considered crazy and anachronistic that Bob Jones University banned interracial dating.
6.16.2006 9:32pm
Hattio (mail):
I have to agree with Fishbane. The notion that racists are automatically bad people is very comforting. It just happens to be wrong. The only difference is, most people are willing to admit to their homophobia, so therefore we acknowledge there are good people who are homophobes. Less people admit to racism (and I would assume less are racist) so we assume they are all like the cross-burners, etc that we see on tv.
6.16.2006 9:34pm
Brett Bellmore (mail):
I would think it's obvious that race, being largely just a matter of appearance, is quite different from homosexuality, which is a matter of behavior. And that there's something fundamentally different between treating people differently based on how they look, and based on how they act.

Indeed, if you're not going to base your opinion of people on how they act, what's left to have an opinion about? Astrological signs?

So, while one might quibble about whether somebody's opinion of homosexuality is justified, (Just as you might argue over whether any sort of behavior is good or bad.) behavior IS the sort of thing one expects people to discriminate on the basis of. Discrimination on the basis of homosexuality falls into a completely different catagory from bigotry.
6.16.2006 9:37pm
Paddy O. (mail):
The distinction that has to be made is that religious groups are not looking at this as matter of identity. Being black was always about one's inherent race. Being homosexual, however, is still not fully agreed what is exactly being argued against. Those who support gay rights, rightly or wrongly, argue it is a matter of identity. Religious groups argue, rightly or wrongly, that it is a matter of ethics.

This is why tarring the other side with some label such as deviant or racist only caters to the respective choirs.

That's a huge difference of approach and why many religious people who are otherwise exceedingly friendly and giving do not categorize race and orientation the same way. And this is also why those who do, see such obvious connections.

Religious groups have centuries, millenia, of considering sexuality as inherent to spirituality, morality, and ethics.

Yes you can see homophobia as akin to racism. But, in the same way a faithful religious follower (not just Christian) can dispute the charge of homophobia with claims for broad and strict sexual ethics.

Most folks believe it is wrong to do wrong things, even as most folks also agree that racism or discrimination based on inherent identity is wrong. The disagreement, like it or not, is which this issue represents. Good people, very good people, are on both sides of this fence.

Calling someone equivalent to a racist for holding one side is essentially the same as calling someone deviant for holding the other side. According to the varying perspectives these are apt descriptions, only they are not at all very good at describing how most, genuinely thoughtful, people are seeing themselves.

This is the battle. It has to be continually and increasingly shown this is an identity, not to be included in very well-established sexual ethics. Religious groups have never considered race an ethical question, but that is precisely what they are wrestling with now with homosexuality. Those on the homosexual side are dealing with groups who consider a great deal of all sexual activity in our present society to be a deviation from the norm. And they are also dealing with groups who historically were at the forefront of the civil rights issue going back centuries.

Labeling the other side with some term of derision, even if it feels good and seems to fit according to your perspective, simply doesn't advance the conversation.
6.16.2006 9:37pm
ThinkerDude (mail):
Most folks who view homosexual conduct as morally wrong, don't hate homosexuals -- they merely view their sexual conduct as wrong. These same folks also view fornication and drunkenness as wrong, but they don't hate all the fornicators and alcohol abusers. You hear religious people say "hate the sin, but not the sinner" and I think they truly believe this. This differs from hatred aimed at the status of being a certain race. Now, this line of thinking may seem wrong to you, but I would rather be dealing with a person that hates an action rather than a person. Someone who cares about others but thinks they do wrong things, has the greater good of all in mind, whereas the person who hates a person with a certain status, is merely acting upon his prejudices and nothing more. I think there is hope for this world if we have many more misguided-good-intentioned people rather than those who oppose homosexuality merely out of their prejudices.
6.16.2006 9:51pm
DanielH (mail):
As one of the people who made the race analogy, let me make a few points.

First, when we talk about discrimination or equal protection, we often rely on certain language or history in order to make a point. Comparing animus against gays with animus against Blacks, for instance, is of course flawed. OTOH, the "language" we lose in talking about oppression and animus in this country is built on the civil rights movement. It is the example which is most vivid in the minds of Americans, and thus creates the perfect "language" for talking abou rights and animus and discrimination.

It's helpful, in part, because most people understand the history. People understand slavery, people understand Brown v. Bd. of Educaiton, people understand bans on interrracial marriage. Thus, that language and those comparisons are helpfuil in talking about issues of anmius and equal protection

Sexual orientation is not like race. Race is not like religion. Religion is not like gender. So we are stuck with making imperfect examples in order to have a language to discuss all of these things.

On he issue of religion, this is a special bind. There is a history of religious rationalization for discrimination. The slaveholders bought slaves while holding Bibles. Opposition to school segregation and interraicial marriage was made by religious people . . . relgious people who have the same faith traditions of the most vocal people opposed to rights for gays and lesbians.

Finally, African Americans do not hold a veto power on who can use the term "civil rights" or "race" analogies.
6.16.2006 10:12pm
logicnazi (mail) (www):
But it's not clear to me that, for instance, the Catholic Church should be viewed as tantamount to the Church of the Creator, or even to considerably less militant racist groups.


Whether or not Catholics should be viewed as tantamount to the Church of the Creator depends on the question being asked. While I think both groups support harmful and discrimatory policies I think the CotC types are considerably more blameworthy. Also while ultimately both groups are driven more by emotion and tradition than reason I think there is a sense in which many catholics can be said to be more well intentioned and reasonable. Though of course this might just reflect the greater social acceptance of catholic views.

So yes if I found out someone was a CotC member I would oppose their nomination to SCOTUS but I wouldn't if they were catholic.

However, whether or not these groups should count as equivalent in terms of rights considerations is a completely different question. Essential to the notion of a right is the ability to exercise it even in ways others would find objectionable. If you pass a law that I can't name any horse, 'die nigger die' my rights have been restricted even if I have no intention of doing so and such an act would be morally indefensable. As you have rightly pointed out yourself laws that restrict hate speech are objectionable infringements of the right to free speech regardless of the underlying merit of the speech.

Now it isn't just racist or sexist comments that can get one fired from this sort of political viewpoint. You would likely get fired if you claimed to have a religious belief that all kids should be given free heroin, that watching child porn is a holy sacrement, or just belong to a religion that advocates orgies. Hell you would probably get fired if you just advocated an extreme form of polygamy as a religiously sanctioned practice.

If you are going to claim that firing anyone in a similar situation for any of the above beliefs is just as much a danger to our rights then fine. But it isn't consistant to claim these aren't violations of our rights but firing for anti-gay remarks is.

Now we can have an interesting policy question about whether anti-gay religious beliefs ought to be given greater consideration and protection than other less popular beliefs but this is no longer a question about religious freedom. Religious freedom is the right to believe what you want, not to believe what society has deemed appropriate or at least sufficently inoffensive. Thus the fact that Catholics might not be morally equivalent to CotC members is just totally irrelevant to the question of religious freedom.

I mean taking your argument to an extreme would allow one to accept laws that banned Hinduism but then cry foul about a law that banned recognition of Mary as without sin justifying your position by claiming believing those catholic things just isn't equivalent to believing those absurd Hindu beliefs. In other words your argument would have society decide whether a religious belief was sufficently palatable/reasonable to deserve protection even though this s exactly the sort of judgement the right to religious liberty was designed to prevent.
6.16.2006 10:31pm
Arvin (mail) (www):
Think about it this way: say little Johnny grows up in a KKK family. All his life he is surrounded by people who tell him that blacks are bad. The only time he hears about blacks is when a black person has done something bad. Nothing good done by a black person is ever shown to him. When he gets to be of age, he looks around, sees black people demanding to be treated as equal.

Is anyone going to be surprised that Johnny will fervently and passionately fight against this? That the more you treat blacks equally, the more social pressure will build against Johnny to not express his sincere disapproval of blacks? You could even say it's through no fault of Johnny's that he holds these views: almost ANYONE raised in an environment like that would have ended up with the same views.

So I understand Johnny. And I would say that he is not an evil or bad person, he is simply a product of his environment. The real question to me is, do I care if innocent Johnny, who, through no fault of his own, has these abhorrent views, who really believes that we're doing the wrong thing by treating blacks as equal, is uncomfortable? Not a bit. Do I care that he will be socially scorned for expressing his views and that he resents this? Not a bit. I might think of ways to try to teach him different things, I might try to show him what I think are the error of his ways, but will I say that his discomfort should be considered in the way blacks are treated? Not at all.

So I understand that lots of usually perfectly nice people have views against gay people and gay rights, and they don't think of themselves as bad, and they want to be able to express their feelings without being made to feel outcast. Do I care that society is going in a direction that is going to marginalize these people in this area? Not a bit. In fact, I applaud it.
6.16.2006 10:31pm
logicnazi (mail) (www):
Or to put it succinctly your notion of religious rights doesn't seem to be content neutral and gives greater rights to those whose beliefs (not consequences) are deemed less reasonable. Thus in effect this argument would give greater rights to catholics than CotC members to fend off government action. However, as you remark in your original post giving greater rights to some takes away rights from others.
6.16.2006 10:34pm
Just:
"So I understand that lots of usually perfectly nice people have views against gay people and gay rights, and they don't think of themselves as bad, and they want to be able to express their feelings without being made to feel outcast. Do I care that society is going in a direction that is going to marginalize these people in this area? Not a bit. In fact, I applaud it."

I agree with this argument.
I understand Eugene and Ilya's personal concern -- I too know religious people, who are otherwise very intelligent and kind, whose views on homosexuality stem from their relgion. I too am sympathetic -- to a point.

What I suspect Eugene -- Prof. Volokh, to be formal and keep from being banned -- is doing here however, is troublesome to me. He is continually covering himself, since I suspect he knows which way the wind is pointing -- "not me, of course, I support gay rights ... up to a point, and verbally I'm going to keep repeating that." Yet he would allow the cloak of religion to shield otherwise rational beliefs about individuals and our society.

If libertarianism were easy, everyone would climb aboard. This are the types of issues where you have to pick your side of the fence. Walk the walk, so to speak.

And again, I sympathize with those whose religious beliefs strongly influence their thinking on this issue. Sympathizing does not cloud my reasoning, or offer up this kind of conundrum: "...perhaps the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts really are morally tantamount to racist organizations." (what about Orthodox Jews?)
6.16.2006 11:08pm
Paddy O. (mail):
Arvin, that same exact point can be made by a religious conservative about a society which de-emphasizes sexual mores. They understand a homosexual who has grown up sexually abused would grow up with a "deficient" sexual identity but they will not accept that a permissive sexual society justifies more allowances.

In the same way they don't care if such a person is restricted from acting as they feel they should act.

This isn't to say this side is right, it is to say the arguments and accusitions go in circles because the core issue of what homosexuality is has not been settled.

In our society one cannot paint all those who are against homosexual rights as being locked up in a fundamentalist closet. Many religious people have wrestled with this on their own and come to the conclusion, as with other matters of sexuality, there is a line to be drawn different than broader society.

Racism has been justified by religion but it was also battled by religion. Slavery was fought by religious conservatives in the north.

How wise human wisdom seems to herself when justifying her own pleasures, an early Christian once wrote. Both sides accuse the other of doing the justifying in this context and have all sorts of nasty words, hateful histories, and regretable extremists to trot out in order to paint the other side as deviant as possible.
6.16.2006 11:12pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):

On the other hand, while I (as I said) support a good deal of gay rights claims, I'm far from convinced that opposition to homosexuality is quite comparable to racism.


This sentiment is fast becoming a strawman. I don't think homosexuality must make any kind of near perfect analogy to race in order to establish the claim that anti-gay bigotry exists.

Consider, whatever one's opinion on the "choice" aspect associated with homosexuality, we should all be able to agree that one's religion is far more of a choice than one's sexual orientation.

So, does, for instance anti-Catholicism exist? If the answer is yes, then it's possible to be bigoted against something that is entirely a matter of choice.

If we lived in a world where race and race only were the only "civil rights" or "social group" category against which one could be bigoted, then the point "you can't compare sexual orientation to race" would be apt.

But that's not the world in which we live.
6.16.2006 11:28pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):

I would think it's obvious that race, being largely just a matter of appearance, is quite different from homosexuality, which is a matter of behavior. And that there's something fundamentally different between treating people differently based on how they look, and based on how they act.


This is nonesense. Homosexuality, though there may be a behavioral element associated with it, is not defined by behavior but rather by unchosen and unchangeable orientation. And there are also unchosen stereotypical characteristics of homosexuals, that not all homosexuals have, and most probably don't fit the stereotype so hard, but nonetheless, by no fault of their own, there are some homosexuals who have a "no closet can hold me" aspect about themselves.

Case in point, Liberace. He denied being homosexual. And even, I think, went so far as to sue for defamation someone who accused him of so being.

Yet, through no fault and no choice of his own (and just like with race) everybody knew he was homosexual.
6.16.2006 11:36pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
Jon Rowe: No, you beg the question. It is not settled belief among all--including among all genetic scientists--that homosexuality is an "unchosen and unchangeable orientation".

And if homosexuality is deemed to be genetically determined, then how do you challenge the right of society to cleanse itself of "bad genes"? We look for genetic fixes to other "disorders" after all?
6.17.2006 12:01am
logicnazi (mail) (www):
I think Marcus1 summarized what I want to say much more succinctly in the other thread. Essentially what he seems to be getting at is this.

There are questions of rights, namely is it acceptable to punish someone for having some religion or expressing some view. This question was answered for political appointees once we decided we were okay with firing people for being CotC members or other small sects with disturbing views.

Seperatly there is the question of what society decides is an acceptable opinion. What we are observing with the gay rights movement is just a change in what society thinks are acceptable views not a change in the rights of people to have unacceptable views.
6.17.2006 12:21am
Alan K. Henderson (mail) (www):
Comparing race and sexual orientation is comparing apples and oranges. The former is irrelevant to what defines morality and sanity; the latter is not. A lot of people believe (and not just on religious grounds) that homosexuality is a psychological disorder and is changeable, and as long as nobody has disproven either of those claims we need to accept that rational people can have a difference of opinion on the nature of homosexuality.
6.17.2006 1:10am
Just:
"A lot of people believe (and not just on religious grounds) that homosexuality is a psychological disorder and is changeable, and as long as nobody has disproven either of those claims we need to accept that rational people can have a difference of opinion on the nature of homosexuality."

A lot of people believe that the number of people who think homosexuality is a psychological disorder is dropping and represents minority thinking on the issue. We need to accept that this way of thinking is changeable though, and work to stigmatize it out of existence.
6.17.2006 1:24am
Greg (www):
With respect to behavior v. appearance or relevance to "morality and sanity" see above - interracial marriage. 80 years ago, sentiment was universally against interracial marriage. (Which, by the way, is BEHAVIOR.) Here's Andrew Sullivan quoting a Tennessee case from the turn of the century:

To give a flavor of the feelings aroused by such matters, here's part of the Tennessee state supreme court's judgment in the late nineteenth century, refusing to recognize a marriage between a white man and a black woman. If such a marriage were allowed to stand, the court reasoned, "we might have in Tennessee the father living with his daughter, the son with the mother, the brother with his sister, in lawful wedlock... the Turk or the Mohammedan, with his numerous wives, may establish his harem at the doors of the capitol, and we are without remedy. Yet none of these are more revolting, more to be avoided, or more unnatural than the case before us."


Clearly, back then, reasonable people believed that interracial marriage was immoral. That didn't change the fact that it was right to impose the burden of societal pressure for them to modify their views.
6.17.2006 1:25am
Arvin (mail) (www):
Paddy O: I'm quite sure that an anti-gay person could use the same analogy that I used: poor Jimmy, he grew up thinking there was nothing with being gay. Well, it's not his fault, he's a product of his environment. Just like those klansmen who grew up thinking it was okay to lynch blacks.

But that's precisely my point: because this analogy can likely be used everywhere, it's useless. I'm rather sure that anti-gay people who think that gays are just misguided, are not sitting at home fretting that the legislation they push for is going to increase the social scorn on gays, even if they think that gays are just misguided products of an immoral upbringing.

It doesn't matter who's FAULT it is that gays are gay or anti-gays are anti-gay. The question really is who do you (generic you) want to win? I want the gays to win. So I really don't care if anti-gays start feeling like they can't express their views without inviting scorn. Even if they've "done nothing wrong", and are just expressing their honest moral viewpoints.

Do I understand that anti-gays feel the same way except for the opposite viewpoint? Sure. And I even understand why they feel that way. I just don't much care, or feel like it's a problem.
6.17.2006 1:27am
davod (mail):
John Burgess's comments regarding bad genes is interesting. Who determines what are bad genes. In England abortions are being carried out because scans show the fetus has a cleft palate. Will discovery of the homosexual gene in a fetus be reason for aborting.
6.17.2006 5:10am
Alan K. Henderson (mail) (www):
A lot of people believe that the number of people who think homosexuality is a psychological disorder is dropping and represents minority thinking on the issue. We need to accept that this way of thinking is changeable though, and work to stigmatize it out of existence.


So what is the proof that that way of thinking is wrong?
6.17.2006 6:06am
Public_Defender (mail):
I'm sure that 50 years ago, a lot of racists were otherwise very nice people. The same with anti-gay people today.

I think that religious discrimination is a better analogy. Since people can choose their religion, you can always argue that they can change.

Further, religious discrimination is arguably more biblically based than the anti-gay position. The New Testament is clear--the most important moral act a person can do is accept Jesus as savior. If we can discriminate against people who violate the little "rules" (like, in some people's mind, not being gay), then we absolutely must discriminate against people who violate Rule Number One.

On another note, some people religiously believe that being anti-gay is morally the same as being a racist. Would conservatives argue that these religious liberals have no right to profess their belief and act on it? Or are only conservative religious beliefs protected?
6.17.2006 6:47am
Frank Drackmann (mail):
I think the current anti-obesity sentiment will be looked on as the racism of the early 20th century is today. What a joke that the former 350 pound Governor of Arkansaw (Huckabee, not Clinton) goes around bragging about his diet plan. Think of the outrage if a reformed Barney Frank went around preaching for kids to lay off the tube steak.
6.17.2006 9:00am
Alan K. Henderson (mail) (www):
Aside from the oft-talked-about direct references to homosexuality, Biblical opposition to homosexuality draws its conclusion from a) the Bible's repeated condemnations of nonmarital sex, and b) its definition of marriage as an exclusively heterosexual union (Matt. 19:4-6). If a psychological orientation has no morally acceptable outlet, then logic suggests that there must be something wrong with it.

Most humans tend to suspect that any sexual orientation that is rare, or for which the human body is not properly designed/evolved to accommodate, is weird at best.

Many people instinctively understand that every single psychological orientation known to humanity is mutable (some more so than others), and see no reason to suspect that sexual orientation should be the sole exception.

Some people are aware of the decades of psychological studies whose findings are summarized thus:

Research suggests that social and psychological factors are strongly influential. Examples include problems in early family relationships, sexual seduction, and sense of inadequacy with same-sex peers, with resulting disturbance in gender identity. Society can also influence a sexually questioning youth when it encourages gay self-labeling.

In 1973 the American Psychological Association removed homosexuality from its list of sexual disorders. (Ironically, the man who led the effort now claims that sexual reorientation therapy actually works for some people.) The official reason for the change is harder to find than Osama bin Laden. There was no highly publicized fisking of 80+ years of research. Many suspect that it was sheer politics; gay activist organizations of that time were lobbying the APA quite heavily. The bottom line is this: average folks have no idea why the APA (well, actually its leadership, or rather a fraction thereof) ruled as it did.

Opposition to interracial marriage never had a basis in science. And it ignored history - just about all of us are descended from long lines of miscegenation. People fail to get this because they assume that the common racial generalizations such as "white" and "black" are each a distinct race rather than a collection of similar races.
6.17.2006 9:32am
Hovsep Joseph (mail) (www):
I've long thought that anti-gay sentiment is more akin to anti-Jewish sentiment (or other anti-minority religion sentiment) than racism. Both gays and Jews certainly have the ability to change their behavior to the "norm" by having heterosexual relationships and/or worshiping Jesus. People have viewed both groups as willfully violating Biblical proscriptions and felt that exclusion of gays and Jews and discrimination against them was therefore justified. The reason we should not exclude and discriminate against Jews and gays is that, even though they can change, its not reasonable for us to demand that they change these kinds of deep-seated beliefs. Most gays and Jews probably cannot give an intellectual defense of their status as such--they just know in their core that that is who they are.
6.17.2006 9:38am
Frank Drackmann (mail):
Yeah Yeah Yeah the Bibles also against Masturbation..instead of "A day without Immigrants" consider a "A day without anyone who's spanked the Monkey" how many people would be left?
6.17.2006 9:59am
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
Re: The APA.

You should read my post on the death of Charles Socarides very carefully. The best reason why I can give you why homosexuality was taken off the list was their was no good reason for it to be on the list to beging with. It's initial inclusion on the list was what was political.

As far as I know, the first DSM wasn't produced until the 1950s and thus homosexuality was only "on" the list for a short time and presently has been "off" the list longer than on.

Simply bringing up homosexuality's status as a "mental disorder" to try to score points against it is an abuse of the language and phenomenon of mental disorders. Mental disorders are socially neutral phenomena and given civil rights protection under the ADA and other state and local disabilities law. Abe Lincoln, while he may not have been gay, had a "mental disorder." As likely did Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.

For more, read my post.
6.17.2006 10:32am
Gabor (mail):
Let's all remember that nearly everytime the Boy Scouts gets mentioned in the context of this issue or in the issue of religion, including the SCOTUS decision of 2000: the fact that the BSA were granted a special status by Congress. This grants the BSA (much like MLB) a monopoly on the name Scouting and, from this, considerable room to effectively restrain the competition from other scouting-like organizations. (In Canada and Germany, and several other countries, instead of a single centralized and monopolistic scouting organization, there are a number of competing organizations, each with its own profile and associations, this allows for individual scouting organizations to define their own membership profile).

I was a cub scout in the early 70s, and was pleased to be an organization that appeared to be truly open to all and took its status with considerable benevolance. I was disappointed to observe now, in the case of my own son, that there are now very clear lines on the membership, and those who stray from these lines are quickly made to feel unwelcome. I can respect that, but having established the BSA as the sole provider of scouting in the US, the lack of alternatives is a definite violation of my son's freedom of association. Since BSA membership has seriously declined in recent years, one must ask if the special status is still warranted.
6.17.2006 11:01am
MDJD2B (mail):
[Race]is the example which is most vivid in the minds of Americans, and thus creates the perfect "language" for talking abou rights and animus and discrimination.It's helpful, in part, because most people understand the history....Thus, that language and those comparisons are helpfuil in talking about issues of anmius and equal protection...Sexual orientation is not like race...So we are stuck with making imperfect examples in order to have a language to discuss all of these things.

DanH,

Let's see if I understand what you are saying. Race and sexual orientation are not the same. But people think racism is bad. So even though sexual orientation is different, the analogy with race is a good thing with which to bludgeon people who have reservations about homosexual behavior.

You may not be logical, but at least you're honest.
6.17.2006 11:49am
Shangui (mail):
Most folks who view homosexual conduct as morally wrong, don't hate homosexuals -- they merely view their sexual conduct as wrong. These same folks also view fornication and drunkenness as wrong, but they don't hate all the fornicators and alcohol abusers. You hear religious people say "hate the sin, but not the sinner" and I think they truly believe this.

I'll believe this when "alchoholic bashing" and "fornicator bashing" become a phenomenon on a par with "fag bashing." There are plenty of people who still hate homosexuals because the latter are attracted to people of the same sex, whether or not they ever act on that feeling. Do you think men that get beaten up for being "fags" were caught in the act and then punished by people who disapproved of their behavior? Give me a break.
6.17.2006 12:01pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
Great point Shangui. Consider, if this guy were walking down the street, he probably stands a greater chance of being gay bashed than me (I'm gay) because he fits the stereotype a lot more than I do.

But, he doesn't self-identify as gay, and for all I know, has never had any kind of homosexual sex whatsover. Perhaps he doesn't even have a homosexual orientation (I strongly doubt that though). He hangs out with fundamentalist Christians who do gay bash with their rhetoric. So he is the way he is, through no fault and no choice of his own.

A bunch of thugs see him walking down the street and think "oh there's a nelly f@g, let's get 'em."
6.17.2006 1:06pm
Ken Arromdee:
Let's see if I understand what you are saying. Race and sexual orientation are not the same. But people think racism is bad. So even though sexual orientation is different, the analogy with race is a good thing with which to bludgeon people who have reservations about homosexual behavior.

But as others have pointed out, while race and sexual orientation are different in this way, religion and sexual orientation are not, yet we consider it wrong to discriminate on the basis of religion.
6.17.2006 1:34pm
Medis:
Like many other commentators, I would note that:

(A) many otherwise "decent" people were (and some still are) racist, and that is similarly true of anti-semitism, anti-Catholicism, and so on;

(B) for the purposes of this discussion it is largely irrelevant whether homosexuality is genetic, environmental, simply a matter of choice, or any combination thereof, given that religion is clearly a matter of choice too.

I'd just add two minor thoughts.

First, racism was usually not just about biological characteristics either. Rather, the idea was that certain behaviors were appropriate only for some races and not others, because of alleged differences in kind (and often quality) between the races. So, "marrying a white woman" is obviously a behavior, and a matter of choice, but it is nonetheless racist to say "black men should not be allowed to marry white women; only white men should be allowed to marry white women."

And although a lot of effort has been expended by some people trying to rationalize anti-gay discrimination as based on anything but negative feelings about gayness, I think it is usually clear that such feelings are what is truly motivating them. In that sense, I appreciate people who are willing to say that gay people would "corrupt" marriage/children/etc., and that "clean" people will thus oppose gay marriage/adoption/etc. At least these people are being honest about the fact that is "gayness" itself which they find inherently bad and dangerous, and they are not trying to claim that some general principle(s) of theirs just happens to keep singling out gay people for disparate treatment. Nonetheless, to say (explicitly or merely implicitly) that gay people are inherently bad and dangerous and must be kept away from marriage/children/etc. is really the same sort of thing as saying that black men must be kept away from white women.

Second, as others have noted, one of the reasons why otherwise decent people can be racists, anti-semitic, anti-gay, and so on is that they are told by their coreligionists that decent people simply must have such feelings. In other words, it hardly counts as a defense of this particular form of social ill that it is based in part on religious teachings, because that has usually been true of such similar social ills.
6.17.2006 2:20pm
SLS 1L:
Most folks who view homosexual conduct as morally wrong, don't hate homosexuals -- they merely view their sexual conduct as wrong. These same folks also view fornication and drunkenness as wrong, but they don't hate all the fornicators and alcohol abusers. You hear religious people say "hate the sin, but not the sinner" and I think they truly believe this.
I think they think they believe it, but if you look at actual behavior and how it gets implemented in practice, it's not true. The level of animosity that gets directed at gays and lesbians, whether "practicing" or not, far exceeds the animosity directed toward any sin that's not a capital offense. And many conservatives seem to think that even celibate gays are unsuitable for leadership roles in the church. See, e.g., the new ban on gay Catholic priests, and I think other conservative denominations have similar rules. Or consider the guy who sparked this thread: his comments were directed at orientation, not behavior.

Most people who claim that they hate the sin, not the sinner, are deluding themselves about the type and extent of their animus, at least when the sin is being gay.
6.17.2006 2:39pm
Public_Defender (mail):
Most folks who view homosexual conduct as morally wrong, don't hate homosexuals -- they merely view their sexual conduct as wrong. These same folks also view fornication and drunkenness as wrong, but they don't hate all the fornicators and alcohol abusers. You hear religious people say "hate the sin, but not the sinner" and I think they truly believe this.

That's like saying:


Most folks who view anti-gay conduct as morally wrong, don't hate politically conservative Christians--they merely view their anti-gay conduct as wrong. These same folks also view fornication and drunkenness as wrong, but they don't hate all the fornicators and alcohol abusers, just like they don't hate politically conservative Christians.


Or how about:


Jews are OK, I just don't like the fact that they practice Judaism. If they just stopped eating Kosher, started working on Saturday, went to church and accepted Jesus as Savior, Jews would be OK. I hate the sin (Judaism), not the sinner (Jews).


The problem with your argument is that you give no reason why homosexuality should be lumped together with "fornication" and "drunkeness." You also give no reason why politically conservative Christianity should not be lumped together with "fornication" and "drunkeness."
6.17.2006 4:29pm
Bruce Wilder (www):
Racial civil rights and gay rights and abortion rights are on-going political disputes. They take place in a context of Whiggish political paranoia, and the opposing forces advance and retreat over a vast cultural territory, which extends from the details of criminal law to how characters and situations are portrayed in movies and on television.

De-legitimizing the opposing viewpoint is job one, for the combatants. "Burdening" a particular view with harsh criticism and derision is one of the ways to gradually change the balance of views in the society at large. Humiliating someone for expressing an egregious view is political theatre, and shame is a persuasive, social "weapon", just as fear can be.

At the same time, legitimizing one's own viewpoint, by securing the support of important institutions is job two. Making heros and obtaining the imprimatur of institutions with a claim to be moral arbiters is vitally important.

If the disputes involving the Boy Scouts or the Catholic Church become particularly heated, it is because those institutions are "territory" in dispute. Reactionary forces control the Boy Scouts and the Catholic Church and use those institutions to legitimize their anti-gay views; opposed to them are people, who would, if they could, change the institutional positions to tolerate homosexuality. If the Girl Scouts can disavow discrimination, then, certainly, so can the Boy Scouts. If the Boy Scouts were to change their stance on homosexuality, it would be a great victory for gay rights.
6.17.2006 5:32pm
Alan K. Henderson (mail) (www):
Mental disorders are socially neutral phenomena and given civil rights protection under the ADA and other state and local disabilities law.

Mental disorders make people prone to varying types and levels of destructive behavior, and thus are not socially neutral.

Discrimination is warranted only where the handicap in question is relevant and unwarranted where it is not. Any psychological disability that severely impairs impulse control is sufficient grounds to deny one a drivers license. Severe paranoid schizophrenia is grounds to deny one the right to enter legal contracts without someone with power-of-attorney acting on their behalf. Personality disorders may not fit in with PR work, but may be accommodated by a PR firm's accounting department.

I've long maintained that if homosexuality is a disorder, such a conclusion affects only three legal issues: marriage, military enlistment, and adoption. But I will have to add a fourth - hiring discrimination, where gender or religious/ideological discrimination is not justified. Such cases are going to be rare, and since the Socarides camp claims that homosexuality comes from various sources, thus meaning that homosexuality is comprised of numerous psychological profiles, it's unlikely that there is any job open to both genders and all ideologies that can legitimately discriminate against all gays.

(Some of y'all are probably curious for an example of what I would deem legit anti-gay job discrimination. My only thought at the moment is child counseling; if homosexuality results from various sorts of arrested childhood development, then certain types and degrees of "arrestedness," if still a problem in the applicant's life, would serve as disqualifiers. And yes, that standard applies to straights, too - stringent background checks for everybody seeking to enter that profession.)

The homosexuality-as-disorder question is irrelevant to sodomy laws (to those who see the parallel to hypothetical laws against unmarried adult heterosexual sex, which even many conservatives find abhorrent albeit not unconstitutional) or education (to those who believe that curricula should be tailored to individual parents and not one-size-fits-all) or hate crimes legislation (in addition to the usual Libertarian sentiment, the government cannot be trusted to objectively define "hate").\

Time flies. Gotta go.
6.17.2006 9:22pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
"Mental disorders make people prone to varying types and levels of destructive behavior, and thus are not socially neutral."

The ADA disagrees with you. Mental disorders are given civil rights status under the ADA. Allowing for discrimination against mental disorders is the exception, not the rule. Just try discriminating against someone with depression or obsessive compulsive disorder and see what happens.

These conditions are treated as socially neutral.


Any psychological disability that severely impairs impulse control is sufficient grounds to deny one a drivers license.


So is legal blindness. It's still socially neutral.
6.17.2006 11:33pm
logicnazi (mail) (www):
It seems that some people are arguing that dislike/disapproval of homosexuality is motivated by different factors than racism. So while racism was motivated primarily by simple emotional distaste, conveince and a desire to believe one is superior the argument would be that the anti-gay forces are motivated by reasonable religious principles or policy considerations.

Now while we can argue until the cows come home about whether recognizing gay marriage or gay rights would lead to some policy harms or if the bible indicates that homosexuality is a sin there is no question that the vast majority of those who oppose gay rights are motivated by simple distaste/disgust of homosexuality or social conformity, i.e., the same things that motivated racist thinking. As others have already observered there were plenty of otherwise nice racists who just accepted the beliefs of the day so the fact that nice people now are sometimes anti-gay is hardly good evidence.

If people really were anti-gay only because they reasonably thought gays would somehow harm society they wouldn't you expect them to have strong views about how this harm will take place? Yet most people who are against gay rights feel very strongly about their conclusions but give only vague and uncertain answers as to exactly how gay rights causes the alleged harms. This surely doesn't make sense if they were intially neutral about gay marriage but just convinced by some compelling policy argument that it would cause harm. However, it makes perfect sense if they have emotional distaste for gays/homosexuality and are just trying to excuse the conclusions they emotionally want to believe.

Moreover, it just seems really odd that someone acting reasonably could become so strongly convinced that gay marriage would create such massive harms on such little evidence. The position of the pro-gay rights group is just that gay marriage is not really any different than straight marriage and even it it was the long history of hetero marriage suggests it is too stable to be harmed so easily. The position of the anti-gay groups has to be that gay marriage is fundamentally and profoundly different in terms of its consequences and effect on society.. Yet if true shouldn't we just be very unsure what the effect of allowing gay marriage would be? I mean if we are trying something completely new and different, especially in such a complex system as a culture, how would we come to be sure that the effects will be bad?

Moreover, unless the anti-gay forces are motivated by simple dislike of gays you would think they should be hoping that the data shows gay marriage doesn't harm straight marriage. If they don't object simply to gayness or being gay then they should think the best result is where they turn out to have been mistaken and both the gays and straights can be happy. In particular if you didn't have a problem with gayness itself you should be happy to say that if no large ill effects for gay marriage are seen in Europe over the next 50 years then gay marriage is fine. Yet if this was realy the motivation of anti-gay activists the FMA and similar legislation would only stop voters for giving gays rights for 50 years, at which point either the harms from gay marriage would be obvious or we would see the arguments were wrong.

The religious arguments are even weaker. For starters doing something just because some dead people said it was right hardly counts as a reasonable justification. The fact that you believe gay marriage is bad because that is what your religion says is no more of a justification than saying you believe jews should be killed because that is what nazi ideaology tells you is correct.

However, even ignoring this point the religious justification is amazingly weak. Yes, one can point to passages in the bible which call homosexuality a sin. One can also point to passages requiring you to stone children who don't show respect. Choosing to take the passages about homosexuality seriously but explain away these passages is just a way to disguse the fact that you dislike homosexuality and are using the bible to justify it.

Of course many people would say that much of the old testament doesn't apply after jesus died for our sins. Kinda strange that an omnipotent being who presumably knows the future would just change his mind like that but even granting this the same problem remains. You can choose to take the passage about rich men, camels and needles seriously and view being rich as a serious moral problem or you can explain away that passage and take the one passage in the new testament that sorta seems to disparage homosexuality seriously. In order to apply the bible to modern life one has to draw out the moral principles from rules that applied to ancient israel. It is a choice that the anti-gay people make to interpret the bible as banning all male on male intercourse and not just the crude, unmarried, degrading dominance displays that characterized male on male sex at the time. In effect the anti-gays (and the pro-gays) are making use of their feelings about gays to decide which is the more reasonable interpratation.

I'm not alleging that everyone who is against gay marriage is improperly motivated. Most people who oppose it do so for the same reasons most people support it, they haven't thought deeply about it and that is what their peers think. However, the same could be said for racism in the 1800s as well. Sure, there are probably some people (perhaps some of the commentators here) who really only object to homosexuality because of the harms it would bring to normal marriage but these people are few and far between. I mean really, how many people do you know who don't have an instinctive 'eww' reaction to homosexuality or don't think secret homosexual sex is wrong who staunchly oppose gay marriage?
6.18.2006 1:00am
Alan K. Henderson (mail) (www):
The ADA disagrees with you.

The Americans with Disabilities Act is a law, not a wellspring of scientific evidence.

Any psychological disability that severely impairs impulse control is sufficient grounds to deny one a drivers license.

So is legal blindness. It's still socially neutral.

Blindness is a physiological sensory disability, not a psychological disability. Psych disorders by their very nature prod individuals toward behavior that is (to self and/or others) destructive and thus immoral.

Now that I have time to remark on one aspect of Jon's earlier linked post...speculation that politics put homosexuality on the DSM has no evidence to back it up. Since research into homosexuality had been going on well before the 1950s, it would not be unreasonable for one to believe that some of that research may have been cited in the decision to put homosexuality on the DSM.

(At least we can't blame the Religious Right for it - back then those people addressed sexuality from a purely moral perspective without bothering to explore the psychological angle. Interestingly, psychologists have long been criticized for doing the opposite.)

I have tried to drive home two points: homosexuality is opposed for many reasons and not just religious, and that it is prejudiced to assume that such opposition is inherently irrational. People who believe that homosexuality is morally and psychologically neutral must not act as if they need to offer no evidence to sway opinions. They also need to understand that "gay gene" hypothesis offers no such evidence - just because something is genetic doesn't mean it's healthy, and twin studies, every single one of them having identified sets of twins who have the same genes but different sexual orientations, prove that some homosexuality is nonhereditary and must be rooted in some post-natal event. (Since those studies don't control for child rearing environment, cases where genes and orientation match can't rule out post-natal causes, either.)

It would be nice for the sake of understanding if someone could track down the official pronouncements that placed homosexuality on the DSM and that took it off.
6.18.2006 4:13am
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):

Blindness is a physiological sensory disability, not a psychological disability. Psych disorders by their very nature prod individuals toward behavior that is (to self and/or others) destructive and thus immoral.


Again, I don't just disagree, but think this is entirely wrong. Again, someone with depression or obsessive compulsive disorder, or panic disorder -- they have classic mental disorders. And it is simply flat out wrong to say that their disorders have anything to do with behavior that is immoral. Perhaps someone from the mental health industry could weight in. Perhaps we should email Instapundit's wife. She's not only in the medical industry, but she admits to having a disorder -- panic attacks. Are we going to tell her that her past disorder gave her a tendency toward immorality?

The problem with mental disorders -- like depression, panic, anxiety, is that they prevent individuals from fully flourishing; they take something from your life. It's like walking with an extra weight that you don't need. They have nothing whatsoever to do with moral issues and are again, socially neutral.

Homosexuality, on the other hand, doesn't, or I would argue doesn't interfere with human flourishing at all.
6.18.2006 10:33am
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):

speculation that politics put homosexuality on the DSM has no evidence to back it up.


Well, there's actually mountains of evidence, compiled by various thinkers from Foucault, to Thomas Szasz to Ronald Hamowy, demonstrating that from the beginning the mental health profession has abused its position of power by medicalizing conventional morality instead of concerning itself with what is or is not properly a disorder.

That's one of the reasons why its so important to understand that mental disorders qua mental disorders have nothing whatsoever to do with social norms and relying on mental health standards to enforce social norms is improper.

For instance, someone who steals is a thief and that is wrong. We don't need to demonstrate that kleptomania is a bona fide mental disorder to enforce the social norm against theft.
6.18.2006 11:28am
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
If interested I've linked to an article by Ronald Hamowy on the matter.
6.18.2006 11:41am
slinkybender (mail) (www):
I have a fairly close friend, a prominent liberal attorney, who in his private life is a complete moral degenerate. Yet he's capable of sputtering with rage at the notion that some white prostitute could refuse to service a black client.

On second thought, maybe he isn't as inconsistent as all that.
6.18.2006 6:06pm
Bob Van Burkleo (mail):
Why anyone is concerned about why anything ends up in the DSM is a mystery - psychiatry is the softest of sciences and has more importance as a billing code that anything to do with reality.

And in my years of experience although, in theory, you can't assume irrational basis of anti-homosexual bias, in practicality its a good assumption. I haven't seen a person motivated enough to argue about it in public have their opinion changed by any facts. If you invalidate the facts they use to support their opinion, they just go off and find other facts that support it. They know the answer they want, reason has nothing to do with it.

Homosexuality is probably a combination of many effects, all that in some manner allow expression of various aspects of the base body models genetic characteristics in a gender atypical presentation. Mothers produce 'Y' histology antibodies that interfere with the overlaying of the male neurological patterns over the base female in subsequent births. Some X chromosomes arrive in the boy's with 'I like men' genes stuck in the on position. Hormonal variances in the womb cause the male 'mounting' responses and the like that are part of the base model to be expressed in females. Its a grabbag and once we figure it out it will just be 'gee whiz' information.

Whatever the cause, being gay isn't a pernicious vice by empirical evidence and if something isn't going to spread and the individuals will be happier just living their 'gay lifes', what is the rationale for persecution or discrimination?
6.18.2006 6:28pm
Brett Bellmore (mail):

Whatever the cause, being gay isn't a pernicious vice by empirical evidence


As long as empirical evidence excludes things like infection rates of STDs, and the resulting effects on public health.

The damage homosexuality does is largely (But NOT entirely) self-regarding, so I'd be inclined to say they should be allowed to do as they please. What a pity that most of our current legal code would violate that libertarian principle.

But this in no way implies that people should not be free to find such conduct offensive, (Picking your nose in public is self-regarding, too, but we wouldn't think to pass a law prohibiting discrimination against people who pick their noses.) or conduct their own affairs, including decisions on who to associate with on the basis of those perceptions.

We went badly wrong when we took the jump from eliminating government mandated racial discrimination, to mandating that people not racially discriminate. Let's not further extend that attack on freedom of association.
6.18.2006 7:01pm
The Voice of Reason (mail):
Finally, African Americans do not hold a veto power on who can use the term "civil rights" or "race" analogies.

African-Americans didn't have a veto power over who could buy or sell them either, but that doesn't mean such a state of affairs was right. The criticism of pro-gay co-optation of "civil rights language" is that (1) it is actually detrimental to the civil rights movement, which is still ongoing, by trivializing it (e.g., in the way Life is Beautiful was criticized for turning the Holocaust into a joke) and (2) harmful to individual blacks, who are often religious and anti-gay, by stigmatizing them with yet another pernicious association outside of their control, i.e., individual blacks feel they are being used/dehumanized by the gay-rights movement. The standard reply from the gay rights movement is that the ends justify the means; but that's what slaveholders said, too.
6.18.2006 7:17pm
The Voice of Reason (mail):
For instance, someone who steals is a thief and that is wrong. We don't need to demonstrate that kleptomania is a bona fide mental disorder to enforce the social norm against theft.

This is an interesting argument. What is so bizarre, though, with calling all thieves "kleptomaniacs" and zonking them out on drugs? How is that so different from calling them "criminals" and locking them all up in prison?
6.18.2006 7:20pm
The Voice of Reason (mail):
there is no question that the vast majority of those who oppose gay rights are motivated by simple distaste/disgust of homosexuality or social conformity, i.e., the same things that motivated racist thinking.

I am not so sure this is correct. What I have noticed in debates between gay activists and the silent majority is this: Gay Activist challenges Person A for her rationale against gay marriage; Person A gives a nuanced policy justification that depends on 1. some indisputable facts; 2. some controversial facts; and 3. generally sound reasoning if both 1 and 2 are givens. Gay Activist then disputes 2 and asks for a rational argument in the absence of 2. Person A notes that we just don't know whether 2 is true or not, but in the absence of any evidence either way, it is safe to entertain a rebuttable presumption rooted in one's life experiences and education, etc. Gay Activist calls Person A irrational and prejudiced and motivated by animus. In other words, every time a nuanced policy rationale is put forth and its incoherence is acknowledged (and I do not see how such a rationale could not be incoherent, since we don't know everything about why homosexuality exists, whether it serves any biological evolutionary function, etc.), that acknowledgment is used to convert the argument into proof positive of animus on Person A's part. The lesson is that if you put forth a nuanced argument in good faith, you will be psychoanalyzed into a bigot for admitting you are not omniscient. Given this phenomenon, I do not see how we could fairly determine whether Person A is actually a bigot, given that she will be considered a bigot even if she is not, because calling her a bigot is a gay activist tactic to win over public sympathy and approval.
6.18.2006 7:35pm
Alan K. Henderson (mail) (www):
Let's see if I can clarify my statements on the relationship between mental/emotional disorders and morality.

Christianity's explanation of the relationship between temptation and sin appears to jive with just about everybody else's. (The actual definition of sin does not, of course, but that is irrelevant here.) Since the Gospelists report that Jesus was tempted and remained sinless, it follows that being tempted is not a sin while initiating or following the dictates of temptation is.

Mental disorders are, in a sense, a source of temptation. As I stated before, every such disorder directly prods the individual toward some sort of destructive behavior. To any ethical system that values the welfare of humanity, destructive behavior is immoral, even if the self is the only victim. (One could argue that all self-destructive behavior damages someone else, at least indirectly.)

I can find one exception to this rule: a disorder that directly causes (for the lack of a better term) mental paralysis. You can't sin if you can't initiate an act or thought on your own free will. Panic disorder seems to qualify for the most part, unless victims are known to have just enough volition to lash out inappropriately at people nearby - the APA's FAQ sheet doesn't say.
6.19.2006 4:39am
Medis:
TVOR,

I think the generality of your argument descriptions hides the substantial reasons why someone might conclude that most people arguing against gay marriage purportedly for neutral policy reasons are in fact rationalizing an intuitive adversity to gayness.

For example, some of the "facts" in your Category 2 might include propositions like "gay marriages will corrupt the entire institution of marriage". Now, suppose a person says, "I know that there isn't any real evidence either way that gay marriages will corrupt the entire institution of marriage, but I still think that there should be a rebuttable presumption that gay marriages will in fact corrupt the entire institution of marriage."

How is that attitude not an exemplar of "prejudice"? Admittedly without evidence, the person is concluding that we should "presume" that gay marriage will corrupt marriage in general until that presumption is proved false. But we do not ordinarily "presume" that people getting married will corrupt marriage in general. So, this person is singling out gay marriages for this special negative "presumption". And why would they do that, if not for some special generalized adversity towards, or fear of, gayness?

Of course, all this is just circumstantial evidence. Nonetheless, given that seeing gayness as taboo is a common trait, and given that seeing gayness as taboo would explain why someone would intuitively conclude that gay marriage would corrupt marriage in general, I think these circumstances are strongly suggestive of the person being motivated by a taboo feeling with respect to gayness.

In general, it is not just the weakness of the arguments that make people like me suspect that these arguments are mostly rationalizations. It is the fact that proponents of these arguments tend to apply them only to gay people, and for various reasons refuse to extend them to straight people who would otherwise seem to trigger the same policy concerns.

And once that same pattern is repeated often enough, the simplest explanation becomes that it is gayness itself which is bothering these people when it comes to things like gay marriage. And that is the simplest explanation because it explains why the dividing line always ends up falling right between straight and gay.
6.19.2006 11:42am
thewagon:
"The religious arguments are even weaker. For starters doing something just because some dead people said it was right hardly counts as a reasonable justification. The fact that you believe gay marriage is bad because that is what your religion says is no more of a justification than saying you believe jews should be killed because that is what nazi ideaology tells you is correct."

So, which religious beliefs are okay, under your incredibly vague and useless analysis? You're basically saying that no religious arguments have any place in public policy discussions, without being first filtered through some undisclosed criteria you're applying to disqualify this particular religious belief with which you disagree. Never mind the fact that you yourself make assumptions when it comes to moral/ethical issues (for instances, that racism is wrong, among others) without giving any substantive analysis.

If you really want to start at nothing and work your way through all the philosophical arguments, let me save you some time: ultimately, all arguments, all schemes of knowledge, all moral systems, are circular arguments, presupposing some unquestionable assumption that must be true in order to believe, say, or know anything. Therefore, any argument for gay rights would be just as weak as the religious arguments against gay rights, ultimately resting on an unprovable assertion as well.
6.19.2006 1:20pm
Goober (mail):
Yeah, Prof. Volokh really misses the point here. Comparisons between homophobia and racism aren't motivated by the belief that they're alike in every single significant way, but in one single aspect. That aspect being, when you worry about race sensitivity or tolerance for homosexuals impacting the free speech rights of individuals who oppose the way popular attitudes are shifting, you're worrying about a trivial right.

People are completely free to believe whatever they wish about homosexuality, and obviously there's no movement to criminalize anti-gay thoughts, etc. But those who are anti-gay have the burden of being on the losing side of the argument, and at some point the responsibility for opinions that most of the culture views as reprehensible is on the individual speaking them. Right now, it's probably only Fred Phelps' territory that is viewed as reprehensible by large majorities, but that's shifting, and in a generation or so people who have moral aversions to homosexuality will be well outside the mainstream.

That won't be our problem. People get to have whatever opinions they want. They're also burdened with the consequenses of those opinions.
6.19.2006 2:54pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
Alan:

I'm not going to keep this up much longer, but I find your last post entirely unconvincing.

While the notion of "sin" and "right"/"wrong" have been around for a long time, the notion of mental illness has only been around since the late 19th century.

The language of mental illness is entirely different than the language of "sin." And these are supposed to be completely separable concepts.

Some very observant religious conservatives have noted that the entire "mental disorder" concept is built on premises not at all consistent with the so-called Judeo-Christian worldview, that pychiatry/psychology are indeed built on the inherently morally relativistic works of German philosophy.

Reading the Hamowy article, and learning about the abuses in the mental health profession from the very beginning (the same people who first posited that homosexuality was a "mental disoder" also argued that masturbation causes insanity) gives me the urge to write off the concepts of mental disorders entirely as non-existent.

I do however, believe there is some good to the industry, that mental disorders like anxiety, depression, bi-polar, schizophrenia do indeed exist and can be treated by the profession.

But these are again, socially neutral conditions which raise no moral issues any more than having male pattern baldness or high cholesterol.

When the mental health industry involves itself in the business of right/wrong and social norms, that's when they go wrong. They certainly have a pathetic history in this regard and continue to hold such pathetic stances today.
6.19.2006 7:04pm
The Voice of Reason (mail):
Medis the Bigot: And once that same pattern is repeated often enough, the simplest explanation becomes that it is gayness itself which is bothering these people when it comes to things like gay marriage.

The problem here is that you are making the same mistake with regard to Category 2 -- controversial facts. You don't know that gayness itself bothers any of these people (e.g., perhaps they have gay kith and kin, or are gay themselves, or have gay colleagues whom they respect, but simply do not like gay activism, in part because it uses the smear tactic of calling well-meaning people bigots all day long). You also don't know what "gayness" really is, so it isn't possible for you to have a justfiable holier-than-thou attitude toward people who think gay people are just different in essential ways that make gay marriage inappropriate social policy. Maybe they are wrong about the nature of "gayness," maybe they are not; but they aren't necessarily bigots. If gays really are different in relevant respects, treating them differently is perfectly justifiable. You can't turn someone into a bigot by simply assuming they are. If anyone is the intolerant bigot, Medis, it is people exactly like you. Look in the mirror.
6.19.2006 10:16pm
The Voice of Reason (mail):
Medis: In general, it is not just the weakness of the arguments that make people like me suspect that these arguments are mostly rationalizations.

For someone who seems to care about human dignity in all its myriad and unexpected forms, you'd think you could refrain from psychanalyzing large groups of people that you know nothing about other than their policy view on one narrow and relatively unimportant subject. Insisting that other people must be irrational simply because they disagree with you is about the most insulting and dehumanizing thing one can do short of violent acts.
6.19.2006 10:21pm
The Voice of Reason (mail):
But those who are anti-gay have the burden of being on the losing side of the argument, and at some point the responsibility for opinions that most of the culture views as reprehensible is on the individual speaking them.

Since when is this true? Have you ever heard of DOMA?
6.19.2006 10:24pm
The Voice of Reason (mail):
Now, suppose a person says, "I know that there isn't any real evidence either way that gay marriages will corrupt the entire institution of marriage, but I still think that there should be a rebuttable presumption that gay marriages will in fact corrupt the entire institution of marriage."


Or suppose a person says "All people who disagree with me are bigots."
6.19.2006 10:28pm
Alan K. Henderson (mail) (www):
When the mental health industry involves itself in the business of right/wrong and social norms, that's when they go wrong.


The industry can say what conditions do and do not directly influence destructive behavior. It can avoid direct statements on ethics altogether, and let laypersons conclude what seems obvious to many that destructive behavior is not socially neutral.

So what is socially nonneutral, and why?
6.20.2006 4:00am
Medis:
TVOR,

Of course, I didn't actually argue that anyone was a "bigot"--that is your term.

And otherwise, you haven't addressed my point. What I actually suggested is that the presumption that gayness poses a danger to something (eg, marriage), without any evidence to that effect, is "prejudice".

In response, you in effect merely assert that maybe they are right about gayness being dangerous. You say:

"You also don't know what 'gayness' really is, so it isn't possible for you to have a justfiable holier-than-thou attitude toward people who think gay people are just different in essential ways that make gay marriage inappropriate social policy. Maybe they are wrong about the nature of 'gayness,' maybe they are not; but they aren't necessarily bigots. If gays really are different in relevant respects, treating them differently is perfectly justifiable."

But again, the relevant fact is that they do not have any evidence to support the alleged dangerousness of gayness. So, as a matter of definition, I would suggest that someone who treats gay people differently, AND without evidence justifying that differential treatment, is in fact exhibiting "prejudice". And the suggestion that despite the lack of justifying evidence, there is some undefined possibility that they might in fact be right about the dangers of gayness, isn't really a defense against prejudice.

Again, consider some of the obvious analogies. Suppose a person tried to justify confining Jews to ghettos. Their stated reason for this policy is that Jews pose a threat to Christian children. When asked for evidence to justify this belief, they can provide none.

Suppose I then suggested that such a person was exhibiting a prejudice towards Jews. Would you still argue:

"You also don't know what [Judaism] really is, so it isn't possible for you to have a justfiable holier-than-thou attitude toward people who think [Jews] are just different in essential ways that make [ghettos for Jews] []appropriate social policy. Maybe they are wrong about the nature of [Judaism], maybe they are not; but they aren't necessarily bigots. If [Jews] really are different in relevant respects, treating them differently is perfectly justifiable. You can't turn someone into a bigot by simply assuming they are."

Do you really want to stand by that logic?

In short, I think that presuming that people are dangerous in some way (eg, capable of "corrupting" marriage) based on some attribute that they have, but without any evidence justifying this presumption, is in fact clearly a form of prejudice.

And whether or not you want to call that bigotry as well is up to you.
6.20.2006 12:53pm
Goober (mail):
TVOR, in fifty years not only will there be gay marriage in every state, but Americans will be as embarassed of their ancestors who opposed it as we are of those who disapproved of miscegenation. There's very little mystery about this; increasing acceptance of homosexuality is just the direction history is taking.
6.20.2006 1:07pm
Rich Rostrom (mail):
I think it's evidence of the dishonesty of the homosexual-rights lobby that they equate the universal rejection of homosexuality by every culture in human history with the almost unique racial extremism of the Jim-Crow South. They're lying to themselves, too.

There is also the politically motivated refusal to acknowledge unacceptable realities. The Boy Scouts were forced to declare themselves a religious body because otherwise they were forbidden to adopt the obvious precaution of not letting adult male homosexuals serve as scoutmasters. (There's a long history of men who like to shag boys: the term 'chicken hawk' didn't appear from nowhere.) A school can be sued for exposing children to microscopic levels of a chemical with 1 in a 100 carcinogenic risk. But the Scouts are not allowed to recognize any risk at all from putting boys in the custody of potential sexual predators. (Is it less than 1 in 100? Would you take that risk with your child's health and sanity?)

Some time in the next 50 years, the neurological basis of homosexuality will be found (or basises - there's surely more than one), and parents will be offered therapies that prevent them from developing. Homosexuality will disappear.
6.20.2006 4:21pm
Medis:
Rich,

I think if you investigate the matter further, you will find that both across individuals and across cultures, the "rejection" of homosexuality is not quite as universal as you seem to assume.

And in 50 years, I strongly suspect that a large majority of parents will not see interfering with their child's sexual orientation as a worthwhile project. In fact, even now I suspect that at least a large minority of parents would refuse to do any such thing--me included, in fact.
6.20.2006 5:50pm
BobN (mail):

the universal rejection of homosexuality by every culture in human history


I skip posts that start with absurd lies. Someone let me know if he said anything interesting.
6.20.2006 6:35pm
Bob Van Burkleo (mail):
One point that hasn't been addressed is the acceptance that racism is about race. Have none of you actually been around racists? The ability to recognized the group they are bigoted about is a nice feature but what they complain about is how lazy they are, how they are shifty and criminal, how they are stupid and dim-witted. Racism is more about what a member of a race does, and how they are, same as most prejudices (look at anti-semetic literature of the last century). As such it is totally comparable to sexual orientation bias. The idea that sexual orientation is a 'behavior' any more than race is ludicrous - do people really think that an openly identified celibate gay couple are going to be treated any different than one that's not by those prejudiced against homosexuality?
6.21.2006 7:31pm