United Brethren has retired.

What sort of rights are gay rights?

The thing that confuses me about all the discussion regarding homosexuality in the news is that I have very little understanding of what is at stake. What are "gay" rights and are they any different from "human" rights?

I assume that this has to do with issues of adoption and marriage. Perhaps with issues of fair housing and discriminatory treatment. But don't most people agree that (aside from the first two issues named) it really is discriminatory to ban homosexuals from housing, jobs, and so forth? Doesn't that survive the "reasonable man" standard (oh LDS lawyers, hear my plea for clarification)?

Regarding the first two issues, I still don't see how they are solely "gay" issues. If the gay population has it out for children, then don't let them adopt. Also, don't let them out of prison. But there is no proof of this. When the students in my classes object to gay couples adopting, I always ask them why. They never seem to have a well thought-out response. Let's just set aside the issue of sexual abuse for a moment as I think that it has been depressingly demonstrated that no given sexual orientation is free from that blight. So, why? Some seem to suggest that it is recruitment (which the parents seem to be accusing the GS/A of in the Salon article that Ronan cites). But why? What loving parent would what their child to go through the hell that is adolescent homosexuality? It doesn't make any sense. And, if the child came out, wouldn't parents who understand be a plus? There is, after all, a reason why teenage suicide is high amongst the gay.

The other issue my students have come up with regarding denying gays the right to adopt is that it would teach children that the gay lifestyle is ok. But what is the "gay lifestyle"? No one seems to have defined it. For conservatives it is apparently a non-stop 24 hour orgy. For homosexual advocates, it is monogamous and conservative. The truth is obviously somewhere in between, but, again based on my anecdotal evidence, I would guess it is closer to the second view (sex is far too complicated to really be that easy to come by). Nonetheless, social conservatives would object to anyone with a PARTY, PARTY, PARTY attitude adopting, as would most people (such things usually only happen in Hollywood movies). So why single out gays? Demonstrate to me what is unique about the "gay" lifestyle that is not found in hetero couplings and I would be happy to consider if it is destructive enough to condemn it. Unfortunately no one ever speaks in specifics.

Regarding marriage, most often people seem to me to couch this argument in the wrong terms. People always talk about is homosexual love a "right" or some such. Whether or not homosexual love is legitimate is not the issue with gay marriag. Rather, it is an issue regarding the privileged position that hetero marriage enjoys in society. If it seems unjust or unfair to you that hetero marriage is given a privileged status, then you may find the elements for gay marriage compelling. If you don't think the privileged place is unfair or unjustified, then you have no issue with this. Clearly some people would like to have this privileges revoked (or rather expanded to all), which is probably what the Church finds objectionable.

If homosexuality is biologically-based, I find it hard to believe that the Church would find homosexuality itself sinful. Can it be a sin if it is built in? Well, if you act on it, sure. Much like how LDS alcoholics sin when they drink, even though they are influenced biologically. But if an alcoholic isn't drinking, it isn't a sin for him or anybody else. If if it is a sin to drink, then it is a sin for everyone, not just alcoholics.

But to return to my original point, what is a "gay" right? The right to be gay? Not even the Church denies them that. The right to engage in homosexual activity without it being a sin? There is no earthly force that decides what is sin and what ain't so one is unlikely to decide that legally. The right to live free from abuse and unwarranted discrimination (including the right to marry and adopt if it doesn't adversely affect others)? Aren't these just basic human rights? Should we codify these for every group? Apparently we do, or else I am sure this would have gone away by now.

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Blogger Rebecca said ... (February 18, 2005 2:54 PM) 

Gay rights in the UK includes things like inheritance law - a gay couple doesn't have the same status as a heterosexual couple living together. The heterosexual could inherit the house on the death of one partner, but the homosexual could not. In instances such as this, I think homosexuals should have the same rights. The church as far as I'm aware has only made statements regarding same sex marriage - not any other gay rights issue. (someone can correct me if I'm wrong)


Blogger john f. said ... (February 18, 2005 5:40 PM) 

Well, this goes to gay rights: at least Kaimi wonders if the Church actually encourages violence to gays.


Blogger HP said ... (February 18, 2005 6:49 PM) 

Yes, I do realize that this post is a bit out of the purview of the normal topics o' discussion around here. My other blogging outlet has downsized me, so this is what I am left with.
That said, many people that I discuss this with (aka my students) often seem to feel that the church is encouraging them to oppose any sort of "gay" rights. Ronan's post just got me thinking, what is it about "gay" rights that is so offensive and, on a related not, what are "gay" rights anyway?


Anonymous J. Stapley said ... (February 18, 2005 10:01 PM) 

If homosexuality is biologically-based, I find it hard to believe that the Church would find homosexuality itself sinful. Can it be a sin if it is built in?No more than any other carnal or sensual repercussion of the fall.


Blogger Ronan said ... (February 18, 2005 11:05 PM) 

My take on gay rights:

All of the rights that devolve upon a heterosexual citizen of this (or any) country should also belong to homosexuals, with certain qualifications.

As regards gay marriage: a homosexual has the right to love whoever they want to love, and to choose their own next of kin. I support civil partnerships; probably it would not be wise to call these "marriages" at this time.

As regards school: all children, whatver their sexual orientation, have the right to be included in all aspects of the school system. Homosexual teenagers should not be discriminated against. Sex education needs to recognise (without needing to promote) the fact that homosexual attraction exists, and that it is biologically based.

Now, Sister Price seems to have taken issue with an overt and aggressive promotion of homosexuality in her school. She would be right to do so; any promotion of religion, politics, or even unfettered heterosexuality would also be out of place in a school.

So, do I oppose gay rights? Well, please, Ensign, clarify what you mean.


Blogger Dave said ... (February 19, 2005 4:56 PM) 

The hardline position on homosexuality generally equates tolerating homosexuality with encouraging it. But that contrast is difficult for all sides of the debate.

Gay activists argue for toleration, but seem have an agenda to encourage it as well. The majority of people in the middle of the dial feel good about tolerating homosexuality but do not want it encouraged and think you can have it both ways.

The ambiguities in these terms and positions emerge when specific proposals get put forward: Can gays adopt? How openly gay can teachers be in high school or elementary school? Can students form gay and lesbian clubes? That's why specific proposals seem so contentious--they force people out of their comfortably vague language into specific justifications of what should or shouldn't be allowed in particular contexts.


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