I would that all Americans understand the legal, scientific, sociological, and philosophical facts surrounding the issue of same-sex marriage, particularly at this critical time when it is about to come before the supreme court.
Though I shall provide a more extensive discourse on the matter, for now I would like to sum up some thoughts on the issue of same sex marriage.
Any who desire to voice an opinion on this issue have some serious questions to ask themselves in regards to the nature of government, the nature of marriage, the nature of homosexuality, and the extent of religious liberty.
Marriage is a composition of two things: 1. A commitment to each other that they will care for one another and only have relations within marriage; and 2. a conglomeration of legal recognitions and privileges which are meant to benefit society. Marriage as a term is not in itself a right. However, all the legal recognitions and privileges that work to benefit society when applied to a certain union of persons are civil rights when they belong to others who are equally meritorious. If there is any difference in the privileges that should be given then the relationship/ union should receive a different term.
The privileges attending marriage serve three functions : to incentivize joining into a committed relationship, to promote the continuance of that union, and to incentivize further functions of that union. These first and third points are connected in many ways. Each is meant to benefit society in some way. By forming a committed union psychologists have noted that it has a civilizing effect on the participants. They are less selfish and more responsible. It has been found that this effect is more often present in heterosexual unions. Unions are also meant to prevent children from being raised by a single parent, and more recently to prevent the spread of STD’s. Furthermore, the are meant to provide a good environment for the social education of children.
Homosexual unions should be allowed by government, and the government should provide them all the liberties which heterosexual unions have. By this I mean that the government should stand out of the way and let such unions be able to continue by giving such things as hospital visitation rights and many others. Thus, they should be promoting the continuance of that union. However, certain other privileges of marriage require government action to incentivize the union or later functions. The degree to which homosexual unions merit these is the degree to which they should receive them and the degree to which their union approaches the government’s term of marriage.
Let’s look at the incentives to enter marriage which we mentioned. It seems at first glance that homosexual unions equally prevent promiscuity. However, a number of studies have shown that both in America and Europe homosexuals in committed relationships are far more likely than heterosexuals to have sex outside those relationships. (And in regards to STD’s homosexuals are much less likely to use protection.)
It seems that many of the privileges attending marriage are meant to till the ground for the creation of a family. Let’s look at the tax incentives specifically. In most cases, filing jointly is only of benefit if one of the couple does not work. What benefit could the government have to encourage this? – Primarily to allow a parent to stay home with children when they come.
Now of course some angry gay advocates will ask without thinking hard “what about heterosexual couples that don’t or can’t have children?” I ask if you would really prefer the government to invade privacy more or if you would rather go with the general nature of things.
Others will ask, and rightly so, “what of homosexual couples who adopt?” The question then is if the government should promote this and if it will provide the same benefit to children as heterosexual parents. I’m sure we all know there are some pretty good homosexual parents out there and some pretty bad heterosexual ones- but, when we consider the case generally we must look to sociological studies which find more benefit to the emotional and social health of children when they are raised by two genders and get the complementarity of such.
Ultimately there needs to be much more study on the effects on children and on adult attitudes toward fidelity and self-control before same-sex marriage should be promoted by the federal government. There also needs to be much more knowledge and open mindedness by both sides. For this reason I will also include links to a good legal article on — and an excellent medical article on homosexuality.
I advocate that the federal government give almost every privilege of marriage to same-sex couples who are willing to commit to a union which will have the same consequences for termination which marriages have. I advocate that states be allowed to decide by popular vote whether to recognize such unions as marriages and give them benefits which the state controls.
I advocate that within states that will allow it by popular vote, and if the couple has resided in that state for 4 years prior, adoption of a child born in the US (which legal connection should be recognized in almost every way (if not in every- I’m not educated on all the privileges of adoption)) should be allowed after a more rigorous qualification process than for heterosexual married couples and only if there are not qualified heterosexual adopters waiting for such an adoption (or perhaps even qualified foster parents who do not have more than 3 other children in the home). These requirements may be reconsidered after there have been time to conduct better studies on the effects on children as well as the mental and emotional and physical health effects of homosexuality itself. (Some claim that studies which have found more mental and physical health problems in homosexuals – including a greater tendency toward domestic violence – are only accountable to the bad treatment which homosexuals receive in society. If this were true, we would expect to find lower rates of such problems in homosexuals (compared to their native population) in countries such as the Netherlands which are much more tolerant toward homosexuals- but we in fact find slightly higher levels.)
Last, I advocate that religious organizations should maintain the liberty to deny services and employment to any it considers to be beyond whatever level of sin they set. Furthermore, that any individual or business should have the right to deny services directly related to the promotion/ enacting of an action which they believe morally wrong. Also, that schools should provide full disclosure to parents about exactly what they are teaching regarding homosexuality, that such teaching be done on settled and notified days, and that such teaching should primarily teach toleration and kindness to all people without indoctrinating children to believe in a certain new definition of normal or acceptable behavior.
Here is the link to the legal article: http://digitalcommons.pepperdine.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1033&context=plr
Unfortunately I could not find the site for the medical article so here is the text:
Epstein, Robert. “Do Gays Have A Choice?” Scientific American Mind Feb/March 2006: 51-57
“Science offers a clear and surprising answer to a controversial question
On a typical summer Saturday morning Matt Avery and his wife, Sheila (not their real names), cook breakfast with their two sons, ages five and eight. Then they get organized with towels, goggles and water wings and load the family into the car for an afternoon at the pool. “Weekends are all about family time,” Matt says.
Matt and Sheila have been happily married for 11 years. “She’s my soul mate,” Matt says. “I wouldn’t trade my life for the world.”
But some people would claim that Matt’s life is based on an illusion — that he could not possibly be a dedicated husband and father. Why? Because Matt used to be gay.
According to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and at least a few experts, gays do not have a choice about their sexual orientation. If a man or a woman is born gay, he or she will always be gay. Because Matt was gay for most of his young adulthood (ages 17 to 24), the thinking goes, he must still be gay today. Pressured by a homomisic society — a society that dislikes and shuns gays — Matt has simply run back inside the closet. Gay activists favor this perspective at least in part because survey data show that people are more sympathetic to gay causes if they believe that sexual orientation is immutable.
The public disclosure by James McGreevey, who announced at an August 2004 press conference that he was resigning as governor of New Jersey, seems to support this view. With his beautiful wife at his side, McGreevey revealed that he was about to be sued by another male for sexual harassment. His announcement suggested, at least to some, that he had always been gay and that his two marriages and two children were somehow less than valid.
Does this perspective have merit? Or are religious conservatives correct in asserting that homosexuality is entirely a matter of choice? A wealth of scientific evidence provides an answer. It turns out that sexual orientation is virtually never a black-and-white matter. Rather it exists on a continuum, with both genes and environment determining where people end up.
It is difficult for most people to think objectively about homosexuality, in large part because biases against it are literally of biblical proportions. According to the book of Leviticus, homosexuality — at least when practiced by males — is prohibited, punishable by death. Thousands of American pulpits to this day repeat the old biblical injunctions, which fuel discomfort with homosexuality at every layer of our society.
Until recent decades, prejudice against homosexuality has persisted even in the mental health professions. In the 1970s most therapists still held that homosexuality was a psychological disorder, akin to a disease. In the 1968 edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) — the indispensable diagnostic tool used by therapists — homosexuality appeared in the section on sexual deviations as an instance of an aberration in which sexual interests are “directed primarily toward objects other than people of the opposite sex.”
It was largely gays themselves — understandably tired of being viewed as freaks of nature — who began to assert that their orientation was not pathological. A defining moment came on June 27, 1969, after a police raid on a gay bar in Greenwich Village in New York City provoked a riot. Crowds continued to gather at the site for another five days, protesting discrimination and preaching gay rights. Now called the Stonewall Riots (named after the Stonewall Inn, which was at the center of the melee), they galvanized the modern gay-rights movement in America and initiated a shift toward greater cultural acceptance of homosexuality.
A mere four years later, in 1973, the nomenclature committee of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) set about reassessing the profession’s dark characterization of homosexuality. Leading the charge was psychiatrist Robert L. Spitzer of Columbia University [see box on page 67]. As a result of his committee’s recommendation, the term “homosexuality” disappeared from the next edition of the DSM. That hardly settled the matter, however. In a poll of psychiatrists conducted soon after the APA’s leadership voted to make the change, 37 percent said they opposed the change, and some accused the APA of “sacrificing scientific principles” in the service of “civil rights” — in other words, of giving in to pressure.
Matt Avery had no doubt about his orientation when he first became sexually active in his teens. During college in the early 1980s, he worked at a gay bar and had hundreds of sexual partners. He also had a four-year relationship with a man. Matt considered himself “feminine.” “I was 140 pounds, had long fingernails, a blond ponytail and wore an earring,” he reminisces. “I was a sight to be seen.”
But when he was 24, his partner returned from a weekend retreat with some incredible news. Being gay, his partner said, “wasn’t a truth” for him. Matt was distraught. “My whole life,” he says, “was defined by whomever I was with — whomever I could use to make up for my own faults.” After their sexual relationship ended, they stayed roommates and friends. But then, Matt says, “he started dating this woman.” This change was another blow, especially because Matt was still seeing multiple men at the time. He was shaken but also curious. “One day,” he recalls, “I decided homosexuality might not be a truth for me either, and I went on a date with a woman. It was pretty good.”
Within two or three years he found himself involved exclusively with women. He made the shift without therapy and without the influence of religious groups. He was supported, he says, by friends who helped him deal with “issues involving my father.” They helped him learn to be comfortable with his masculinity. Matt got to the point where even his sexual fantasies about men disappeared. In that respect, he probably became straighter than many heterosexuals. Although Matt made the switch without professional assistance, others — sometimes under tremendous social pressure from family members or religious groups — seek out “reparative” therapists to help them become straight.
Floyd Godfrey — himself formerly gay — has been a reparative therapist in Arizona for nine years. His office has five clinicians, and they see 30 to 40 clients a week, many of whom are men struggling to overcome homosexual tendencies. Godfrey says they come because they are depressed, anxious and unhappy. “They feel out of place,” he says. “They don’t feel like one of the guys. When people feel like they don’t fit in, that can produce depression.”
Some, he says, are young men whose fathers were abusive or neglectful. “Their dad was never available for them to bond with. Or sometimes mom was controlling or overprotective. The bottom line,” Godfrey says, “is that there was a disruption during childhood of the bond that normally develops between father and son.” Deficient upbringing, Godfrey claims, can sometimes lead to same-sex attractions.
Let us set aside the obvious question for the moment — whether the therapy works — and consider a more basic issue. Why is it called “reparative”? Doesn’t this term presume that homosexuality is somehow invalid — that gays are like broken washing machines that need to be repaired? In other words, isn’t this therapy a retrenchment to the old disease model of homosexuality that Spitzer and his colleagues dispatched more than 30 years ago?
It seems so. Those deeply entrenched notions affect even the way we talk about homosexuality. Even the common term “sexual preference” reflects bias, suggesting that orientation is entirely a matter of choice. As for the claim made by Godfrey and others that homosexuality is the result of poor parenting, there is simply no legitimate scientific evidence to support it. Whereas it is true that some homosexuals had poor relationships with their fathers when they were growing up, it is impossible to say whether those fathers produced homosexual tendencies in their sons by rejecting them or, instead, whether some fathers simply tend to shun boys who are effeminate at the outset.
As for the effectiveness of reparative therapy — referred to by some as reorientation therapy — initial studies such as a small one published in 2002 by New York psychologists Ariel Shidlo and Michael Schroeder suggested that such therapy worked poorly or only occasionally.
In a landmark study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior in October 2003, however, Spitzer interviewed 200 men and women who once considered themselves homosexuals but who had lived their lives as heterosexuals for at least five years. Most of the participants had undergone some form of reorientation therapy. In addition to determining whether such therapy actually worked, Spitzer wanted to know just how dramatically people could alter their orientation. To his surprise, most of his subjects not only reported living long-term (more than 10 years) as heterosexuals, they also declared they had experienced “changes in sexual attraction, fantasy and desire” consistent with heterosexuality. The changes were clear for both sexes.
Not everyone who sets out to change his or her sexual orientation is successful in doing so, however. How can we understand these dynamics — why many people want to change, why some can, and why some appear unable to do so?
At the heart of the controversy about homosexuality are some microscopically small objects: the strands of proteins that make up our genes. Two genetic issues are relevant to our understanding of homosexuality. First, do genes play any role in sexual orientation? And second, if genes do help determine orientation, do they actually create two distinct types of orientation — gay and straight, as most people believe — or do they create a continuum of orientation?
A variety of studies suggest that genes play at least some role in homosexuality. Although no one study is entirely conclusive, studies of twins raised together, twins raised apart and family trees suggest — at least for males — that the more genes one shares with a homosexual relative, the more likely it is that one will be homosexual — the hallmark of a genetic characteristic. But more interesting for our purposes is the question of a continuum. Sometimes, as with eye color, genes create discrete characteristics. But with many attributes, such as height and head width, genes create continuities. Whereas most people believe that “straight” and “gay” are discrete categories, there is strong evidence that they are not — and this fact has important implications for the way we understand the various controversies surrounding homosexuality.
Ever since the late 1940s, when biologist Alfred Kinsey published his extensive reports on sexual practices in the U.S., it has been clear, as Kinsey put it, that people “do not represent two discrete populations, heterosexual and homosexual.…The living world is a continuum in each and every one of its aspects.” A recent position statement by the APA, the American Academy of Pediatrics and eight other national organizations agrees that “sexual orientation falls along a continuum.” In other words, sexual attraction is simply not a black-and-white matter, and the labels “straight” and “gay” do not capture the complexities.
For obvious evolutionary reasons, most people are strongly inclined to prefer opposite-sex partners, because such relationships produce children who continue the human race. But a few — probably between 3 and 7 percent of the population — are exclusively attracted to members of the same sex, and many are in the middle. If a person’s genes place him or her toward one end of what I call the Sexual Orientation Continuum, he or she almost certainly can never become homosexual [see illustration at left]. If the genes place the person at the other end of the curve, he or she almost certainly cannot become straight — or at least not a happy straight. But if an individual is somewhere in between, environment can be a major influence, especially when the person is young. Because society strongly favors the straight life, in the vast majority of cases the shift will be toward heterosexuality.
The way sexuality plays out is eerily similar to the process by which people become left- or righthanded. It may sound contrary to common sense, but scientific studies suggest that genes play a relatively small role in handedness; its heritability — an estimate of what proportion of a trait’s variability can be accounted for by genes — is only about 0.32, compared with, say, 0.84 for height and 0.95 for head width. Then why is more than 90 percent of the population right-handed? It is because of that cultural “push” working again. Subtle and not so subtle influences make children favor their right hand, and the flexibility they probably had when they were young is simply lost as they grow up. Although they can still use the left hand, their handedness becomes so well established that they would find it difficult, if not impossible, to become left-handed.
Preliminary studies by psychologist J. Michael Bailey of Northwestern University, Michael King of University College London and others suggest that the heritability of homosexuality is not much higher than that of handedness — perhaps in the range 0.25 to 0.50 or so for males and somewhat lower for females. This finding raises an intriguing question: If people were raised in a truly orientation-neutral culture, what sexual orientation would they express? Although it is unlikely that half of us would end up gay, without societal pressure it is clear that a much larger proportion of the population would express homosexuality than we see now.
As for Matt, it is likely that he, like most or all people who change sexual orientation, was not near an extreme end of the continuum to begin with. It is unreasonable to say that he has been returned to a “natural” state, however; with strong social support, he has simply chosen a new path for himself — one that his genes made possible but that is almost certainly not possible for every gay person. Someday I suspect that psychobiological research will allow us to find precise physical correlates of sexual orientation: genes, neural structures or perhaps more subtle physical characteristics. But no advances in science will ever completely resolve the moral and philosophical issues that Matt’s conversion raises.
Do gays have a choice? Because of the enormous pressures pushing all of us toward the straight end of the Sexual Orientation Continuum from the time we are very young, it is reasonable to assume that most of the people who currently live as homosexuals were probably close to the gay end of the continuum to begin with; in other words, they probably have strong genetic tendencies toward homosexuality. Even though the evidence is clear that some gays can switch their sexual orientation, the vast majority probably cannot — or at least not comfortably. If you doubt that — and assuming that you are right-handed — try eating with your left hand for a day or two, and good luck with your soup.
(Sexual orientation exists on a continuum, with genes and environment determining where people end up.)
(As for the claim that homosexuality is the result of poor parenting, there is no scientific evidence.)
(If people were raised in a truly orientation-neutral culture, what sexual orientation would they express?)
- » Some people who once considered themselves homosexuals are able to live happily as heterosexuals.
- » Sexual orientation falls along a continuum: some are exclusively attracted to members of the opposite sex; others, to the same sex; and many are somewhere in the middle.
- » Social pressure can push those in the middle toward heterosexuality. But because genes play a role, people with strong same-sex attractions probably cannot change their orientation.”
Robert L. Spitzer was an ardent Trotskyite in his youth, and his father was a Maoist. At one point, he was even the vice president of the NAACP chapter at Cornell University. Maybe his background explains why, in 1972, when the psychiatrist first witnessed a gay protest at a psychology convention, it was he who approached the protesters, not the other way around. He saw social injustice, and he wanted to help.
He told the protesters he was a member of the nomenclature committee revising the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) for the American Psychiatric Association and that he would ask its members to allow gay activists to present their views. Ultimately, the committee recommended that the term “homosexuality” be eliminated from the DSM. The governing board of the APA then voted 13 to 0 (with two abstentions) to accept the recommendation — an extraordinary leap for gay rights in America.
Today Spitzer, now at Columbia University, explains that neither he nor his committee ever meant to suggest that homosexuality was normal or healthy; such a conclusion would be “very wrong.” “Just because something is not a mental disorder doesn’t mean it’s normal,” Spitzer explains.
What is more, Spitzer says, the committee was careful to preserve a category of dysfunction — still in the DSM today — that allowed unhappy gays to seek change. “Distress” over one’s sexual orientation is still listed as a disorder. As a practical matter, he says, this category applies only to gays, not to heterosexuals. “I don’t think there are heterosexuals,” Spitzer states, “who wish they only were attracted to the same sex.”
There was “tremendous opposition” to removing “homosexuality” from the DSM. How, then, does he account for that unanimous vote? “I think the leadership at that time decided, ‘We gotta do this whether we like it or not. We gotta stop the gays from breaking up our meetings. We gotta help them out, and this makes sense.'” He adds: “It helped gays feel better and get treated better. Scientifically it may not have been correct, but socially it sure was.”
In 1999 Spitzer entered the sexuality fray again — this time approaching a group of self-proclaimed ex-gays who were protesting at a convention. That event led to his controversial recent study, which suggests that some homosexuals can turn straight [see main text].
Formerly a hero to gays, Spitzer is now the reluctant darling of the Christian right, and his new research has been labeled “despicable” by a colleague at Columbia. Spitzer sees no contradictions in his actions: “I think of myself as a guy who loves controversy, loves to be where the action is — and I did some courageous things.” — R.E.”
“Same Sex Marriage Part 2” contains a more detailed legal analysis of DOMA and other issues related to same sex marriage.