Definitely Off Topic

I recently posted about congressman John Shimkus’ using the story of Noah to deny the danger of global warming. In comments to that post, I approved a comment which was a diatribe against religion (Christianity in particular) because of church-sanctioned discrimination against homosexuals. Ordinarily I would have deleted such a comment because it’s definitely off topic. But I let this one through. Let me tell you why.


I don’t agree with everything in the comment. In particular, I object to the suggestion of book-burning, even books that are demonstrably wrong shouldn’t be burned — that’s a slippery slope. But I agree with much that’s in the comment, and I especially agree that discrimination against homosexuals is evil.

When I was young, I struggled against racism and sexism, and the fact that in many parts of society it was acceptable to hold such views. That’s no longer true — such bigotry is not socially acceptable any more. If you’re racist or sexist, you’ll only find your views accepted in fringe elements of society. But there’s one form of bigotry which is still socially acceptable, perhaps even the majority viewpoint in America: bigotry against homosexuals.

I believe that homosexuality is not evil, it’s not in any way wrong. It’s the way some people are, and I see nothing wrong with it. Nothing at all. Gay men and lesbian women should be judged based on character, not on sexual orientation, and the gays and lesbians I’ve know (and I’ve known quite a few) are no better or worse than the straights I’ve known. When it comes to judging character, sexual orientation is irrelevant. In my opinion, it should also be irrelevant in society and law. Those who are homosexual should have all the rights and priviledges, all the respect or scorn, that anyone deserves.

That includes the right to marry the partner of your own choice, of any gender. Suggestions that gays should have a right to “civil union” rather that marriage, and that this is an acceptable substitute for the right to marry, I find repulsive. It’s like saying “We’ll tolerate you, and pretend to give you equal rights, but we’ll deny you the dignity that straight people deserve.” It’s like saying that homosexuals aren’t as good as us “normal” people.

In my book that’s not right. Society’s refusal to grant full equality and full dignity to homosexuals is a stain on the honor of our civilization.

I’m straight. So you might wonder, why do I care — it’s not my fight? I care because discrimination is wrong. Bigotry is wrong. Proposing that we should grant certain legal rights but deny full dignity to gay marriage, is wrong.

Far more wrong is the treatment of homosexuals by far too many people. Insults, assaults, constant harrassment, especially of young men and women who are struggling to find their identity and their value as human beings, is despicable. That such behavior is so common, and so severe, as to drive many young gays and lesbians to suicide, is a shame.

And the shame is on us — the straight people of the world. It’s not gays and lesbians who have a problem, it’s us. The sin is ours, not theirs. Until we stand united with our gay brothers and lesbian sisters and declare that we won’t tolerate discrimination, that we won’t accept insulting solutions like “civil union,” that we will hurl our scorn at the bigots who abuse our brothers and sisters, we can’t call ourselves honorable.

The shame is also on the church. Most Christian churches still consider homosexuality a sin, some even preach active discrimination or hatred of gays. How anyone can preach hatred in the name of Jesus — I don’t understand. Homosexuality is not a sin, but preaching hatred from the pulpit is. But it happens, and the church has a great deal to answer for.

That’s why it’s my fight too.

If you choose to hate me because I’m a “homo-lover” or “fag,” go right ahead. I grew up in the south during the height of the civil rights movement, and when people spouted racism I told ’em they were wrong and that attitude was evil. To their faces. I got used to being called a “nigger-lover.”

The gay rights movement is the civil rights movement of today. It’s not popular, it’s not easy for a lot of people, but it’s the right thing to do. I won’t compromise. So if you choose to brand me evil, sinner, stupid asshole, that’s your choice. It only reinforces my belief that sin is rooted in hatred and greed, not in sexual orientation.

I may never post on this topic again (at least not here), that’s not what this blog is about. But the subject came up, and this issue is so important that I’m standing up to declare that my gay brothers and lesbian sisters are my brothers and sisters. No better, no worse, than the straight ones.

We’re here. Some of us are queer. Get used to it.

89 responses to “Definitely Off Topic

  1. Powerful and righteous post, tamino.

  2. I am with you on this one, Tamino. All are created equal. Either we stand behind that or it means nothing.

    The Yooper

  3. More people need this attitude.

    • That’s a particularly noxious hatefest Watts has gone and stirred up there. Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does!

      Cheers – John

    • Well didn’t that get the mob at WUWT all stirred up. How very, very revealing, and more so than usual. I can’t believe how frightened and paranoid these people appear, who also seem to define themselves through what they hate. Scary stuff.

  4. Well said, Tamino.

    Principled, clear and passionate.

  5. Thank you. When I was a young college kid in Orono, Maine in 1984 a kid about my age in Bangor, Charlie Howard, was thrown off the Kenduskeag Stream bridge and murdered for the crime of being “a fag.” Many in the community felt Charlie deserved it. It sickened my growing brain.

    http://tispaquin.blogspot.com/2009/05/maine-house-makes-gay-marriage-legal.html

    Never again.

  6. Pete Dunkelberg

    Tamino says: If you’re racist or sexist, you’ll only find your views accepted in fringe elements of society.

    Or does Tamino have rose colored glasses? Be that as it may, it is interesting to recall that back in the Eisenhower era, there was a bitter fight against allowing blacks and whites to marry. Of course gays couldn’t even dream of it. But now that they can dream of it, a similar seeming part of society is very opposed to allowing them to marry. Denying people the legal right of marriage is one of the meanest things that can be done to a minority. Is meanness toward a vulnerable group the common thread?

  7. Good post, but I can tell that Tamino is at least over-40.

    I went to college in the 90s, and this issue just isn’t as big of a deal to me or a lot of people younger than me, its just the right thing to do, like breathing.

    And on the contrary to the way things were in the 80s, if anyone I work with or any acquaintances on facebook are homophobic they have to hide that pretty well so that I don’t know about it and couldn’t really guess.

    Of course there’s still a cultural divide and there’s a lot of places you could live in this country that haven’t caught up yet. But more and more the trend is for those to become against the norm.

    And Nate Silver did an analysis of prop 8 in California back when it was “conventional wisdom” that blacks coming out to vote for Obama all voted for prop 8 and found that statistically that had no validity and that the true statistical correlation was with age — so all that has to happen is a few decades go by and the homophobic generations die, and this issue will fall into a minority opinion.

    • I’m with Lamont. The statistician and political scientist Andrew Gelman has done a few posts on this on his blog. There is a demographic transition underway, and I think within a generation or so, homophobia will be nearly as unacceptable as racism is today. There just isn’t the strong opposition among the younger generation that there used to be. Not that it’s unnecessary to fight against it today, but I think it’s a problem that will end up “solving itself” to an extent.

  8. I appreciate this, thank you.

  9. Amen. I cannot wait for gays to marry, because then we can start focusing on allowing men to have more than one wife and getting the government to give even more tax breaks for that.

    I mean, if we’re going to rip up the definition of marriage…

    Alternately, we could just do away with tax breaks for man + woman civil unions, and leave marriage as purely a religious union.

    • “Alternately, we could just do away with tax breaks for man + woman civil unions, and leave marriage as purely a religious union.”

      That’s exactly how I’d have it.

      What right has the state to determine what an ‘approved’ sexual relationship is? It’s either legal (e.g. heterosexuality, homosexuality, multiple partners) or it isn’t (e.g. underage, animals). Why should the state reward one type of sexual relationship?

      In the UK, inheritance tax laws mean that when one of a pair of sisters who have lived together in the same house since they were born eventually dies (they’re both over 80), the other will have to sell the house to pay the tax bill. That wouldn’t happen to a married couple or a same sex civil partnership couple. The only difference between their life long, loving commitment to each other? – sex.

  10. Before I make my statement, lest anyone mis-interpret me, I do not hate homosexuals, I believe preaching hate from the pulpit is reprehensible, and I’ve battled racism in my own life experience.

    Ok, having set my position, I think this discussion raises a fascinating question: where does one draw the line, and on what basis? Is there a reference of right and wrong, or is it situationally dependent, or does one make one’s own right and wrong? For example, on the scale from strict sexual “Victorian” behavior through to total sexual depravity, where’s the line between right and wrong? The homosexual debate is a visible exemplar of a bigger question: what is right and wrong, who decides, and on what basis.

    I get frustrated when the discussion narrows in on one of other issue (be it racism, sexism, etc) without tackling this more fundamental underlying issue.

    • In personal relationships of this sort, ultimately the only morality can be down to issues of consent and coercion – if an act is consented to by all parties concerned and those parties are fit to give informed consent then such an act should in theory be legal.

      There is, of course, plenty of room in the above statement for argument on the details.. but the idea that a particular act should be morally wrong per se is the route to oppression, ultimately.

      As far as marriage goes, there should probably be a distinction between civil unions (the state-legal concept of marriage), open to any partnership, and churches which can impose any restrictions they want.

  11. Some years ago our Goverment, here in Spain, decided to allow homosexual marriage. Fortunately, here, bigotry against homosexuality is frowned upon; it is politically incorrect. There was some discussion about the “civil union” and I felt exactly as you. There is absolutely no justification for creating different legal entities that have exactly the same regulation. They can marry now (and they do) and they can adopt children in the same terms of straight people. I’m very happy for them and for the abandoned children that now have more chances to find a family.

  12. Tamino,
    I applaud your post and your explanation for allowing what was off-topic diatribe through. The thing is although I am myself an atheist, I think we need to be careful not to cross the line to the point where our own speech becomes hateful. That diatribe was pretty close.

    I also think your obit for racism and sexism may be, as Twain would say, highly exaggerated. Yes we’ve made great progress in our lifetimes, but we are always in danger of losing that progress.

    When a Congressman feels free to yell, “You lie!” to a President–any President–during the state of the Union, when the Tea Party and even the mainstream Republican make it their top priority to defeat a centrist President who just happens to be black…well you have to wonder just a wee bit.

    And as to sexism, how many of our CEOs, elected representatives, judges and top scientists are women? And believe me, it ain’t for lack of ability.

    So, I applaud the call to arms and the clarion call to advance, but we must continue to advance on all fronts. And we must remember that the enemy is as much within us as in our adversaries. Perhaps that will encourage us to use that most powerful but gentle of weapons–truth.

  13. I agree, Tamino. I have no problem with gay folks. I just don’t want people to think anti-gay discrimination is what Christianity is all about, or what the Bible is about. It’s not.

    Most of my fellow Christians–about 2/3–regard gay sex as sinful because of certain Bible passages. I think they’re wrong. But a wrong view doesn’t necessarily make people evil, or hateful, or “homophobes.” I know plenty of fundamentalists who think gay sex is wrong who would never countenance gay-bashing or using the coercive power of the state to tell gays what to do.

    Look, orthodox Hindus think eating beef is a sin. I think they’re wrong. I would strongly condemn, and fight against, any Hindus who got into the habit of burning down McDonalds or beating or killing their employees. But I don’t call all Hindus with that view “cattlephobes.”

    If you want my personal history, my sexuality is bi leaning toward hetero. I have a personal feud with Fred Phelps’s “Westboro Baptist Church,” which most Christians consider a heretical cult built around the personality of Fred Phelps. I knew Fred Rogers, of Mr. Rogers fame, and when I saw those psychos at his funeral (he was targeted because he gave to some AIDS charities), I wanted to grab their signs and hit them over the head with them. I have criticized them online, and as a result they put up a false web page alleged to be from me, propositioning some guy named Jerry. The vast majority of Christians, whether they think gay sex sinful or not, are not gay bashers and do not countenance troublemaking crackpots like the Phelps cult.

    • BPL
      I agree that not all that follow XXX religion have the fundamentalist beliefs. BUT unless these views are countered early enough and continuously the others get sucked into the same mind-set.

      This is particulary true of global warming. Scientists have in general ignored the actionable (in court) defamations on some “sceptic” sites. This has allowed them to proifferate and their views to become mainstream (used in government debates etc.).

      Also look at intelligent design and other anti-evolution beliefs. They have beme powerul enough that in UK and US some schools teach these odities as truths.

      Further looking from the UK the tea-party movement seems inconceivable but look at US election results!
      Mike

    • BPL,

      Having read your comments for several years now – I have to say that you have given me more hope for conservative Christians in general.

  14. I’m not sure it is definitely off-topic, Tamino.

    Thank you.

  15. I swallowed the line that homosexuality is evil hook and sinker included.

    First I realised that I never chose to be straight. Then I realised that many gays are realy decent caring people. Then I began to see that society pushing gays into straight marriages was a bad thing.

    The more I tried to reason things through, the more gay is evil fell apart. Evil is forcing people to deny who they are; to prentend to be something that they are not.

    True love is always good.

  16. Tamino,

    Thanks for a wonderful post. It’s a shame that your (our!) views on this are sadly not yet the norm, and this applies here in the UK just as it does in the USA. Things are improving, but too slowly.

    Unless the forces of darkness (the extreme Right, and especially the Religious Right), take us back to a new Dark Ages, we will look back on this with disbelieving disgust.

  17. Thank you, Tamino, for your not so off-topic post.

    Observing the successful fight for the right of same sex marriage here in Canada was highly instructive for me. Although I never felt insecure or threatened by homosexuals and accepted them as they were, at first I bought into the “gay marriage may be a step too far” meme and thought that civil union might be an acceptable solution. But my participation on a couple of political boards with strong gay representation among the regular posters exposed me to compelling arguments that civil union was a second class solution and thus still a blatant form of discrimination.

    The debates on the boards attracted those vehemently opposed to gay marriage, so I was also exposed to their arguments as well. Most of them boiled down to preexisting belief verses objective reason and logic, exemplified by the universal charge that gay marriage would destroy marriage itself, an assertion I never once saw supported by any evidence what so ever.

    Sounds kind of familiar, doesn’t it?

  18. But no graphs. No equations.

    How am I supposed to understand this post?

    p.s. agree 100% with you Tamino.

  19. Jonathan Gilligan

    Thank you for this post, Tamino. Thank you for speaking out.

    I agree with BPL that many Christians are not bigoted and many Christians support and fight for equal rights regardless of sexual preference. But when I read your statement, “The shame is also on the church,” in the context of the rest of your post: “the shame is on us — the straight people of the world. … Until we stand united with our gay brothers and lesbian sisters and declare that we won’t tolerate discrimination … we can’t call ourselves honorable,” then it seems clear to me that you’re not bashing Christianity, but rather echoing the true Christian sentiment expressed in the parable of the Samaritan and throughout Jesus’s teaching: “inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.”

    • Jonathan Gilligan wrote:

      Tamino …when I read your statement, … “…. the shame is on us — the straight people of the world. … Until we stand united with our gay brothers and lesbian sisters and declare that we won’t tolerate discrimination … we can’t call ourselves honorable,” then it seems clear to me that you’re not bashing Christianity…

      Although the wording BPL uses might give one a somewhat different impression, Tamino is Christian and as such you are right: Tamino isn’t bashing Christianity. but morally judging the actions of some Christians.

      As for me, I come from the libertarian, largely atheistic Objectivist movement — although I myself am religiously a humanistic quasi-Spinozist. I see nothing wrong with being homosexual and therefore something wrong, morally wrong, with discrimination against homosexuals. Yet I realize people may discriminate largely as the result of holding mistaken beliefs.

      I therefore applaud Tamino’s stand. However, despite being largely atheistic, Objectivists have debated the moral neutrality or immorality of homosexuality at some length — and quite passionately.

  20. Well said, Tamino.

    > on the scale from strict sexual “Victorian” behavior through to
    > total sexual depravity, where’s the line between right and wrong?

    Look at the inside of your head there, fellah.
    A right-wrong line falls at 90 degrees to your “scale” of sexuality.
    Depraved? consenting adults, safe words, agreed scenes, do no harm.
    Victorian? tasteful choices when covering the legs of your furniture.
    Whatever your taste or kink, you can do it wrong — or do it well.

  21. And then along comes weevil to trot out the same pathetic lame arguments

    • Ah, but weevil actually makes an interesting point: the main reason marriage is such an important institution is the fact that it comes with certain government-imposed benefits. In all honesty, what else is there against polyandry or polygyny?

      • In all honesty, what else is there against polyandry or polygyny?

        The polymarriagetaxpenalty, of course!

      • The main reason? Seriously?

        Sorry, marriage has been around for a lot longer than certain government-imposed benefits. But since you raised those benefits, they are one reason why civil union is a second class status.

        As for polyandry or polygyny, you might want view some of the interviews of women in polygamous marriages and examine just how consenting and voluntary their role in the power dynamic really is.

      • Jim, the issue is that marriage has become a government-sanctioned institution. If it wasn’t, homosexuals would probably care less about their union being called “marriage”. In the old days, many people did not get married, many just had a ceremony that signified a union. Only when a government (or religious institution) sanctioned that union was it called a marriage. And that sanctioning has come with benefits in many aspects, including social benefits (as in being considered more, ehm, respectable when you are married).

        Regarding polygamy: power dynamics play a role in any relationship, not just polygamous relationships.

  22. Thank you for standing up for what you believe Tamino (once again).

  23. A thoughtful post, Tamino. One point I would make to readers is that the Christian Church is not monolithic. Also, the institutions are not always set up to make rapid change. My denomination (PCUSA – that’s Presbyterian) recently voted at its General Assembly to allow gay ministers, but this change must be approved by the regional Presbyteries before taking effect. Gay marriage didn’t make it this time, but if this is approved and people realize the sky did not fall down they will be more receptive.

    Many are working for change from within. As one commenter noted, for young people this is no big deal. The Church will change its views just as many of us have.

    I will note that the PCUSA definitely supports the science behind AGW – and has done so since 1990.

  24. fredb: For example, on the scale from strict sexual “Victorian” behavior through to total sexual depravity, where’s the line between right and wrong?

    BPL: “Consenting adults” seems to be a good working standard for me. If some act is between two (or more) consenting adults, it’s fundamentally their business, even if it’s in some way depraved or sinful from a spiritual point of view–certainly it is NOT a matter for the law to get involved with. On the other hand, once coercion or underage partners enter the question–or any partners unable to give informed consent–the state has the responsibility to step in and protect the innocent.

    • “If some act is between two (or more) consenting adults, it’s fundamentally their business,”

      Or one ;)

  25. I’m gay and I have been out since I was 17 years old. Living in The Netherlands, being queer has been mostly without problems. Our country is one of the most secular in the world, yet I object to the notion that our secularity has lead to our relative tolerance toward LGBT people.

    To raise two issues: our country still has serious problems with bigotry. We are frequently praised for our institionalised tolerance, yet societal tolerance on many levels still has plenty of miles to go. There is bigotry and discrimination not only toward LGBT-people, also against immigrants, mostly from non-western countries. These are serious issues and they are not solved with simply changing the law. Contrary to the belief most LGBT-people had in the late twentieth century, when they believed that allowing marriage for same-sex people would ‘complete’ the integration of same-sex couples in society by ‘enforcing’ societal acceptance.

    Second, my personal experiences with religion and sexuality are radically different from the stereotypes. As objected earlier, bigotry and religious beliefs are less strongly correlated than suggested. Draining from my own experience, I’ve been a meteorologist since I was 21 years old, working with various people of deep religious faith. For clarification, they were orthodox protestant. Their specific beliefs could be regarded as bigoted in one view: they believed that gay people should not marry, they believed that homosexuality is contradicatory to Gods plan.

    Yet, they had a deep respect for me, as a human being. They understood that being a member of a minority, a minority that has been bigoted and prosecuted for centuries, all the way up to the 1970ies, still presents strong challenges and requires a strong personality. And above all else, they gruelled of the idea that they would somehow -be able- to dictate how I should lead my life. In other words, they understood that beliefs and acting upon those beliefs, are two totally separate things. This is something that I can very much approve of. I am a practical man and look at issues from that view. I’m not asking to get married in a church. I do not share their specific beliefs, nor do I want to. But I don’t have to.

    I’ve had numerous, long and sometimes emotional conversations with religious -and- secular people about sexuality. Their objections and reasons for acceptance and tolerance are not all that dissimilar. When people get to know YOU, they are likely more than willing to accept you as a person. Regardless of personal beliefs. And they are also likely to accept that interfering with the lives of others, on a deeply personal level, is wrong. Again, regardless of religious or political beliefs. Being gay, that is really the most I could hope for.

  26. A lesser politically correct message:

  27. >” Gay men and lesbian women should be judged based on character…When it comes to judging character, sexual orientation is irrelevant.”

    Absolutely.
    (So if there’s any sort of pattern in climate views&efforts, I very much doubt it’d stem from an inherent gay-vs-straight difference in character)

  28. W Scott Lincoln

    Absolutely awesome and spot on.

  29. Dikran Marsupial

    AFAICS the new testament provides little support for persecution or hatred of homosexuals, whether you consider it to be a sin or not (following on from the video provided by Warm). Jesus teaches that the whole of the law is contained in just two commandments, namely to love God and to love your neighbour (Matthew 22:32-40). The parable of the good Samatian (Luke 10:27-37) shows that your “neighbour” includes your enemies and those whom you might (be tempted to) despise (and whom dispise you). The point is made more explicitly in Matthew 5:43-44 “…love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you …”. So when you find Christians preaching hate against homosexuals, rather than just pointing out Old Testament restrictions that they ignore, suggest that responding with hate is not easily squared with Jesus’s teachings anyway. Is this persecution and hatred consistent with “love thy neighbour”. I’d say “no” – however, like the climate change issue there will always be some who can reconcile anything with their preconceived views. As Deech56 points out the church is not monolithic, most would not support hatred and persecution of homosexuals (whether they consider it sinful or not), just as they would not support hatred and persecution of adulterers.

    It seems to me this focus on homosexuality, rather than say sex outside marriage, or adultery is an expression of our base human nature. Very few of us are without pride, and an expression of this (at least amongst the religious) is a desire to appear righteous, and one way of doing that is to visibly distance yourself from a group that you consider to be sinfull. Why pick homosexuality – simple it is easier to pick on some behaviour which is outside your own personal nature, rather than some behaviour you might be more tempted to actually do yourself! Again Jesus’ teachings warn against this sort of thing (see Matthew 23); it is possible that the anti-homosexual preaching is a modern version of making their “phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long”, while neglecting to actually follow the message of the gospels. We are all subject to this sort of failing (including myself) and we should be more concerned with putting right the sinfull side of our own nature before worrying about anyone elses (Matthew 7:3-5). [yes – there is an element of hypocrisy in that paragraph ;o)]

    BTW I am a Christian, I don’t hate homosexuals, I try not to hate anybody – it generally isn’t very productive!

  30. Daniel J. Andrews

    Good post, Tamino. I quite agree. Not off-topic considering how this type of ignorance blankets the science realm as well.

    This weekend I reconnected with some old friends from way back when I was doing my theology degrees. All of them, independently, have stopped attending church services because of what they see as intolerance, manipulation, or some experiences that turned them right off. Instead, they now meet in homes or small groups, or attend non-conventional services (e.g. webcasts).

    For the most part they consider themselves Christian and work to instill the values of love, acceptance, non-judgmental attitudes for all people in their children. And the family I stayed with completely adopted me for the weekend and made me feel part of their family, even the tween and teen, despite me not sharing their beliefs about a deity.

    They also were very curious about what science really had to say regarding evolution, age of the earth, and readily accepted what I explained when I showed them some of the evidence.

    According to them, there is a very large movement world-wide of people who have left the close-minded churches. The anti-gay, anti-science, anti-Biblical rhetoric and attitudes of fundies has driven many of them away. These ‘churchless’ people are the ones we can build bridges with and make allies. Indiscriminate bashing of religion or Christianity will alienate these people, esp. bashing based on personal prejudice and lack of knowledge–which makes us no better than denialists and their blanket ignorant cherry-picked statements to support their own prejudice, and make us equally transparently foolish in the eyes of those with more knowledge/understanding.

    I don’t think it is possible to build bridges with the likes of Shimkus or the tv evangelists and their followers, but it doesn’t mean we reject building bridges to the less extreme members who are a sizable majority. They are even more disgusted with the extremes views than we are, as they see it as a hijacking and a misrepresentation of the things they hold very dear. They are the ones who will stand with us against the antiscience and the bigotry that tries to justify itself in the name of religion, and after this weekend, I feel a faint hope that perhaps we’re not totally completely irrevocably screwed.

  31. The use of the words “homophobia and homophobic” are inaccurate. I have never met anyone who was afraid of homosexuals; the emotion generated is one of digust or revulsion. Using the Greek equivalent, the words would be “homoaidia or homomatasttrope”

    [Response: Perhaps “pedantic” would be more appropriate.]

  32. Etymological arguments are usually insightful and unconvincing:

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=define%3A+homophobia

  33. Pat:
    For starters, language is often imprecise, and when ancient Greek is pressed into service to generate English jargon, the relationship between the original meaning and the new one can often be evocative rather than literal. For example, non-polar molecules that tend to be excluded by water are called hydrophobic. Would you complain that this is senseless since these molecules are clearly unable to feel fear?

    And anyway, the use of the term “homophobia” is pretty consistent with the clinical use of the term “phobia” in psychology, the bar is just set lower in the common lay use of “homophobia.”

    For example: someone with a spider phobia finds spiders repulsive, extremely aversive, and will go to great lengths to avoid contact…yet they will usually have the rational knowledge that most varieties of spiders are not actually dangerous. So if you say “can a (harmless type of) spider hurt you?” they will respond “no.” But if you put one near them, they’ll freak out.

    Similarly, people described as homophobic find gay and lesbian people repulsive, and find it aversive to be in their company. If you ask “are you afraid of these people?” they’ll say “no”–rather the same as asking “can they harm you”–but let an openly gay man sit next to them on the bus and see how they react. It won’t be as extreme as an arachnophobe sat next to a spider. But it is the same general type of reaction nonetheless.

    I.e., it is irrational fear, whether the person in question will label it as such or not.

    • Since we’re going definately off topic anyway…hydrophobic is doubly odd, as molecules not only cannot feel fear, but also because it is usually not the hydrophobic compound that is the problem, it is actually the water itself!

      Slightly more technical explanation for the interested (hellllooo…anyone still there…?): dissolution of hydrophobic compounds is often an exothermic process, but water looses a lot of entropy upon dissolution of those compounds. Hence their exclusion.

  34. At least some of the time, the fear in homophobes (at least in male ones) appears to be a fear of one’s own own desires rather than those of others. See Henry et. al 1996 in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

    The quick version:
    They used a homophobia measurement scale on men who identified and behaved as straight, then selected a high-homophobia group and a low-homophobia group for the next phase. They showed both group p or n, MF, FF, and MM, and measured erectile response. Both groups responded with arousal to the MF and FF materials. The high homophobia group–but not the low homophobia group–also became aroused watching the MM material.

    Their conclusion: “Homophobia is apparently associated with homosexual arousal that the homophobic individual is either unaware of or denies.”

    cf. George Rekers, Ted Haggard

  35. I don’t deny that homophobia exists. What I deny is that anyone who opposes extending gay rights on religious grounds must be a homophobe.

    • People don’t get to choose the labels that others apply to them.

      I wish more people would consider this before using one of the vast array of derogatives levelled at gay people.

      And if I hear “hate the sin, not the sinner” one more time, I may vomit. It is not a free pass to bigotry.

  36. Barton, At the very least, those who oppose the rights of any minority must be branded short-sighted and/or callous. Regardless of what one’s religion tells them, there is the societal problem that 10% of the population is deprived of rights the rest of us take for granted–and further more that if those rights were denied on the basis of race, religion, etc, we would term it bigotry.

    I have taken to asking people who oppose gay marriage, “OK, you know the problem; what is your solution?” The lack of response I’ve received at the very least indicts the religious, and it also does no credit to their religion.

    • It’s not the lack of solution that scares me, but seriously proposed “solutions” that they actually come up with.

      And sometimes implement.

    • Dikran Marsupial

      Ray – what is wrong with the stance that the state should decide democratically whether homosexual marriage (as a secular concept) should be allowed, and let individual religions decide according to their consciences whether they should support homosexual marriage (as a religious union) – and indeed some havedone so even though the state has yet to recognise homosexual marriage? I would have thought that view would be pretty common in say the Church of England. European history suggests that a separation of church and state is generally beneficial to both parties.

      There also ought to be a right to religious freedom and requiring those with religious beliefs to support homosexual marriage would be a violation of that right. It is a difficult issue and it is unreasonable to expect a simple solution that will completely satisfy everybody as some compromise is inevitable. Is it O.K. for the church to oppose religious marriage ceremonies for atheist couples? How about satanists? At what point do religious differences justify the church refusing to sanction the union?

      What is your solution?

      • I certainly do not think that a particular religion should be forced to perform or recognize homosexual marriages. That is indeed a matter of conscience. However, if the state does not recognize such marriages and thereby discriminates between straight and gay couples, I see that as a threat to any minority’s rights. Nor can it be a purely majoritarian decision, as then no minority would be immune.
        Frankly, I support same-sex marriages. If we merely allow civil unions, we have already seen how separate becomes unequal.

        Marriage does not require a religious sanction, and it certainly doesn’t require sanction of a particular religion. I think the best we can do for gay couples is say that they are married in the eyes of the state, and screw the Catholics and Baptists.

      • Dikran Marsupial

        Ray, I think you will find that most Christians would have no problem with a “civil partnership” having the same status in law as a “marriage”. I can see the value in retaining both terms to allow the distinction between a secular and religious union – I wouldn’t view that as discrimination.

        The idea of “rights” independent of society is illusory. Just because a minority decides they have a “right” to do something doesn’t mean that society should give them the freedom to pursue it regardless of what that “right” actually involves. I would not want to live in a society where ANY minority would be immune to restrictions on their behaviour. For instance in the UK, “incitement to racial hatred” is a crime, and quite rightly so, yet it is a limitation of what a minority would view as a right to freedom of expression! While some minority rights are benign, for instance homosexual marriage, some are not, and the decision on where the boundaries are set is a decision for society as a whole. While democracy is far from perfect, it is difficult to think of a form of social organization on a national scale that has done a better job of protecting the rights of the minorities – but I am open to suggestions.

        BTW, I was baptised as an adult (and so could be described as a baptist), and my wife is a Catholic – neither of us hate or persecute homosexuals. As was pointed out earlier the church is not monolithic, neither are the major denominations, it isn’t going to help your cause to make offensive generalizations, especially if they are of questionable validity. Having said which, if you insult a Christian at least there is a good chance they will turn the other cheek! ;o)

      • Dikran Marsupial,
        The situation here is not that “a minority has decided it has some rights”. Rather, it is that a very narrow majority has decided to deny to a minority rights the rest of us take for granted. It is not that same-sex couples are petitioning to force religious bodies to marry them, but rather they want the state to treat them in the same manner that they would a straight couple.

        And, the thing is that if you grant a minority a “seperate but equal” status, the majority will eventually compromise that equality. No one can force the Catholics or Baptists to marry same sex couples. However, I do not see how the state can legitimately deny benefits to a gay couple that it would grant to the majority.

      • Dikran Marsupial

        In a democracy a “very narrow minority” cannot deny a right that society as a whole should be granted. They can lobby, they can make a peaceful protest, but that is all – they have the same “right” that you or anyone else does in that respect. However, at the end of the day if the politicians vote in parliament/senate/whatever against the wishes of the majority, the majority have the power to vote them out of office. The policians are aware of that fact.

        As for seperate but equl status – there is no reason why heterosexual couples shound not have a “civil union” rather than a “marriage” if they wanted a secular rather than a religious union – so there is no problem there.

      • Dikran Marsupial,
        The issue here is that in the US it is the law of the land that citizens are entitled to equal protection under the law. It is an amendment to the constitution added to address the origional sin of American slavery. It is also a law of the land–the Defense of Marriage Act or DOMA–that the federal government may not recognize marriages of same-sex couples. This means they are denied spousal benefits, rights of inheritance, status as care givers, and on and on. DOMA was a knee-jerk reaction by unscrupulous politicians pandering to the basest impulses of their most bigoted constituents. There is simply no way it is constitutional. Then again, it took 100 years before the Supreme Court began to enforce the constitution for anyone who was not white and male.

        If the law treats couples differently based on “marital status” and denies the right of some couples to marry, this is fundamentally wrong, and merely adding a new, “separate” status for the minority will not protect them from the bigoted majority.

      • Dikran, in the UK, a man and a woman cannot get a civil union. That’s just the very beginning of the inequality.

        If “marriage” is simply a secular affair (and, in the eyes of the law, it already is), then why can’t the same label be applied to civil unions? Why must there be two distinct but identical states? The answer, of course, is simple: they aren’t the same.

        Contrast, if “marriage” is to be reserved purely for religious ceremonies then any heterosexual couple choosing not to get married in a church must therefore be automatically given the civil union label. Can you imagine anyone being happy about that? Further, if gay marriage remains illegal, what about the many happily committed gay couples with deeply held religious beliefs? It may not be widespread, but there are churches out there that understand the difference between irrelevant and unheeded old testament laws and a loving relationship, and are perfectly happy to solemnize gay marriages, if only the are allowed to.

        If you persist with the “separate but equal” fallacy, then it quickly reduces to absurdity.

      • Dikran, you misread (and misquoted) Ray’s comment–that is, his last but one. It was not “very narrow minority,” but “very narrow majority.

        That said, it’s not entirely clear to me what you and Ray are debating–you both seem to agree that government can’t (and shouldn’t) force religious bodies to recognize same-sex marriages. Are you saying that a majority in society can and should deny marriage to same-sex couples?

        If so, I’d be largely in agreement with Ray–there are numerous examples of issues in which the momentary political opinion of the majority has been blocked from implementation, rescinded or later deeply regretted. In some cases, constitutional provisions acted to prevent serious harms or injustices; in others, these protections failed. I’d agree that this issue is another such, albeit still (unfortuantely) in flux.

        Think about:

        –The prosecution of Alan Turing–apologized for five decades later by the Prime Minister of the UK–and many others who remain nameless.
        –The interning, during the Second World War, of American and Canadian citizens of Japanese descent; Constitutional challenges failed in the US. Both governments ultimately apologized and paid reparations.
        –Treatment (in Canada, the US, and Australia, as well as other nations) of Native communities; politically popular but clearly illegal measures have (IIRC) occurred with some frequency in all three jurisdictions, and have also in some instances been subject of official apologies.
        –Denial of human rights to women, nearly universal prior to 1919. In British and British-colonized jurisdictions, for example, women were considered “persons in respect of pains and penalties, but not in respect of rights and privileges.” (I may have misquoted this a bit, but the essence is correct.) This wasn’t ironed out in Canada until 1930. (Link below.)
        –legal slavery, as Ray mentioned. (I need say no more on that topic, I think.)

        Cases in which domestic partners of long standing are denied even access to see their loved ones in hospital, who are torn from children whom they have lovingly raised for years, are both well-documented and a clear affront to justice. A dramatic treatment of one such is found in “A Single Man,” starring Colin Firth–well-worth viewing.

        Link on the “persons” question:

        http://canadaonline.about.com/cs/women/a/personscase.htm

        Today, the “Famous Five” are commemorated with life-size bronze statues in Calgary and on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. (BTW, Louise McKinney was my great-grandmother!)

      • Dikran Marsupial

        Thanks Kevin, you are quite right, I did misread – sorry Ray – mea culpa!

        I think you are right that there isn’t that much in the debate between Ray and I, other than suggesting that perhaps Ray would make more progress if he stopped making disparaging generalizations of dubious validity against particular groups.

        My point is that there should be a distinction between a religious and a secular union – in the eyes of the state we ought to have civil partnerships for both hetero- and homosexual couples, leaving marriage to mean a religious union – it being up to the religion in question to decide whether that is exclusively for heterosexuals or not. I don’t think the state should legislate about the moral aspects of relationships between consenting adults. The “civil union” is not discriminatory if it is for everybody regardless of orientation.

        Didactylos: I think you will find I have already pointed out in an earlier post that the Church of England is rather in advance of the state on this particular issue. Personally I don’t see a problem with the state using “civil union” as a legal description of my marriage, why should it be a big deal? For those who care about the distinction between a marriage as a secular and a religious union, the secular part is not of great importance. As for the “separate but equal” – I think you have misunderstood the distinction being made (see above).

        Anyway, it seems to me that the discussion has reached the point where continuing wouldn’t be that productive as the points being made are subtle enough that both sides are missing them!

      • Dikran,
        It has been my experience that humans pursue their interests by pushing the interests of those like them. Thus, if you have two separate institutions–one for the majority and one for the minority, over time in a democracy, there is a tendency for the majority institution to become favored. I believe that this is especially when the majority believes God is on their side. This is why pure democracy degenerates into tyranny of the majority unless restrained by the rule of law. Or put another way, if we wish for democracy to succeed, it is important that the law be on the side of the minority.

      • Dikran Marsupial

        Ray, I am not suggesting that there should be two institutions, one for the majority and one for the minority – the state should provide one institution for all – namely the civil partnership.

  37. Ban heterosexual divorce.

  38. Arch – that won’t work. Marriage is the union of a man and the wrong woman.

    • David B. Benson

      Usually a woman and the wrong man.

      • Both right. ;-)

        In any case – my point was that most any argument against gay marriage that involves children can also be used equally against heterosexual divorce. The obvious exception would be the procreation argument which religiously lame to begin with as there is nothing in the bible against “barren” folks getting married.

  39. Well, you’re all very PC, and that’s wonderful for you, especially Tamino, whose support of homosexuals is perhaps the most eloquent of all (except for wanting us all to know that, of course, he himself is absolutely straight.)
    Where I think you need to realise that it’s the beginning of a slippery slope, is that the next “natural” progression is to allow gays to adopt children. Can you honestly think that it’s the best thing for a little child to be adopted into a household of two men? Apart from being exposed to an influence that has a pervasiveness in even the liberal west of probably no more than one part in a hundred, where’s the maternal influence that every child deserves? No need to think it won’t happen, because it already has started in Britain, the canary in the coalmine as far as the disintegration of all traditional western values. And, yes, I’m an atheist, and for me this has nothing to do with religious beliefs – it’s simply about what seems to be the best way to raise the next generation, as demonstrated throughout the entire animal kingdom, and my shame about the way we’re prepared to maltreat our children in the name of enlightenment.

    [Response: To answer your question: YES. A child raised by two loving parents, either both male or both female, who were so strongly motivated to be caregivers that they were willing to brave the scorn of hateful, malicious bigots like you — the kid would be lucky to have such parents.

    Your shame isn’t about the way we’re prepared to treat our children — it’s the fact that you are a hateful malicious bigot.]

    • My neighbors from down on the corner have adopted children. Kids won the lottery: daddy and daddy are both highly paid physicians. Wonderful family.

    • Al,
      All the studies that do exist show absolutely NO difference between kids raised in a loving gay home and those in a loving straight home. There are plenty of places where a child can find positive male and female role models.

      Gotta ask, Al. Do you actually know anhy gay men or lesbians. If you seriously want to learn about how a good father–who happens to be gay–raises his son–who happens to be straight–go read something by Dan Savage.

      • Also, we have a lot of families where fathers are primary caregivers. Mine was one. I don’t know how one measures success. My kids are successful young adults. In part I think it was because their idiot father fashioned a nurturing environment, and their mother came home and laid down the law. I’ll go with that. Admittedly, there are costs. My son just took the national anatomy test for med students. He scored in the 99.98 percentile. See what happens when you call it what it is instead of your wee-wee: you lose .02: Western civilization doomed?

      • Gotta ask, Al. Do you actually know anhy gay men or lesbians

        Unless he lives in a cave all alone, he does. The question is whether he *knows* he knows any gay men or lesbians …

        I know gay people with kids. It’s not good parents in a loving relationship that’s difficult for kids, it’s when a couples split up that it gets hard for kids (and during the run-up to a split).

        Note that the sex of the parents does not matter in either case …

      • I should say sex or sexual orientation or gender self-identification in any of the myriad possibilities that exist between two people.

  40. Ray: At the very least, those who oppose the rights of any minority must be branded short-sighted and/or callous.

    BPL: Why? Why not just talk about the issue, rather than the arguers? I oppose the anti-gay folks because I think they’re wrong. Why should I need to categorize them?

    • Barton,
      One is “wrong” when one fails to notice eggs on the grocery list. Condemning an entire group of people to be second class citizens demands a new category. I don’t think bigoted is too strong.

  41. “Can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em”–it’s what the genders have in common.

  42. Al,
    Although Tamino, JCH, and especially Ray have covered most of what I would say in their responses to you, I’ve got a bit more:

    “where’s the maternal influence that every child deserves?”
    Soooo….how do you feel about custodial single fathers?

    “Apart from being exposed to an influence that has a pervasiveness in even the liberal west of probably no more than one part in a hundred…”
    Your numbers are wayyyyyy low, but that’s not the real problem. The real problem is that this makes no @$^!* sense. People with some “influence” that is *uncommon* shouldn’t be allowed to have children? What if you’re part of a religious group that’s less than 1% of your country’s population? No kids for you? What if you’ve got a really unique personality?

    “…disintegration of all traditional western values…”
    Heh. You should probably do a bit more reading on the founding cultures of Western Civilization. I’ll give you a quick heads-up: it didn’t start with the Puritans.

    “shame about the way we’re prepared to maltreat our children in the name of enlightenment”
    Maltreatment, eh? Quick question for you: what the hell are you talking about? I.e., what type of maltreatment do you anticipate here (that is unique to gay couples adopting)? ‘Cause all you’ve said so far is that gayness is uncommon (without any reason for why that would be a disqualifier) and that kids “deserve” a “maternal influence” (which you don’t define…do you mean interaction with one’s actual mother? In which case no adoption would be ok…or do you mean some human quality of the relationship between the parent and child? In which case you would need to support your assumption that a gay man couldn’t provide this…or do you somehow mean that developing children require proximity to female genitalia? You would need some evidence there too, I think). No word on things like evidence of differences in parental fitness. No word on any type of “maltreatment.”

  43. Philippe Chantreau

    “as demonstrated throughout the entire animal kingdom”
    As with hyenas? Or cichlids? Or the overwhelming majority of superior mammals that are in polygamist social groups? Is that your recommendation Al? It would make more sense, there is a long Human history of doing it.

  44. Have to say, I’ve never had a dog whose behavior could unfailingly be described as “straight”. . .

  45. To those who responded rationally and with civility to my comment yesterday, thankyou and my apologies for subnitting something which sounded quite different from my actual feelings on the matter. I hope you can understand that I was feeling unhappy about a specific incident, which should have been the focus of my comment, but which I barely touched on. Instead I made some sweeping generalizations which didn’t accurately reflect my opinions or the point I was trying to make, which was about children being taken from their family. I should not have posted in relation to this thread at all, but the gay link reminded me yet again of an issue that is never long out of my mind. The incident which I was thinking of is found here, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1131200/Boy-5-forced-adoption-gay-couple-pleads-We-want-stay-gran-grandad.html
    It horrified me at the time, and continues to horrify me, but the real point is not that the couple were gay, but the agenda pursued by people, in this case in local government, at the expense of the helpless and vulnerable. I just cannot imagine how people sleep at night knowing that they have ripped a child away from caring grandparents (in this case) with the potential impact on the lives of both child and grandparent. I am not usually good at making points, but I hope the webpage speaks for me. What parent can not read such a story without thinking that something has gone awfully wrong with our society?

    [Response: It looks like you won’t even be honest with yourself.

    Your objection is not about “children being taken from their family.” It’s about children being adopted by a gay couple. You even referred to adoption by a gay couple as “maltreat our children.” The article says:

    ‘I did not under any circumstances want my children to be placed with gay men. I wanted them to have a mum and a dad.

    ‘I’ve got nothing against gay people. I’ve got gay friends, but children need a mum and a dad, not a dad and another dad.

    If the story said this:

    ‘I did not under any circumstances want my children to be placed with black people. I wanted them to have white parents.

    ‘I’ve got nothing against black people. I’ve got black friends, but children need a mum and a dad who look like them.

    then we’d call those people racists. What should we call them?

    One more thing. I emphasized that I’m straight, not for the reason you imply, but to emphasize that it’s not gays and lesbians who need to change, it’s straight people. Like you.]

    • Are you for real? Seriously? The Daily Mail? Ick.

      Did it not even cross your mind that these sweet old grandparents have already failed their child? Don’t be fooled by the tabloid glurge, they skimmed over the details of how messed up the mother was, instead painting her as some sort of reformed character. Why should the grandparents be allowed to screw up the grandchild too?

      Tabloids make stuff up. Get used to it.

      You’ve got to be taught
      To hate and fear,
      You’ve got to be taught
      From year to year,
      It’s got to be drummed
      In your dear little ear
      You’ve got to be carefully taught.

      You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
      Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
      And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
      You’ve got to be carefully taught.

      You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
      Before you are six or seven or eight,
      To hate all the people your relatives hate,
      You’ve got to be carefully taught!

      (South Pacific)