Tag Archives: same – sex marriage

Religious Divides in Support for Same-Sex Marriage

It is often assumed, quite incorrectly, that the disputes over marriage equality are between those standing up for religious belief (especially Christian belief), and secularists on the side of human rights. The fallacy of this assumption is neatly illustrated by this graphic, in a post at the Public Religion Research Institute, drawing on a comprehensive analysis of data from the Pew Research Institute. This clearly shows that the disagreement is not between religion and human rights, but between the different shades of religious affiliation. Two of the three groups with the strongest support for equality are from religious groups – but not Christian religion (Jews, and other non-Christian faith groups).

Even within the Christian faith, there is clear division between denominations. White and Hispanic Catholics, and White Mainline Protestants, all show clear majority support for equality. (The research does not break out Black Catholics):

    • White Catholics: 56% in favour, 39% opposed
    • Hispanic Catholics: 53% in favour, 37% opposed
    • White Mainline Protestants: 52% in favour, 40% opposed

The arguments from “religious freedom” against legal recognition for all marriages must surely also take into account the freedom of those people of faith that support same – sex marriage, both in other faith groups, and within their own denominations. (In

Of the groups broken out for analysis, only Black Protestants, Mormons and Evangelicals are opposed  – but, it must be said, very strongly.

Beyond Secular vs. Religious: Religious Divides in Support for Same-Sex Marriage


In 2011, majorities of most religious groups favored allowing gay and lesbian couple to marry legally, illustrating that the old narrative of battle lines between secular supporters and religious opponents no longer serves as an accurate characterization of the landscape of the same-sex marriage debate. In the general population, 2011 was also the first year on record in which supporting same-sex marriage was not a minority position. In May, several surveys (all asking slightly different versions of the same question) found that a majority of the public supported allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally marry. PRRI’s May survey found that 51% of Americans were in favor, and 43% were opposed.

-full analysis at   Public Religion Research Institute.

This strength of feeling from the opponents, and the rather milder feelings of supporters, must be assessed together with the evidence from several sources that opposition is dropping in degree, as well as in extent, while supporters are growing in both numbers and intensity of feeling.

The striking contrast between the views of younger people, including younger Evangelicals, and their older co-religionists shows clearly that this shift within the churches towards more widespread, and more intense, support for marriage equality will surely continue to grow:

There are large generational differences between Millennials (age 18-29) and older Americans on the issue of same-sex marriage. Sixty-four percent of Millennials favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, a rate that is more than 20 points higher than among those ages 30 and above (42%). This generational gap persists within every religious group, including more conservative religious groups. For example, 66% of Catholic Millennials favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, 15 points higher than Catholics ages 30 and above (51%). Even among white evangelical Protestants—the group most opposed to same-sex marriage—nearly 4-in-10 (39%) white evangelical Protestant Millennials favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally, a rate that is more than 20 points higher than that of white evangelicals ages 30 and older (18%).

–   Public Religion Research Institute.

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"Practicing Safer Texts": The Bible and Sexuality, Homosexuality

As gay men, we all know about the importance of practicing safe sex. When it comes to the Bible and sexuality, especially homosexuality, Ken Stone says we must practice safe texts, too. I regret that I have not yet had a chance to read this book and cannot comment personally on its quality, but the advice in the title is sound. We must read and respond to isolated Bible verses with extreme care. Failure to do so can be dangerous to our mental, emotional and spiritual health. “Everybody” knows that the Bible clearly condemns homosexuality as an abomination, goes the popular wisdom, which in turns fuels the opposition to LGBT equality and gay marriage, and at worst encourages prejudice, discrimination, bullying – and even murder. The popular wisdom is wrong.

At Newsweek, Lisa Miller introduces her discussion of two new books by Jennifer Wright Knust and Michael Coogan with an important reminder: the Bible devotes an entire book to a clear celebration of human sexuality, without any consideration of procreation or even permanent commitment and fidelity:

The poem describes two young lovers aching with desire. The obsession is mutual, carnal, complete. The man lingers over his lover’s eyes and hair, on her teeth, lips, temples, neck, and breasts, until he arrives at “the mount of myrrh.” He rhapsodizes. “All of you is beautiful, my love,” he says. “There is no flaw in you.”

The girl returns his lust with lust. “My lover thrust his hand through the hole,” she says, “and my insides groaned because of him.”

This frank Biblical erotica has too often been overshadowed in religious discussion of biblical sexuality by the modern puritanical perceptions of biblical sexual ethics.  These modern perceptions are a severe distortion. Miller writes:


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What does the Bible really say about sex? Two new books written by university scholars for a popular audience try to answer this question. Infuriated by the dominance in the public sphere of conservative Christians who insist that the Bible incontrovertibly supports sex within the constraints of “traditional marriage,” these authors attempt to prove otherwise. Jennifer Wright Knust and Michael Coogan mine the Bible for its earthiest and most inexplicable tales about sex—Jephthah, who sacrifices his virgin daughter to God; Naomi and Ruth, who vow to love one another until death—to show that the Bible’s teachings on sex are not as coherent as the religious right would have people believe. In Knust’s reading, the Song of Solomon is a paean to unmarried sex, outside the conventions of family and community. “I’m tired,” writes Knust in Unprotected Texts: The Bible’s Surprising Contradictions About Sex and Desire, “of watching those who are supposed to care about the Bible reduce its stories and teachings to slogans.” Her book comes out this month. Coogan’s book God and Sex: What the Bible Really Says was released last fall.

Some conservative commentators are outraged. “You cannot selectively twist the Bible to suit your purpose” is a common response – which completely overlooks the fact that this is precisely what the defenders of “traditional marriage, as found in the Bible” are doing all the time. The popular conception of “traditional marriage” is a relatively modern invention, very far removed from sexual ethics of the bible – as found in the actual text, and not in some befuddled pseudo-religious imaginations.

To really get to grips with biblical views on sexuality, “practicing safer texts”, requires proper study and reflection. Scholars who have done this have been reconsidering the traditional presentation for decades. Jennifer Knust (a professor of religion and an ordained Baptist pastor) and Michael Coogan (who trained as a Jesuit priest) have taken what is now common parlance among some academics, and made it more accessible to a wider audience.

For those who have followed the re-evaluation of  the bible’s supposed pronouncements on homosexuality in particular, it is easy to recount the counters to the half-dozen or so clobber texts, or “texts of terror”, on Robert Goss’s phrase. What I like about the accounts of these books, is that they move beyond the arguments around specific verses, and on to a more holistic view of Scripture as a whole, and approaches to its overriding message – strictly in accordance with the Pontifical Bible Commission guidance on biblical interpretation, with its emphasis on context – of the passage and the entire bible, as well as the historical conditions, the modern context, and with a careful eye to linguistic accuracy and literary conventions :

The Bible contains a “pervasive patriarchal bias,” Coogan writes. Better to elide the specifics and read the Bible for its teachings on love, compassion, and forgiveness. Taken as a whole, “the Bible can be understood as the record of the beginning of a continuous movement toward the goal of full freedom and equality for all persons.”

It is a discussion of the literary conventions that produces the greatest surprise for me: Coogan’s claim that Biblical language may use the term “foot” as a euphemism for genitals. This recognition leads to some completely novel and surprising perspectives on familiar passages:

When biblical authors wanted to talk about genitals, they sometimes talked about “hands,” as in the Song of Solomon, and sometimes about “feet.” Coogan cites one passage in which a baby is born “between a mother’s feet”; and another, in which the prophet Isaiah promises that a punitive God will shave the hair from the Israelites’ heads, chins, and “feet.” When, in the Old Testament, Ruth anoints herself and lies down after dark next to Boaz—the man she hopes to make her husband—she “uncovers his feet.” A startled Boaz awakes. “Who are you?” he asks. Ruth identifies herself and spends the night “at his feet.”

However, it can also lead to some dangerous traps for the unwary:

When he is teaching to college students, he writes, someone inevitably asks about the scene in Luke, in which a woman kisses and washes Jesus’ feet—and then dries them with her hair. Is that author speaking about “feet”? Or feet? “As both modern and ancient elaborations suggest,” Coogan writes, “sexual innuendo may be present.” Scholars agree that in this case, a foot was probably just a foot.

Newsweek, What the Bible Really Says About Sex

We all know that “The Bible” is widely used as a cover to oppose legal protections for LGBT equality, or for full inclusion in church. Too often, as Candace Chellew Hodge points out, these arguments are made by people who have not actually read the bible, or if they have, they have, they have made not attempt to understand it with due consideration of its meaning, in the full scriptural, literary and historical context.

Over at Focus on the Family’s Citizen Link, blogger Jenny Tyree isn’t surprised at Ms. Bush and Ms. McCain’s support for marriage equality. “It’s rather easy for 20-somethings—or millennials—to jump on the very tidy-looking ‘rights’ bandwagon that proponents of same-sex marriage have made marriage to be,’ she writes, rightly observing that the majority of people aged 18-29 support marriage equality.

What these darn kids are missing, Tyree says, is a real appreciation of biblical marriage. Instead, they’ve grown up “breathing air thick with a cultural disregard for marriage. Experiencing the personal benefit of having a married mom and dad doesn’t change what they witnessed—willful divorces and the suffering of the children of divorce. The result is a generational embrace of sex as a right and marriage as one of many lifestyles, rather than as the best family structure for children and a stabilizing force for society.”

-Candace Chellew-Hodge, Religion Dispatches

Chellew-Hodge goes on to point out (quite correctly )that what these people are proposing is emphatically not the supposed destruction of marriage and family, but its strengthening – by extending its protection and coverage to all families.

She also goes on to report on a Knust’s book, saying that it beautifully counters the tired argument that same-sex marriage undermines “biblical marriage”. Marriage in the Bible takes many forms. Which variety, exactly, are the defenders of “traditional” marriage thinking of?

When one actually reads the Bible (something a majority of “traditional marriage” supporters have obviously not done), one finds a myriad of models for marriage—most of them involving one man and many women—and all of those women are property of the man they are married to. Women were subservient to men in every way and had no voice or rights of their own. By the time we arrive at the Christian scriptures, we find Jesus openly discouraging marriage for his followers, requiring them to leave their families and follow him exclusively.

“From Jesus’ perspective, then,” Knust writes, “the family is made up of fellow believers, not kin with formal ties outsiders might recognize.”

Saying that one supports “biblical marriage” then is to say that one supports polygamy, or owning women, or leaving one’s family altogether and dedicating one’s life exclusively to following Christ. What millennials like Ms. Bush and Ms. McCain understand is that the tradition of marriage has evolved into a more inclusive institution encompassing mixed race marriages, and non-procreative marriages. Marriage today is not a matter of familial arrangements to enlarge land holdings or status. Marriage today is about the love and commitment between two people—as well as the government perks bestowed on the couple. Adding gays and lesbians to the mix does nothing to weaken marriage—it’s simply another evolution away from “biblical marriage” that was more about property rights than love.

Biblical marriage, according to Knust, looked like this: “women belong to men; male honor is tied, in part, to how well men supervise the women in their care; and men demonstrate their wealth and success by the number of legitimate wives and children they are able to acquire.”

Actually, given religious right preaching about how men are the head of the household and women are subject to the rule of the man, perhaps the religious right does believe in “Biblical marriage” after all.

At CNN, Jennifer Knust herself elaborates on the bible and homosexuality in particular, rebutting a key argument against gay marriage – that God created two distinct sexes. In fact, she points out, in the earliest versions of the creation story, it was accepted that the original human was androgynous:

We often hears that Christians have no choice but to regard homosexuality as a sin– that Scripture simply demands it.

As a Bible scholar and pastor myself, I say that Scripture does no such thing.

“I love gay people, but the Bible forces me to condemn them” is a poor excuse that attempts to avoid accountability by wrapping a very particular and narrow interpretation of a few biblical passages in a cloak of divinely inspired respectability.

Truth is, Scripture can be interpreted in any number of ways. And biblical writers held a much more complicated view of human sexuality than contemporary debates have acknowledged.

In Genesis, for example, it would seem that God’s original intention for humanity was androgyny, not sexual differentiation and heterosexuality.

Genesis includes two versions of the story of God’s creation of the human person. First, God creates humanity male and female and then God forms the human person again, this time in the Garden of Eden. The second human person is given the name Adam and the female is formed from his rib.

Ancient Christians and Jews explained this two-step creation by imagining that the first human person possessed the genitalia of both sexes. Then, when the androgynous, dually-sexed person was placed in the garden, s/he was divided in two.

According to this account, the man “clings to the woman” in an attempt to regain half his flesh, which God took from him once he was placed in Eden. As third century Rabbi Samuel bar Nahman explained, when God created the first man, God created him with two faces. “Then he split the androgyne and made two bodies, one on each side, and turned them about.”

When the apostle Paul envisioned the bodies that would be given to humanity at the end of time, he imagined that they would be androgynous, “not male and female.” The third-century non-canonical Gospel of Philip, meanwhile, lamented that sexual difference had been created at all: “If the female had not separated from the male, she and the male would not die. That being’s separation became the source of death.”

From these perspectives, God’s original plan was sexual unity in one body, not two. The Genesis creation stories can support the notion that sexual intercourse is designed to reunite male and female into one body, but they can also suggest that God’s blessing was first placed on an undifferentiated body that didn’t have sex at all.

Jennifer Knust, CNN Religion Blogs

I do not propose that my readers should simply adopt the views expressed above simply on the strength of some third-hand reports of books that I have not yet had the opportunity to read myself. Biblical exegesis is a tricky matter for those of us without proper training. As the critics of these books are quick to point out, we do need to be guided in our interpretations of the texts by reliable scholarship. What the critics overlook though, is that scholarship itself is no longer supporting the traditional interpretations.

Ever since the early pioneers like Canon Derrick Sherwin Bailey, scholars who have re examined the evidence with an open mind have found that the traditional assumptions about the Biblical condemnation of homosexuality are unfounded. Bayley was followed by the historian John Boswell, with a chapter on scripture in Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, and the detailed analysis by the Episcopal theologian William Countryman. This early trickle of works demonstrating the flaws in the traditional misinterpretations has become a flood, so that those denominations which have set up formal study programs have agreed that there is at the very least substantial room for disagreement. This is why we are now seeing a strong movement towards accepting even the ordination of openly gay or lesbian clergy, and even same sex weddings, in the US Mainline Protestant and European Lutheran churches. This re-evaluation by scholars and religious professionals, however, has not yet reached the popular mainstream, not in any significant numbers.

These latest additions to the range of available titles are welcome, and deserve to be widely read and reflected on.

Books:

Bailey. Derrick Sherwin: Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition

Boswell, John: Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century

Coogan, Michael:God and Sex: What the Bible Really Says

Countryman, William L: Dirt, Greed and Sex

Helminiak, Daniel: What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality

Knust, Jennifer WrightUnprotected Texts: The Bible’s Surprising Contradictions About Sex and Desire

Rogers, Jack :Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality, Revised and Expanded Edition: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church

Stone, KenPracticing Safer Texts: Food, Sex and Bible in Queer Perspective

Thelos, Phil: Divine Sex: Liberating Sex from Religious Tradition

My Related articles

Related articles elsewhere

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What Constitutes a “Family”? Empirical Study Finds A Wider View

Religious conservatives are regularly referring to the “traditional family” as a foundation for their beliefs, but there is no such thing. The conservative interpretation of the so-called traditional family is  a relatively modern invention, created to fit the conditions of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in Western Europe and North America. In earlier times, and other parts of the world. family structures varied enormously from  this particular model.
Family history, like all other history, is constantly changing to fit new circumstances, so it should be no surprise that conceptions of family in the twenty first century are continuing to evolve, to fit a world that is no longer what it was in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Some of these changes are obvious, but like so much that is familiar, can easily be “hidden in plain sight.” A new study by sociologist  Brian Powell brings this into plain view. (His study is specifically of American views, but with the emergence of a shared world culture, many of his findings will also have relevance across a much wider geographic region.)
The central finding is that people no longer define “family” as mom pop and kids, but also include   same-sex couples with children (Children seem to be central: childless couples, gay or straight, are not seen as “families”, but just as couples). However, there is an increasing movement towards acceptance. An important finding, familiar from previous studies on the subject, is that people who know gay people (more accurately, who recognize that people they know are gay), are more supportive than those who are not aware that family members or acquaintances are gay. This simply reinforces the necessity for the wider political struggle, that wherever possible, gay men and lesbians should come out openly, in as many contexts as possible. Coming out personally will improve acceptance in our circles of friends and family. Politicians and other public figures who come out   do so indirectly for the wider community.
I particularly liked an argument on gay adoption that I have been using regularly: framing arguments in terms of the “the best interests of the child” can work to our advantage, not those opposed to gay adoption. (In adoption considerations, the best interests of the child require placement with the best parents available. Sometimes, they will be gay).  Indeed, the claim made (but not elaborated on in the reports I have seen), is that the interests of children may well be a more effective argument than others in making the case for more general equality of same-sex couples.

A majority of Americans now say their definition of family includes same-sex couples with children, as well as married gay and lesbian couples.

At the same time, most Americans do not consider unmarried cohabiting couples, either heterosexual or same-sex, to be a family — unless they have children.

The findings — part of a survey conducted this year as well as in 2003 and 2006 by Brian Powell, a sociology professor at Indiana University, Bloomington — are reported in a new book, “Counted Out: Same-Sex Relations and Americans’ Definitions of Family,” to be published on Wednesday by the Russell Sage Foundation. Since the surveys began, the proportion of people who reported having a gay friend or relative rose 10 percentage points, said Professor Powell, the book’s lead author.

“This is not because more people are gay now than in 2003,” he said. “This indicates a more open social environment in which individuals now feel more comfortable discussing and acknowledging sexuality. Ironically with all the antigay initiatives, all of a sudden people were saying the word ‘gay’ out loud. Just the discussion about it made people more comfortable.”

The book concludes that framing the equality of same-sex couples in terms of “the best interests of the child” might prove to be a more successful political argument than others.

What Irish Catholics Believe

This is getting monotonous, but it must be stated again. What Catholics believe and practice on matters of sexual ethics, as a matter of empirical fact, is simply not what the (nominally) celibate bishops in their ivory towers would like us to believe, or falsely proclaim as “Catholic” belief, when it is in fact no more than Vatican doctrine.
The latest evidence, in a long line of similar research, comes from Ireland. This makes it all the more notable, given that country’s long reputation until recently as a “priest-ridden country”, where the dictates of the clergy meant that even contraception was forbidden by law, and people would journey across the island to Belfast just to buy condoms.
In a marked turnaround, the Irish people do not simply tolerate pre-marital sex, they believe it is desirable for young couples to spend time living together before committing to marriage. The bishops, on the other hand, maintain that all sex outside of marriage and not “ordered to procreation” is sinful, and presumably support their American colleagues’ pronouncement that cohabitation before marriage, like homosexuality, is gravely disordered.
The Irish politicians have come a long way in standing up to moral bullying by the church officials, notably over the investigations into clerical sexual abuse, but have some way yet to go. They have succeeded in passing civil partnership legislation, which will come into effect early;next year, but lag well behind their voters. Fully two thirds would support full marriage equality.
From the Irish Times:

Two-thirds support gay marriage, poll finds

JUST OVER two-thirds of people (67 per cent) believe gay couples should be allowed to marry, according to an Irish Times /Behaviour Attitudes social poll.
It is one of a series of findings in a poll on “sex, sin and society” that indicates Irish people have adopted a more liberal attitude towards personal relationships and sexual behaviour.
In addition showing strong support for gay marriage, a significant majority (60 per cent) also believe civil partnerships for gay couples will not undermine the institution of marriage. A large majority (91 per cent) also say they would not think less of a person if they revealed they were gay or lesbian.
These numbers are consistently high across most age groups, as well as in urban and rural areas.
People are divided, however, on whether gay couples should be allowed to adopt children. Some 46 per cent support such a move, while more than a third (38 per cent) are opposed. Younger people, urban dwellers and women are more likely to be supportive of the idea.
The findings also indicate there is a growing consensus that living together before marriage is likely to result in a more stable marriage. A majority (57 per cent) believe cohabitation is a positive development. This view is reflected consistently across most age groups.
Even higher numbers (79 per cent) do not regard sex before marriage as immoral. When broken down by religion, most Catholics – again, 79 per cent – did not see anything wrong with the practice.
Just 15 per cent, mostly older people or those living in rural areas, see it as immoral.
There are also significant differences across the generations in attitudes towards issues such as celibacy and virginity. In total, just under half (48 per cent) of people admire those who choose to be celibate for moral or religious reasons.
A majority of older people (62 per cent) aged 65 or more are much more likely to admire celibacy, while this falls to well under half among younger and middle-aged people.
Even among Catholics, respondents are just as divided. While 51 per cent of Catholics admire celibacy, the remainder either do not (33 per cent), or say they do not know (16 per cent).
Not all the poll findings point to increasingly liberal attitudes, however. The average age most people feel teenagers should begin to have sex at is 18 years, above the current age of consent which is 17.

Also:
Survey reveals more relaxed attitude to sex
Two-thirds support gay marriage, poll finds

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"The Civil Partnership Celebration at Canaa".

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.  Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.  When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”  And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me?  My hour has not yet come.”  His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”  Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.  Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.”  And they filled them up to the brim.  He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.”  So they took it.  When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (although the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk.  But you have kept the good wine until now.”  Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. John 2, 1-11; Gospel for Sunday, January 17.
For a specifically gay reflection on the Gospel, Gospel for Gays” is exactly what it says:  a site with a particular focus on Gospel  reflections by Canadian Catholic blogger Jeremiah. For this week’s Gospel on the wedding at Cana, Jeremiah asks us to imagine the scene as a “gay” wedding.

This is not as far-fetched as it might at first appear. There is an intriguing little bit of history buried in the name of the village – “Cana”.  This is not the same as the “land of Canaan” we know from the Old Testament, but if it were, the idea of a miracle at the gay wedding feast would have been entirely feasible.. Canaan is one of several middle eastern lands where it is known that same sex marriages were recognized in law.  (Egypt and Mesopotamia were some other examples). We must also remember that for Jesus Himself, it is highly unlikely that a same sex marriage would have bothered him in the least.  We know for example, that he did not hesitate to heal the Roman centurion’s “pais“, or slave almost certainly used for sexual purposes, and probably with an emotional component added to the relationship;  among his closest friends were the household of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, who at the very least represented a most unusual household by the strictly gendered standards of the time,  but for whom the reported relationship of “sisters” may have been a euphemism for a lesbian relationship; He explicitly stated that “eunuchs” (the closest equivalent to the modern idea of “gay men”) were welcome in the Kingdom of heaven.  At this evening’s LGBT Mass in Soho, our celebrant, Fr Sean Middleton, introduced his homily with a (jocular) reference to the “civil partnership” at Cana.
Fr Middleton also raised some important points which struck a chord with me, in connection with the reading from Paul, and the recent observations of Pope Benedict on creation and homosexuality.  Recall that the reading from Paul to the Corinthians was the well-known passage on the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Listening to the words, I remembered how many psychotherapists and spiritual directors state clearly that sexuality is a gift, and that to is a gift that comes to different people in different forms – one of which is a homoerotic orientation. Elsewhere, Paul teaches that celibacy too is a gift, not given to all. Referring briefly to Benedict’s claim that “homosexuality” is a threat to creation, because if the whole world were gay, humankind would become extinct, Fr Middleton pointed out that exactly the same argument applied if the whole world were to embrace celibacy (and I’ve never read that Benedict has condemned celibacy as a “threat to creation”. )
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AMA Condemns the Dangerous Heterosexual Perversion.

Well, not exactly – but they could just as well have done, as I will explain later.  first, what they actually did say:

“The nation’s largest doctors’ group has agreed to join efforts to repeal the military’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy.

The American Medical Association also voted to declare that gay marriage bans contribute to health disparities for gay couples and their children.

Both gay-rights policies were adopted Tuesday at the AMA’s interim policy meeting in Houston.

The AMA says the ‘don’t ask, don’t-tell’ law creates an ethical dilemma for gay service members and the doctors who treat them.

The other measure declares that marriage bans leave gays vulnerable to being excluded from health care benefits, including health insurance and family and medical leave rights. The new AMA policy stops short of opposing the bans.”

American Medical Association

There is a delicious irony in a medical group condemning discriminatory practices against gay and lesbian people, as it is well known that the much abused word “homosexual” was originally coined late in the 19th century as a medical term to denote what was then seen as a pathology.
Time has moved on, and personal orientation is no longer seen as a pathology for medical treatment, no matter what NARTH and the so-called “ex-gay” movement have to say about it.    Even the Catholic Church agrees that the “inclination” in a person is natural and not in itself sinful – they just need to allow their theology to catch up with the implications of this. Unfortunately though, the simple recognition that there is no pathology is not enough:  the damage has been done.

Let us now look at that late 19th century coinage, “heterosexual”. Yes, this too was a word invented in the 19th century, after its counterpart “homosexual”, and was also originally a medical term, used to denote a pathology.  Yes, that’s right – a pathology – specifically,

“a morbid obsession with the opposite sex.”

Now, “homosexuality” is no longer taken seriously as a pathology, but I submit that heterosexuality, as “a morbid obsession with the opposite sex”, is indeed a pathology and requires serious attention.  Let me explain.

In the context of a simple orientation, or as specific sexual acts, I obviously do not suggest that “heterosexuality” is diseased or unnatural, any more than I would make that claim about any other sexual orientation or activity.  However, at the level of society as a whole, the 20th century fixation with heterosexuality as a cultural norm to be imposed on all, fostered by this belief that it was “diseased”, aided and abetted by religious misinterpretations of Scripture and selective extracts from theology purporting to show that it is grievously sinful”, can certainly be called a morbid fascination, which has caused untold damage to the mental and physical health of many millions of people.  It is this insistence that people conform to externally imposed sexual norms, quite contrary to innate orientation and psychological health, that has caused much higher rates of youth suicide among gay and lesbian youth than among their peers; that has led to the bullying that is often the proximate cause of the suicides; that leads people in to lives of duplicity and fear in a closet; that has led to active persecution by many governments, from Nazi Germany to Iran, Sudan and Uganda today – and which lies at the bottom of the bans on gays in the military, or on gay marriage, which are the immediate issues addressed by the AMA.

This obsession is entirely unnatural.  Le t me restate once again, what should by now be well known, but sadly isn’t:

The homoerotic orientation is entirely natural, and has been found in all periods of history, in all parts of the world, and in most animal species.

Scientific research suggests that most people are neither exclusively attracted to the opposite sex, nor exclusively to the same sex. We lean more or less strongly to one or the other, but most of us are capable of responding to at least some degree to either.  Social pressures however, influence how we deal with this.

Societies too are not typically exclusively modelled on the patterned on the modern, misnamed Western idea of “traditional” marriage. This model, a monogamous union of one man and one woman joined in a love relationship consecrated in church to raise children, is unique to the last two centuries in the West. Before that, Western marriage was primarily about protecting property and inheritance rights. In many parts of the world, and among the Hebrew patriarchs, polygamy was commonplace. In classical Greece and Rome, where European culture largely began, men did not expect to find sexual or emotional fulfilment in marriage, but took it from slaves, prostitutes, concubines or male lovers – if they were privileged citizens. If not, chances are their sexual lives were determined by their owners or masters, not by themselves.

Among Christians, marriage in church was not required (and was sometimes not possible) until the 12th century. Indeed, it has been suggested that a church ceremony was obligatory only for priests who chose to marry.

Outside of Europe and North America, the so-called “traditional”, “time-honoured” model was even less typical until it was imposed by Western missionaries and colonial powers.

Even in the animal kingdom, exclusive heterosexuality is rare. Some degree of homosexuality is now known to occur in many, possibly most, animal species.

In short, the evidence from psychology, medicine, anthropology, history and zoology is that whereas homoeroticism is entirely natural if not common, exclusive heterosexuality is both unnatural and rare.  As such, I have no hesitation in labelling the social “morbid obsession with the opposite sex”  orientation as exclusive practice, and the resultant insistence on heterosexist laws and theology not only a social sexual perversion, but an extremely dangerous one.