Memo To: Website Fans, Browsers, Clients
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Nature and nurture
When I devoted a memo on the margin to gay marriage two weeks ago, when the Massachusetts Supreme Court threw out of law prohibiting it, I knew I’d get mail denouncing me as a homophobe because of my arguments in opposition to “gay marriage” even while supporting “civil unions.” I got a lot of interesting mail too, with plenty of commentary on our TalkShop on all sides of the issue. In the memo, I chiefly questioned the idea that homosexuality is genetically transmitted, on the grounds that a homosexual gene would have to have survived the eons through procreation, which same-sex partnerships do not produce. If it is the product of “nurture” rather than “nature,” society’s stamp of approval of gay “marriage” would seem to foster a cultural climate that would foster more homosexuality – and lead to new demands from the gay and lesbian community that are not now on the table. Nothing in the e-mails I got changed my view that the Massachusetts 4-to-3 court decision went “a step too far,” and the term “marriage” should be reserved by the state for the joining of a man and a woman. A man in Wisconsin, a self-described conservative, took issue with me from a political perspective, an interesting letter I’ve decided to run, with his permission.
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Being a good conservative, with normal 'conservative family values', I can't help but wish this whole issue would go away - but it won't. It's not the demands of homosexuals that is keeping this alive - it's the resistance of ultra-right-wing religious zealots. If they would quit squawking so loudly, all the hub-bub would disappear - and we could all spend time on more important issues. Needless to say, I don't want to see 'gay marriages' thrown in my face, either in the wedding announcement section of the newspaper, in some lavish mainstream magazine spread, or parading down Main Street - but giving special privileges to 'married couples' is the cause of this dispute, not some nefarious agenda by a seriously handicapped portion of our population.
Homosexual populations historically seem to stay around 15%, with slight variations upward during time of civil/social unrest - another good reason to let this go away. This circumstance has been a part of society since the advent of man - and is equally well-documented in animal studies - so it's not going away. Many societies recognized this and made accommodations that did not involve persecution - we rarely hear about those, since there is no problem unless we create one. (Neither the Nazis nor the Muslims succeeded in reducing the numbers of homosexuals in their societies - in spite of lethal repression.)
'Marriage' is religious ceremony - but unfortunately, the state stuck its nose in it – and now it must pay the price. All 'marriages' are 'civil unions' and subject to state regulations and requirements - what we really need to do is emphasize this and take the word 'marriage' completely out of government rhetoric - instead of the other way around. Then 'marriage' can be recognized - or not - according to whatever religion is involved in the unofficial ceremony. The rights of 'civil unions' should indeed be universal - applying to any 'family' that wishes to establish itself and claim state recognition - mainly for rights of benefits and inheritance - and yes, I'd add a codicil designating a partnership of only two adults.
I can't tell you how many people are upset at being unable to claim a close relative or platonic friend as a 'dependent' these days for household and financial reasons - with the break-up of extended families, ever more people are finding themselves in non-family situations - at least not meeting the definition of a typical family and/or 'marriage' - and usually not involving sex at all. (Believe me, I resent the implication that any same-sex roommates 'must be gay' besides.) On the other hand, I also see people (particularly seniors) who refuse to marry because of financial implications - and as a conservative, you really don't want to know how strongly I feel against 'cohabitation' - even as a last resort.
Anyway, maybe if we reconsidered how we distribute 'favors' (benefits and deductions) - and whether it really benefits society in the long run – we could come to a better accommodation of all people in America. In our ultra-litigious society, I can understand how some people would be alarmed - I've lived around the Mormons long enough to know I frown on polygamy – for a myriad of reasons - and that there's always a perverted threat of some kind in our 'anything goes' society. However difficult though, we must figure out how to craft laws that do indeed limit destructive behavior without excluding legitimate portions of our society.
Homosexuals will be with us until enough people dedicate enough money to find a cure - and it is a problem of hormone imbalance, not choice, in most circumstances. (Wisconsin has done considerable research with monkeys - enough to know there are certain immutable facts - that homosexuality is not a choice, nor a genetic condition, but a hormonal imbalance during gestation.)
I'd like some of these 'delicate' moral questions to 'disappear' - to be relegated to private discussions within religious groups - but they won't so long as we insist on dragging them to the forefront with vociferous - if not totally ignorant - ranting from a few loose screws. Of course the majority of Americans are going to be against gay 'marriage' - this is a frighteningly Puritanical (and hypocritical) society that rarely searches for the log in their own eye. As for 'god's will' - just whose god do you want to use? How about Zeus, or Thor, or Raven, or Ra? Like it or not, this is a nation of immigrants - religion is always changing, though rarely rational - maybe that's why the Founders sought to keep it out of government - for our own good. We might consider following their advice - and the Constitution - in contemporary terms. After all, the same arguments are being used today against homosexuals that were used against inter-racial marriage - another circumstance with which I still don't agree - I find it personally repulsive, would never consider such a circumstance for myself, but would never dream of imposing my personal morals, values, and principles on other people - or even judging them for their choice. That's what 'democracy' and freedom' mean to me - and I don't see how gay rights infringe on mine. No one would ever 'choose' to be handicapped in any way - be it deformity of body, or deformity of gender - let's not add insult to injury. Besides, Alexander the Great conquered the known world - and by best reports, not only was he gay, but so was a goodly portion of his army. Something our own military should consider. Gay people aren't space aliens - they are a normal and natural product of procreation - it happens in the best of families.
This is not my favorite subject, but the sooner we conservatives stop being so self-righteous and elitist, the sooner the problem will fade from the headlines. I can see where you have tried to formulate a thesis to justify your personal opinion - but I don't think that's helpful. I look to you to help resolve the situation - find some common ground - and leave our personal choices out of the equation.
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[Alexander's army was composed of virile young men who had powerful sex drives and no outlet, as there were no camp followers on his long campaign to conquer the world. Same-sex was all there was, just as there is in the US prison system today. Is there any evidence that men who practice same sex in prison remain gay when they are released? Mr. Lambrecht's argument about hormonal imbalance is something else I would like to know about. The TalkShop discussions cover reports of homosexual behavior by certain animals, but no reports of same-sex copulation. Anyone know of such? JW]