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The Marriage Debate and the History of Homosexuality


Two week ago, we saw something unprecedented in American politics.

Four states voted in support of the radical redefinition of marriage which makes men and women, husband and wife, mother and father become merely optional for families. This view of family is quite radical and contrary to how humanity works. But do these victories mean it’s all over for natural marriage? Not even close.

We must understand some important realities about the races in these four states: Washington, Minnesota, Maine, and Maryland.

1. They are deeply blue, largely liberal states.

2. The protect-marriage forces were dramatically outspent by the redefinition crowd, at least 4 to 1 in each of these races.

3. The final vote margin in each was very thin, which was remarkable given the first two points.

These are important to keep in mind.

Natural marriage still has very strong support in our nation and that can continue if we don’t get discouraged and throw in the towel. The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) reports that scientific, nationwide polling conducted on Election Day revealed that 60 percent of all Americans voting across the country that day stated they believe marriage should be protected and remain a relationship between a man and a woman. This is even a tad higher than the same finding this past September where 57 percent of voters expressed their support for natural marriage.

One of the growing beliefs fueling the mainstreaming of homosexuality is the assumption that homosexuality is just as natural as heterosexuality, that one is just born that way. I hate to call Lady Gaga out on her facts, but there is not one shred of scientific evidence that people are simply “born that way.” Even though scientists have furiously been looking for such proof for many decades now, it simply does not exist. It is mere hopeful belief, resting singularly on unchallenged rhetoric and cultural pressure. Repeating something often enough doesn’t make it true.

Here is a fact that all must face: Homosexuality as a personal or social identity is thoroughly a political construction, no more than 60 or 70 years old by the most liberal measure. Does that sound strange? Let me explain.

Sure, same-sex sex has existed since the most ancient of times. But it was simply understood as an actsomething someone did to another person. And in nearly all cultures throughout time, it was taboo to varying degrees. It was there in ancient Greek culture, but this was only between a man and boys or slaves, as even The New Yorker noted last week. Such acts between men of the same status in society were viewed as shameful. Romantic, emotionally-based same-sex relationships were unheard of. Bronislaw Malinowski in his book, The Sexual Lives of Savages from his studies of Polynesian natives in the early 20th century, suggests that this social revulsion is more natural than culturally constructed. “Sodomy is repugnant to natives” and it was so disdained that “it would be an insult thus to assume that any sane person would like to commit” the act. Malinowski sarcastically notes: “The natives are perfectly aware that venereal disease and homosexuality are among the benefits bestowed on them by Western culture.”

Then at the turn of the last century, same-sex sex became a condition among some Western cultures. One of the first sexologists (and a very liberal one) — Havelock Ellis — referred to it as “sexual inversion” and later homosexuality. The term “homosexuality” arose around the 1880s and 1890s to describe what was predominantly understood as sexual psycho-pathology — a condition one suffered from or had.

And only a few decades ago in certain developed Western nations did it become an identitysomething someone was.

And this was only after the American Psychiatric Association stopped classifying same-sex attraction as a mental disorder in 1973. Don’t think for a moment that this was done as a result of the careful scientific deliberation of the association. It is commonly known they acquiesced to the rambunctious and constant protest of gay activists.

And this brings us to where we are today with the issue: People are just born that way, so accept it. Mark Steyn explains the implications of this social evolution:

One can object to and even criminalize an act; one is obligated to be sympathetic toward a condition; but once it’s a fully fledged 24/7 identity, like being Hispanic or Inuit, anything less than wholehearted acceptance gets you marked down as a bigot. 

And so that’s where we are. Our friends at Chick-fil-A and researchers like Mark Regnerus know this thuggery all too well. Many marriage redefiners — now operating under the focus-group tested and approved slogan “marriage equality” — know that virulent emotional manipulation is reprehensible, but remarkably effective. Who wants to be branded as a hateful bigot? Making sure that all people are treated with love, respect, and dignity is something we all must be tirelessly committed to and most of those who lead efforts to defend marriage strongly believe and practice this.

But to permanently and radically change the fundamental nature and definition of the universal practice of marriage and family founded on the social necessity of male/female complementarity just because some cultural elites slime you as hatefully prejudiced if you don’t is not something anyone should bullied into. This is not what an important social debate should be made of. Unfortunately this one has become that and we are poorer people for it.

Glenn T. Stanton is the director of Family Formation Studies at Focus on the Family and the author of (most recently) The Ring Makes All the Difference (Moody, 2011) and Secure Daughters, Confident Sons: How Parents Guide Their Children into Authentic Masculinity and Femininity (Multnomah, 2011).

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