National Column: Do gays choose, or are they 'born that way?'
Is being gay something one chooses? Are we all capable of being gay or lesbian, but the better among us choose to be straight? Tim Pawlenty, former Minnesota governor and current candidate vying for the 2012 GOP nomination, was asked by David Gregory on NBC's Meet the Press (since Pawlenty has shown himself to be so knowledgeable on Lady Gaga) if being gay is a choice, or if they're "born this way." Pawlenty's answer was telling, "Well, the science in that regard is in dispute."
And by "telling," I mean it is now clear he has not read much on the science of homosexuality.
The American Psychiatric Association stopped classifying homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1973. Gay-cure or conversion therapy is condemned by the American Medical Association, American Psychological Association, and the American Counseling Association. Remember those gay penguins? The science is not still out on this one.
Republicans have a bad habit of deferring to science as an authority only when they wish to inject doubt (see: climate change, evolution, round Earth). This is a basic misunderstanding - if not misuse - of science. There are always more questions in science because that's what science is: an intellectual systematic study - basically tons and tons of questions. So it will appear indecisive if your worldview demands certainty. There used to be unanswered questions about how bees could fly - but we still built legions of planes. On the other hand, the "theory" of gravity is not controversial, but if you look hard enough there's bound to be a crank somewhere disputing gravity on the basis of feeling that it's wrong.
"Some reputable scientists are not 100 percent convinced gravity exists."
We, as a culture, have decided we're not going to practice the harems, plural marriages and incest the Christian Bible mentions and instead have opted for love-based, non-arranged marriages as the ideal. Our mores are clearly flexible, but somehow the religious right has cherry-picked a hard line on homosexuality. Why? Pure politics.
In the same Meet the Press interview, Gregory described Pawlenty as a "boilerplate Republican." Gay marriage was a boon to Republicans in the 2004 election. It gave George Bush the "political capital" to attempt social security privatization.
Now an Iowa group called Family Leader has a "marriage vow" pledge they've managed to get two GOP candidates (Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum) to sign. The pledge is a primer for plenty of proposed wedge issues: pornography, polygamy, adultery, women in combat, Sharia law and one we haven't seen in more than 150 years - slavery.
Republicans embrace hot-button social issues as a way to get their disastrous economic policies passed. It's like Three-Card Monte: while all eyes are on the two grooms - white-collar grand larceny gets decriminalized.
Why is it important for Republicans to insist homosexuality is a choice? Why even get into the logical snag of someone WANTING to WANT to be attracted to the same gender? Here's why: If you can choose being gay, then homosexuality can be condemned as a moral shortcoming. And the immoral having the audacity to demand acceptance is the perfect rallying cry for the GOP base.
If you can't choose to be gay, and it's something you're born with - then being against homosexual civil rights is just plain old-fashioned prejudice - something the rest of us choose to condemn as a moral shortcoming.
The easiest way to marginalize a group of people is to call their circumstances a "choice." The poor? A choice. The under-paid? A choice. Drug addiction? A choice? Single motherhood? A choice. Each is arguably more complicated than this dismissive one-word declaration. However, if you disagree - you're against personal responsibility! Yes, the GOP is the party of personal responsibility - unless it's abortion rights or whom you wish to marry. Then the Government should save you from yourself.
The actual choice in this issue is choosing to deny science when it doesn't fit your agenda. The actual choice is choosing to use a group of people who want to become a family as a political prop.
The choice is using "choice" as a way to parlay prejudice against a minority into ballot ink.