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Sexuality more like religion than race

Posted by on Apr. 10, 2013 at 2:02 PM
  • 107 Replies

When the Masters golf tournament is played this weekend, I'll be among the millions of Americans celebrating the fact that the Augusta National Golf Club now includes female members. But I'll also be pondering this irony: At the same time that Augusta National is finally welcoming women into its membership, the Supreme Court is being asked to rule that the most foundational grouping in human society — a marriage — need not include a woman.

Look, I know same-sex marriage is supposedly inevitable (given the views of America's youth). And I want as much as anyone to get to sit at the cool kids' table at lunch. But when I consider ironies such as the one at Augusta National, I get the feeling that all of us cool-conscious Americans ought to chill long enough to make certain that we've thought through this fashionable idea.

Because there's a question surrounding gay marriage that could significantly alter the way we view the controversy — and might also help us avoid an endless culture war. Here's the question:

Isn't sexual orientation actually more like religion than like race?

Same-sex marriage gained its initial foothold in some of America's whitest states — Maine,Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Iowa. And opposition to gay marriage remains stronger among blacks than among any other demographic group. Freed from the guilt that most whites feel about our nation's racial history, many African Americans appear better able to see the limitations of gay analogies to race. Consider:

Everyone present at a child's birth knows the newborn's race and gender. But can any of us say for certain that we know a newborn's sexual or religious orientation? Oh, sure, we may say a child will be "raised as a Christian," or we may assume that a baby boy will grow up to chase girls. But the reality is no one knows for certain at that moment, even if there is a genetic component to homosexuality. And even the child might experience some confusion about his or her sexual or spiritual identity as he or she grows up. This no doubt helps to explain why some people bounce around religiously or sexually before settling these identity questions.

Needless to say, people don't bounce around from one race to another. And while Lady Gaga (in the sexual realm) and Calvinists (in the spiritual realm) both contend that our ultimate identity is predestined, many "free will" Americans believe that we have more say over our lives than Gaga or Calvin claim.

My purpose here isn't to weigh in on the side of destiny or free will; it's simply to acknowledge that there's an element of mystery surrounding sexuality and spirituality that doesn't surround race. This element of mystery ought to engender humility among everyone on all sides. And it ought to remind us that shared beliefs need not be a condition of genuine friendship.

I mean, my Hindu neighbors don't say to me that I must accept their beliefs in order for us to be friends. Nor do I say the same to them. And if a U.S. senator's child were to "come out" as a Scientologist, I don't think anyone would consider it uncouth for that senator to continue to harbor doubts about the claims of Scientology (even though we'd still expect him to love his child).

Viewing sexual orientation like religious identity could go a long way toward promoting tolerance of, but not agreement with, others' beliefs and practices. And it could help us all better understand why many Americans remain resistant to same-sex marriage: They don't want the state to force someone else's "religious" beliefs on them.

Now, I suppose one could argue that our age-old marriage laws already do this in the opposite direction. And though these laws are certainly consistent with historic biblical teachings (and with the Eastern conception of yin and yang), it's important for us all to recognize that the basis for marriage law in America has always been what Thomas Jefferson (Mr. Separation of Church and State) called "the laws of nature."

That is, historically, marriage has been reserved for the joining of two human beings who are fundamentally different (and do not share the same chromosomal patterns). In other words, prohibitions against same-sex marriage are very much like prohibitions against same-kin marriage. They aren't rooted in hate; they're rooted in nature. And they're designed to forge unity from diversity at the most basic level of society — which is no small thing for a nation that celebrates e pluribus unum.

Moreover, our historic marriage laws recognize that even though all individuals are equal, not all social groupings should be considered equal. That is why millions of us viewed Augusta National's same-sex membership rules as problematic. And it's no doubt why many Americans still want the membership rules for marriage to include one representative from each half of the human race.

William Mattox is a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors

by on Apr. 10, 2013 at 2:02 PM
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by Redwood Witch on Apr. 10, 2013 at 2:10 PM
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Just more hogwash and no compelling arguments. Here, again, it came down to "it's not natural."
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by Bronze Member on Apr. 10, 2013 at 2:30 PM
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You don't know if your newborn is left-handed, right-handed, or ambidextrous at birth; does that make it not their nature to favor one hand over another as they develop to the point where they will do that?

by Silver Member on Apr. 10, 2013 at 2:37 PM
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Except that many people are born gay, and no one is born religious.

by Platinum Member on Apr. 10, 2013 at 2:38 PM
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Quoting SWasson:

You don't know if your newborn is left-handed, right-handed, or ambidextrous at birth; does that make it not their nature to favor one hand over another as they develop to the point where they will do that?

Speaking of which:


Did you know that “Centuries ago, the Catholic Church declared left-handed people to be servants of the Devil? For generations, left-handers who attended Catholic schools were forced to become right-handed. They justified this belief on the basis of several bible quotations that stigmatized left-handedness.

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by guerrilla girl on Apr. 10, 2013 at 2:40 PM
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Good Grief

by Platinum Member on Apr. 10, 2013 at 2:51 PM
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Marriage is a man made institution. We humans made it up. Probably as a direct result of agriculture. Hunters and gatherers don't seem to have the same concept of marriage as those who settled to till the fields. That goes for the past 10,000 years and what we have learned from tribes of humans who are hunter/gatherers today. 

Sexuality though, that is innate. We are born with that. The need to have sex is right up there with the need to eat and sleep. Homosexuality has been observed in over 400 species, mainly mammals. Homosexuality within humans has been known forever. The Sumarians, believed to be the first people to develop a system of writing 7 to 8 thousand years ago (give or take) recorded homosexual relationships among humans. It's been observed in ALL of the great apes and the known species of monkeys. So saying it's not innate, not built in, not part of who we are, is extremely ignorant. 

Religion is a man made institution as well. Humans made it up a long time ago to explain the world around them because they had no idea (yet) of why stuff happened the way it did. So of course it had to be the Gods. But we know better now. 

This article is hogwash. 

by Ruby Member on Apr. 10, 2013 at 2:53 PM
Meh, I expected better
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by Ruby Member on Apr. 10, 2013 at 3:00 PM


by Gold Member on Apr. 10, 2013 at 3:30 PM
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Disgusting article. And it really shows true stupidly of the writer when comparing race. There is many ppl who bounce around from race to race when racially identifying. And that point is mute anyhow. Religion is a choice. Sexual orientation is NOT. You might can choose who you have a relationship with but you can't choose who you are attracted to. 

by Roma on Apr. 10, 2013 at 3:33 PM
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In order to accept that sexual orientation is like religious identity one must believe either that sexual orientation is chosen or that religious identity is inborn.

I believe neither of those things to be true.

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