This week The New York Times reported that “prominent Republican
politicians and strategists say they are troubled by a wave of harsh
anti-homosexual oratory from fellow Republicans, fearing it could make
the party appear intolerant and drive out moderates and economic
conservatives.” The reference, of course, was to widely publicized
remarks by Sen. Trent Lott, in which he called homosexual behavior a
sin and compared it to alcoholism, kleptomania and “sex addiction.”

While Sen. Lott deserves praise for the courage of his remarks, and
most of his critics in the Republican Party deserve contempt for their
somewhat frantic retreat, still it must be said that he did not choose
his ground well. As a public policy discussion, Senator Lott’s remarks
were off track in two ways: first, in implying that homosexuality is of
public concern because of the specific or unique ways that it is wrong,
and second, in conceding that it is a compulsive behavior.

While it is, of course, absolutely true that homosexual behavior is
gravely sinful for reasons all its own, the public policy issue it
raises is the more general one of moral responsibility. Whatever
conclusion is ultimately reached by society about the sinfulness of
homosexuality, if we at the same time concede that homosexual behavior
is beyond the control of the individual — that it is a disease in the
sense of a compulsion — we will find ourselves logically forbidden from
passing moral judgment on the individuals who engage in it.

The implications are enormous. If human beings act as a result of a
compulsion that they cannot control, then we do not, generally speaking,
hold them responsible for what they do. The act in itself might be
wrong, but the individual is not held accountable for it. And if we put
sexual behavior in that category, then we destroy all the possibilities
of family life, of fidelity, and all those things that depend on the
concept of sexual responsibility. What is at issue when we deal with the
radical homosexual agenda is whether we can accept the underlying
premise that individuals are not to be held accountable for their sex

Presidential spokesman Mike McCurry’s response to Sen. Lott was to
deny that homosexuality is an “affliction.” Rather, he said, it is “a
part of defining one’s sexuality.” So it appears that Mr. McCurry and
Senator Lott disagree about whether homosexuality is a bad compulsion or
a good one, but they agree that it is something beyond personal
control. Neither of them appears to consider the notion that sexuality
represents an element of human freedom, and therefore of responsibility
and self-discipline.

The homosexual lobby knows that if homosexual behavior can be reduced
something like race — an accidental characteristic for which the
individual cannot be held morally responsible — then no public moral
judgment against it will ultimately prevail, and no systematic
discrimination against it can be sustained in our public institutions.

This is a reasonable strategy for homosexuals to follow. They seek
acceptance and honor for their vice, or at least an iron-clad protection
from discrimination because of it. If they simply present homosexuality
as a characteristic beyond human choice, like skin color, their freedom
from discrimination is secure. The homosexual lobby cannot vindicate
its claims through reason because it is clear to almost everyone that it
is unreasonable, and therefore wrong, to choose a life against nature.
So vice seeks another route to safety and pleads necessity — “I am made
this way.”

But at what cost? Put aside, for the moment, all of the particular
evils that are associated with homosexuality. Forget the physical evil
of AIDS, and the moral and spiritual evil suffered by those trapped in
the homosexual culture and its various pathologies of the soul. What
would be the cost to the truly public order — to the things we all
— if freedom from discrimination is purchased at the price of claiming
that sexual behavior is compulsive?

When we accept that we cannot pass judgment on homosexuality because
is not chosen, but compulsive, we accept in principle that we cannot
pass judgment on any other sexual behavior that is just as plausibly
claimed to be compulsive. But adultery, rape, bigamy, pederasty — the
ugly possibilities force themselves upon our minds — all have at least
as strong a claim to be compulsive behavior. Once we accept that
homosexuality is beyond the reach of moral judgment, we will be
defenseless against the whole range of strongly desired sexual behaviors
that we now consider to be rightly discriminated against. We can still
manage some opposition to the vice of adultery — but how will we handle
the men who claim that adultery is their “sexual orientation”?

And why limit the lesson to sexual matters? If homosexual activity is
immune from moral judgment because it is not freely chosen, why not the
acts that flow from anger? From greed? The excuse of irresistible
passion is, well, intoxicating, and once the homosexuals get the game
going, any number of other passions will insist on playing. The public
has a legitimate stake in defeating the homosexual agenda because that
agenda generally seeks acceptance on a premise that makes the
disciplined life of moral self-government impossible.

And above all it is to protect the public institution of the
marriage-based, two-parent family that we must deny the claim to
equality of the homosexual culture. Public policy must protect the
family from the dangerous basis of the homosexual claim to equal
treatment, which is the denial that rational self-discipline out of love
for others, which is at the heart of real family life, is even real,
much less a venerable pillar of our entire civilization. If we teach
parents that their sacrifices for their children are mere compulsions,
not free choices made out of rational love, they will eventually begin
to discern more immediately gratifying compulsions. And how will we say
them nay?

The homosexual agenda errs in denying the basis of decent life — the
human capacity for moral judgment and self-control. In doing so, it
seeks to reduce all of us to the level of children — morally blameless
because morally incompetent. This error is the deep concern of the
statesman, because moral judgment is the only thing standing between a
self-governing people and the law of the jungle. The appropriate public
policy question to raise about legitimizing homosexuality is whether it
is a temptation to moral imbecility for us all, because that is the
question that actually touches on the possibility of our life together.

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