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“Discrimination” and Gays

In the Oxford English Dictionary, there are multiple primary meanings of “discrimination,” used since the 17th century to indicate rational discernment and prudential choice. Examples from the last few centuries: the separation of the “sheep” from the “goats” at the Last Judgment; one word having two discriminate meanings; discernment of worthy attempts from useless attempts; discrimination of Good from Bad; separating advantageous from disadvantageous duties on imports; distinguishing generalizations from isolated cases, etc. Way down at the dictionary’s sixth example – of “secondary usage” – we find the meaning most common now in America, favorable or unfavorable treatment of a person or class, based on prejudice.

Numerous recent cases of “discrimination” in that latter sense were alleged for Brendan Eich, CEO of Mozilla for supporting Proposition 8 regarding gay marriage in California; for Barronelle Stutzman, the florist who didn’t want to fashion a floral celebration of gay marriage; for Kelvin Cochran, the African-American Fire Chief of Atlanta for referring to homosexuality and lesbianism as “perversions;” and for the O’Connor family’s Memories Pizza parlor in Indiana for responding in the negative to a reporter’s question about their willingness to cater at a gay wedding.

What if those of us who have been abused by gays as children have involuntary but uncontrollable bouts of nausea even thinking of contributing to life-long gay liaisons? As repressed childhood memories return, the urge to vomit might be hard to control decorating a cake, or photographing homosexuals kissing passionately. (This would probably not be recognized as an authentic “disability” by the government or insurance agencies. In fact, if articulated, it might be categorized as a “hate crime.”)

But such reactions aren’t limited to those who have been abused. God the Father, in St. Catherine of Siena’s Dialogue, indicates that denizens of the spiritual order react similarly: “[Sodomy] displeases not only me. . .but the devils as well. . . .It is not its sinfulness that displeases them, for they like nothing that is good. But because their nature was angelic, that nature still loathes the sight of that horrendous sin actually being committed. . . .When it comes to the sinful act itself they run away.”

Until 1973, when the APA reclassified homosexuality from “pathology” to the new “normality,” it would have been considered commendable to sympathize with those who experience “SSA.” But now, sympathy is out of place, uncalled for; rather, laudatory support for the unique distinctiveness of someone’s “gender orientation” is the correct response.

But common sense must prevail. As I argued in a previous column [1], SSA is a psychological handicap; and handicaps are typically accompanied with certain inconveniences. Businesses may be hesitant to hire kleptomaniacs. Couples looking for baby sitters may rightfully have second thoughts about someone moving into their neighborhood after imprisonment for sexual molestation of children. Establishments looking to hire a bartender would reject the application of a known alcoholic. Trucking firms and airlines wouldn’t give a second thought to pilot applications from the visually impaired. People with color blindness, hearing loss, learning disabilities, epilepsy, etc. would ordinarily direct their occupational searches to areas in which these deficiencies wouldn’t be an obstacle.

“St. Catherine of Siena” by Carlo Dolci, c. 1650

So also, Boy Scouts would not reasonably appoint a known homosexual as troop leader to go on camping trips, oversee sleeping arrangements, etc. And conscientious homosexuals would no doubt remove themselves from positions where they might experience inappropriate sexual attraction to minors as teachers or priests or coaches. One would also hope that homosexual judges might recuse themselves from pronouncing sentences on issues concerning gay rights.

But ironically, while victims of sex abuse by gay priests have been receiving generous financial compensation for “pain and suffering” during the last few decades, currently victims of gay-marriage activists are being threatened with loss of their business and/or livelihood for refusing to contribute to the proposed national celebrations of gay marriage.

Obviously your reactions to behavior considered ugly, unnatural, or perverse should not automatically be translated into ethical judgments. If I see someone with Tourette’s syndrome, blurting out filthy language, I don’t categorize this as an ethical issue; nor if I see children spouting out racial or religious hatred inspired by their parents.

Similarly, with regard to homosexuality, unknown causes are at play, especially at puberty, redirecting sexuality into dead-end pathways; and the handicapped individual may be relatively inculpable. Aristotle’s category of “incontinence” (which primarily denotes lack of control of sexual appetites – not the common secondary medical meaning) is highly relevant.

An analogy from abortion: if there were a way for women to carry out a Vacuum Aspiration, tearing a baby’s body into pieces as he or she is being pulled through the hose, or a D&E procedure, tearing legs of their unborn child’s body, or other such common abortion procedures, we can be sure that most women could not bring themselves to do it. They need “professionals” for this stomach-turning procedure. They may avoid thinking of the suffering by fantasizing their unborn child as “fetal tissue,” or focusing on the grand ideal of “women’s liberation,” or even congratulating themselves on doing their part to combat “overpopulation.”

So also, the general public can avoid recognition of our weird institutionalization of contractual sodomy by focusing on the beauty of human passions and the fascinating diversity of ways they can be redirected. They can present gay “marriage” as an extension of civil rights, even though there is not the slightest scientific evidence that sexual orientation, like race, is something you are “born with.” And they can affirm the grandiose ideal of “diversity” and the unquestionable principle of “equality” (with the usual exceptions for religious or moral dissent, or certain political orientations).

On the other hand, the situation may change very quickly. If the news media summon up enough courage to poll Muslim bakers in Dearborn, Michigan about baking cakes for gay weddings, the issue will disappear like magic from our radar screen. Problem solved. Religious freedom reinstated.

Howard Kainz, Emeritus Professor at Marquette University, is the author of twenty-five books on German philosophy, ethics, political philosophy, and religion, and over a hundred articles in scholarly journals, print magazines, online magazines, and op-eds. He was a recipient of an NEH fellowship for 1977-8, and Fulbright fellowships in Germany for 1980-1 and 1987-8. His website is at Marquette University.