Cynthia Nixon has spurred an interesting dialog by embracing the concept that being gay or lesbian can be a choice. In the civil rights world,the it’s-not-a-choice-it’s-an-inborn-trait position is an attempt to connect being gay with other protected classes defined by immutable characteristics, such as race, gender, and disability. It’s also embraced as a counter to the common homophobic position* that if you can choose to love people of your own gender, you can equally easily — like choosing a different flavor of ice cream — choose to love people of the other gender. Or perhaps choose to live a celibate life.
But Nixon makes I think the precise right point:
I say it doesn’t matter if we flew here or we swam here, it matters that we are here and we are one group and let us stop trying to make a litmus test for who is considered gay and who is not. . . . It seems we’re just ceding this point to bigots who are demanding it, and I don’t think that they should define the terms of the debate.
It has always seemed bizarre to me that religious folks stress that this protected class — gays and lesbians — is based on choice, when the most mutable, chosen-not-born protected class is religion. You don’t choose your race, disability, or national origin, and most people don’t choose their gender. But if you can choose to be Christian, you can just as easily choose to be Jewish or Muslim, right? Why on earth should we protect Christians against all that discrimination** they face when they could simply elect to be Jewish or Muslim and get away scot-free?***
Seriously, we shouldn’t be discussing choice vs. innate; we should be discussing respect. And in the discrimination context, relevance. What on earth relevance does it have to someone’s ability to do their job who they sleep with? What faith they practice? Their gender? Their race?
* Did you know there is something called Conservapedia? Me neither. It’s precisely as informative as the name suggests. For example, this is the only substantive information it provides on the ADA:
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a broad federal law that requires places of public accommodation to comply with numerous regulations relating to access by persons having disabilities. The Act encourages lawsuits against restaurants, schools, retail stores, hospitals and other small businesses by providing for the recovery of attorneys fees by successful plaintiffs.
Go forth and be informed, young conservatives with homework projects!
** Clearly Conservapedia is going to be my go-to source for links to straw-man conservative arguments. They make it so easy!
*** Can I say that? Does that discriminate against Scottish people? Or is it OK because I’m a Jewish-Scottish-American?