Defining Sexual Orientation: Laws without Meaning
Last October, millions of Americans were shocked when Houston mayor Annise Parker targeted area pastors in response to their efforts to repeal a controversial ordinance that would allow transgendered men to use women’s restrooms. She demanded that pastors turn over sermons, emails, and other communications that were critical of the new policy. Many of us wondered if we’d stumbled into an episode of The Twilight Zone, where freedoms of speech and religion had never made it into the U.S. Constitution.
In fact, many of you responded when I asked Christians across the country to mail the mayor a Bible or a copy of a sermon or a verse of Scripture.
Thankfully, the Texas Supreme Court ruled in favor of the pastors who rallied to bring the transgender law to a public vote. That vote happens tomorrow.
What happened in Houston is hardly the only example of sexual orientation laws being forced onto society. Last month Governor Andrew Cuomo bypassed the New York state legislature and issued an executive order adding transgender to the protected classes regarding housing and employment, calling his changes “sweeping.”
But all of these changes are happening without anyone answering the most basic question of all: What is sexual orientation? Writing in the Federalist, social researcher Glenn Stanton argues that we can’t protect sexual orientation in law because, “it doesn’t mean anything.”
According to Stanton, those promoting these sweeping legal and policy changes all operate as if there is a clear definition of sexual orientation that everyone understands and agrees with. The truth is there is no agreed-upon definition—even among those promoting it.
For example, the Human Rights Campaign, a leading LGBT lobbying group, defines sexual orientation as “an inherent or immutable enduring emotional, romantic or sexual attraction to other people.” Yet, Psychology Today teaches that “A person’s sexual orientation is not a black or white matter; sexual orientation exists along a continuum.”
Now wait a minute. Is sexual orientation immutable and fixed or fluid and changeable? The answer depends not only on which expert you consult, but on which social taboo people are trying to make acceptable.
According to Stanton, this glaring contradiction ought to give us pause before we embrace such radical social engineering. If we’re not careful, he argues, such confusion will fling wide the doors to those whose attractions and behaviors are still hovering at the fringes of society, waiting for their chance at acceptance.
If sexual orientation is just about “a person’s enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction to another person,” how long will it be before we extend protected status to, say, pedophiles? I’m not trying to exaggerate or alarm here. Pedophile activists very nearly succeeded in adding pedophilia to the list of sexual orientations in the recently updated DSM-V, psychology’s most holy book. If every deep desire can be classified as a sexual orientation, then it really doesn’t mean anything at all.
Stanton is right to caution us when it comes to changing laws based on confusing and contradictory definitions. What passes easily enough in pop culture has no place in the exacting world of law. So long as we carve out protected classes based on personal feelings rather than objective truth, employers and others can never be sure if they’re complying with the new laws. And well-meaning people are bound to be attacked, fined, and possibly imprisoned without ever knowing what they did wrong.
Transgender and sexual orientation issues are not going away soon. But by better understanding these matters, we will be more equipped to match nonsense with reason, and hatred with love.
BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.
Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children's books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.
Publication date: November 2, 2015