Thursday, May 10, 2012

Will and Grace

Yesterday, President Obama endorsed the idea of gay marriage. My opinion on this issue is well known to regular readers. I am opposed to it. But at the same time I do not believe that there ought to be any discrimination against people who are attracted to members of their own sex.

To reiterate what I have said a great many times on this subject - I do not fault any human being for having sexual desires that are biblically forbidden to act upon. As long as they don’t act upon them, they have done nothing wrong. And if they succumb to a forbidden desire, it is not anyone’s business as long as they do not try to legitimize those acts.

Legitimizing an act which is forbidden by the Torah is where I part company with those who advocate for gay rights. I hope that Orthodox homosexuals would agree with me on this. There is a difference between asking that society respect them as equal human beings – something I advocate – and asking society to consider their behavior to be morally neutral. That is what gay marriage is all about – normalizing gay behavior. And it seems that the leader of the free world now agrees with that proposition.

The argument by those who favor gay marriage is the libertarian idea that as long as it doesn’t affect me personally, what difference does it make if two men or two women want to have the legal – if not religious – sanction of marriage? If that’s what they want, what business is it of mine? It should not have any impact on me or any religious consequences.

I understand that perspective. But I do not agree that granting government sanction on an act that is biblically prohibited has no impact on the rest of society.

Making the statement that in America homosexual sex and heterosexual sex are morally equal and simply a lifestyle choice – like buying a sports car instead of a sedan counters a fundamental biblical prohibition.  The more societal acceptance given to this alternative lifestyle the more difficult it will be to teach the religious perspective of it to our children.  

The bible’s value on gay sex will be seen as archaic. How do you instill into your children a religious value when the culture of your country sees that value as ridiculous? How do you see gay sex any different than Vice president Biden does when he said it’s all about commitment… it’s all about who you love – not how you love?

This isn’t just an Orthodox Jewish concern. It is a concern for every single religious human being of the three major faiths.

As sympathetic as I am to people who are attracted to members of their own sex, I am not sympathetic to normalizing biblically forbidden sexual acts. As much as I advocate that homosexuals ought to be treated with the same respect that heterosexuals are treated – and given the same rights, I do not respect formally sanctioning a gay relationship through the institution of marriage.

Why is this happening now? It didn’t start yesterday. If one goes back just a few decades to the 60s homosexuals were mostly in the closet. Very few would admit publically that they were gay. The stigma would ruin their lives and careers. It would tear families apart. Homosexuals were socially ostracized and ridiculed behind their backs. Sadly that still happens today. Young students that are openly gay or suspected of it are subject to bullying by their fellow students. In one case not long ago a gay student was so badly beaten that he died as a result of it.

But even though this kind of tragic thing still happens - the public perception of homosexuals as flaming drag queens has been changed. Much of it by through sympathetic portrayals of homosexuals over the years in the movies, on TV, and on the stage.

But the coup de grace that was the death knell to the negative images of homosexuals was the TV series Will and Grace (no pun intended). The image of the flaming gay gave way to an image of a completely normal individual in the person of ‘Will’. The image presented was of a man who any mother would want their daughter to marry - were he straight.

He was presented as normal as could be with many positive traits: a sense of humor, well groomed, well mannered, kind, and considerate …and very good looking. He had a highly developed sense of ethics and even sexual morality. Another gay character on that show was presented more stereotypically, but even his character was presented in a sympathetically humorous and lovable way.

Will and Grace was a very popular show and lasted many seasons. It gave America a new image of the gay man as a normal man whose only difference was his attraction to men rather than women. So normal and likable was he that his counterpart on that show, Grace, made a point of always comparing her dates to him – usually in a less favorable way.

Suddenly the country saw that being gay was indeed just a lifestyle choice – an identity issue that is best left to the individual. The abomination factor that used to keep homosexuals in the closet has mostly disappeared.

That is not in and of itself a bad thing. We ought not to feel disgust when encountering an openly gay person. The disgust - if there is any - should only be at sinning, not at orientation. We ought to treat gay people no different than we treat heterosexuals.

But now we are being asked to formally sanction their behavior through marriage. That is what marriage does – just as it sanctions any marital act in a heterosexual marriage. That is not a value we ought to be incorporating into a society - the vast majority of which believe in a bible that considers these acts to be a grave sin. And I am disappointed that the President thinks this is a good idea.