“How many more gay people does God have to create before we ask ourselves if he wants them around?”

In keeping with the nationwide GOP focus on job creation social issues, Republicans in Minnesota (my dearly beloved/often embarrassing home state) are taking advantage of their new majority in the legislature to push to get a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage on the 2012 ballot.

The measure is moving along quickly through the legislative process. But every step of the way some good Minnesotans are speaking out against it. Last week, a 24-year-old, straight, Republican woman argued that “equal rights is not a partisan issue” and basically told the GOP to stop being so old and out-of-touch. Very cool.

On Monday, Representative Steve Simon, with text-book Minnesotan niceness, asked his opponents to just consider this one question:

“How many more gay people does God have to create before we ask ourselves if he wants them around?”

And a new motto for LGBTQ rights was born! Score: Steve Simon: 1, Homophobes: 0.

Transcript after the jump.

Rep. Steve Simon:

“We have to be careful about trying to enshrine our beliefs, however religiously valid we may believe th…them to be, in the Minnesota constitution. And what I’m hearing today, and what I heard on Friday, was largely a religious justification for change in the Minnesota constitution. I don’t think that’s right, I don’t think it’s fair, I think it departs from our tradition.

The other thing, which I know makes some people squirm, but I think we have to discuss it, both during an election campaign, but here in the legislature too… is how much of homosexuality is nature, versus nurture. Is this something you learn or acquire, or is this something you are born with? Is this just another lifestyle choice like skateboarding or gardening, or is this something that’s innate with the human being.

And, I…I want to take a page from what I heard last Friday in the senate testimony, there was a member of the clergy, I…forgive me I can’t remember his name, and he said ‘you know what? Sexuality and sexual orientation are a gift from God.’ And I think that’s true. And I think the scientific evidence show more and more, everyday, that sexuality and sexual orientation are innate, and something that people are born with. And I would ask everyone on this committee, not today, not tomorrow, not next week, not even this year, but in a moment…uhh.. when you can be alone with your own thoughts, to ask yourself: ‘if that’s true, if it’s even possibly true, what does that mean for the moral force of your argument?’ Just ask yourself. Not now, in the glare of the capitol, or in caucuses and interest groups, but ask yourself: ‘if it’s true, that sexual orientation is innate, God-given, then what does it mean to the moral force of your argument?’ And I guess that, to put it in the vernacular, what I would ask is: how many more gay people does God have to create before we ask ourselves whether or not God actually wants them around?

[Pauses for applause]

[Other senate member asks the crowd to "please keep applause to yourselves"]

How many gay people does God have to create before we ask ourselves whether the living of their lives the way they wish, as long as they don’t harm others, is a Godly and holy and happy and glorious thing? I’ve answered that for myself, I don’t think everyone has answered that for themselves, necessarily, in this room. But I’m comfortable with a society and a s…uh.. tradition that… that bends towards justice and fairness and wholeness and openness and compassion, and I do think, as others have said before me, more eloquently, that that’s where the arch of history is bending as well.

And I truly believe that in a generation, maybe not even a generation, but certainly many generations from now: if we pass this, if we put it on the ballot, if this becomes part of our constitution, history will judge us all very, very harshly. And I think, that the people who vote for this, today and in the future, umm… will have a…w…will, although their children and grandchildren can, and should be, very proud of them for service to the state of Minnesota, will on this issue, not be so proud. And there may even be some justifiable shame there as well. And I think that’s something we all have to… to think about and justify in our own consciences. So I strongly urge a ‘no’ vote. “

Atlanta, GA

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director in charge of Editorial at Feministing. Maya has previously worked at NARAL Pro-Choice New York and the National Institute for Reproductive Health and was a fellow at Mother Jones magazine. She graduated with a B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. A Minnesota native, she currently lives, writes, edits, and bakes bread in Atlanta, Georgia.

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Editorial.

Read more about Maya

Join the Conversation

  • http://feministing.com/members/casatron/ Casimir

    I’m an atheist, so I don’t support any argument “from God”, whether it’s in favor of or condemning of something. However, I understand that a lot of people need to believe their god “accepts” something for them to condone it on moral grounds, so if this type of argument helps believers get on board with the crazy notion that homosexuals are just regular people, too, and deserve every bit as much respect and dignity as heterosexuals, then that’s a good thing.

    Although, I still get increasingly frustrated with the line of reasoning that says “someone is born gay, so we have to accept it as who they are.” The implication here is that if a person did, in fact, choose to have a same-sex relationship, then it would somehow be okay to chastise and demean them. I’d really love to see a politician just come out and say “born with it, choosing it, experimenting with it, or just interested in it, who cares? If they’re not hurting anybody, what the hell business is it of anyone else?”

  • http://feministing.com/members/alwaysalready/ Suzy

    Simon’s argument is seriously flawed. The jury’s still out (no pun intended) on whether sexual orientation has a genetic component. And if it’s an acquired behavior/preference/who’s-to-say-what-it-is, that doesn’t mean it’s a choice. The argument that sexual orientation is innate depicts gay people as a type of person, rather than simply people with a certain taste. Nobody is born with a sexual preference. Everybody is born with bisexual potential. Look at other societies, look at the ancient Greeks. The idea of the “homosexual” didn’t even arise until the 19th century. It shouldn’t matter whether gay people are born that way or not. You don’t hear people saying that you shouldn’t ridicule the way someone dresses because they were genetically predisposed to dress that way. In other words, the nature/nurture argument is irrelevant. It is only relevant to people with the very belief Simon objects to — that the law should be made according to God’s will — which makes it ironic that he is appealing to them. If you don’t believe that genes equal God’s chosen destiny for the gene-carrier, and that gay rights depend on whether or not God “wants them around,” there’s no advantage to saying gayness is natural. If it’s not genetic, that doesn’t make it a choice. Scientists should stop trying to figure out whether it’s nature or nurture because such pursuits subscribe to the beliefs of homophobes who say that homosexuality is only okay if you “can’t help it.” As long as they’re not hurting anyone, people’s sexual choices should be respected regardless of where they stemmed from.

  • http://feministing.com/members/thorn/ Jen

    I don’t see the pursuit of nature vs. nurture science to be solely directed at proving that people are born a certain way, so much as trying to prove that people are not always born straight. The usefulness of scientifically examining the issue is so that we can disprove that there is a “normal” default sexuality that humans are born with. This will allow us to dismantle the idea that homosexuality is somehow a “defect”, which is an argument that has long been used by conservatives. Rather than interpreting scientific findings in such a way that pigeonholes people into one genetically-determined sexuality or another, they need to be interpreted as proof that there is no “correct”, “normal”, or “default” genetic sexual identity setting. Hopefully, instead of leading to a detrimental, patronizing “it’s genetic so people can’t help it” argument (which still implies that there is something “wrong” about it, regardless of genetics), science can prove that there is a fluidity and range to our genetically-driven sexual identities, and make that be the “norm”.

    • http://feministing.com/members/alwaysalready/ Suzy

      If we are waiting on science to offer proof that homophobia is not justified, we will be waiting a very long time. People will interpret the data how they want. There is “fluidity and range to our genetically-driven sexual identities” whether scientists say so or not.

      The question is an ethical one, not a scientific or statistical one. Whether or not something is the norm is irrelevant. Being acquired doesn’t make something unacceptable, and being genetic doesn’t make something acceptable. If it were found that racism was innate, would we accept it? No. If it is proven that being straight is innate and gay people acquire this trait after birth, would the liberals who use the “gay gene” argument still accept homosexuality? I hope so.

      • http://feministing.com/members/thorn/ Jen

        I disagree. I place great value in the ability of science to disprove the accepted norms, and to change views, if only because it helps change the verbage of the populace. Yes, you are always going to have people so steeped in their own narrow religious views that they are going to refuse to accept science. But you’re also going to have people who are neutral on the subject – fence-sitters, who generally ignore the debate because it doesn’t affect them personally – who can be won over by changes, and are more inclined to put stock in scientific studies. My mother is a good example of one of these people. Her opinions often changed throughout my childhood, particularly her open-mindedness and tolerance. Studies mattered to her; data, rather than social movements or other peoples’ opinions. She was someone who would accept the general consensus without worrying too much about it until something came along to dispute it, and I think that many people are like that. Does the average person spend hours questioning the social norms around them? Usually not until it is detrimental to them or someone they love, or until political movements or scientific research brings a the topic to their attention.

        So yes, the die-hard homophobes will continue to refute science or twist it for their own needs. But those in the middle will speak differently in front of their children, and in turn maybe those children grow up being a little more educated and a little less prejudiced. A slow process, but necessary, and impossible without studies to back them up.

  • http://feministing.com/members/jennifergates/ jennifer gates

    I’m obviously 110% pro gay rights.
    To quote Jimmy McMillan, If you want to marry a shoe, I’ll marry you.

    Now a difficult question- how much can the ends justify the means?
    It’s going to take decades to achieve full rights for homosexual citizens at the rate we’re going, UNLESS we swallow our pride and use the bigoted, ignorant thought process (if there is one) against them.

    Whenever I suggest what I’m about to, I’m heavily criticized by gender and gay equality activists, but unfortunately I’m convinced it’s the only way to deal with some people.
    I’ve often resorted to using the following argument:
    “I know, but God can take care of it. He* doesn’t need or help. If they sin, its their fault..you’re not making them sin or “letting” them sin, the intent is enough, so theres no point in outlawing a sin they committed in their intentions anyway.”

    * Don’t even think of calling God “she” if you want this work. Sorry.

    Trust me, I never feel good after these conversations, but if you try and use stuff like “Jesus loves all people no matter what”, and “who are you to decide right and wrong”, you’re not going to get anywhere. You have ZERO chance at changing those kinds of minds if you bring in things like feminism, equality, personal freedom, or “God loves everyone.” You either have to compromise your integrity and play along, or you’re going to yell at them blue in the face for 3 hours and not get anywhere…in fact, you might HURT the cause.

    You have the remember that these are people who advocate routine infant circumcision, heaven and hell doctrines, using the old testament as a legal reference, and equate taking the morning after pill to cold blooded, first degree murder. You will NOT.GET.THROUGH. WITH.LOGIC. Never, ever, ever. It makes no difference how brilliant your argument is or how often you point out their hypocrisies. They don’t care, and never will.

    Just look at Harvey Milk- he was in the neighborhood with the highest gay ratio of any other place WORLDWIDE, and how many years and elections did it take him to win? The issue of religious belief vs gay rights is one of the toughest in American culture.

    I hope I don’t offend anyone here more than I already am, but religion bears disproportional responsibility for things like homophobia, anti pro choice, and pro infant circumcision. Secular people can be racists, hateful and bigoted to, but in a country where 20% of the general population are secularists, 1% of your homophobic bigots will be secularists.
    America is what, 80% religious? Yet I’d be willing to bet 98% of people protesting gay rights are religious.
    I don’t think religious people have intrinsically lower morals, I just think the religious institution and dogma creates an atmosphere where negativity thrives. There are many people who use their faith to be the nicest people you can imagine, and plenty of people without faith who rape and kill and steal.
    But generally speaking, follow the trends- the more religious a place is, the more gender inequality, violence and human rights abuses you’re going to see, although I will admit that’s changing.

    I’m somewhat sympathetic to those otherwise nice people who are opposed to gay marriage or abortion only because they were raised that way RELIGIOUSLY, and believe they have no choice. You know the type I’m talking about, very friendly to everyone, treats gays no differently than anybody else, never tries to criticize, but if asked they’ll say “Well, I gotta be honest, its nothing personal, but I’m afraid it just doesn’t go along with my faith. I know it doesn’t make much sense, and I don’t understand myself, but i just feel that the Christian lifestyle is better. You’re a great guy/girl though, and you’ll definitely be forgiven and make it to heaven”

    Is that completely ignorant and wrong? Yes. Is it spiteful, hateful or bigoted? Not really. They’re generally nice people who just happened to develop synaptic connections during their childhood a certain way, and while the brain is plastic and changeable in many cases, MRI tests have revealed that religious beliefs are “run” by the part of the brain responsible for the longest term memory storage and instinctual cognition, meaning the habits most difficult to overcome are kept here. Consider that religious belief produces a stronger change in brainwave activity than a heavy smoker going cold turkey.

    I’ve had people who were so helpful and respect to everybody, you wouldn’t believe the things they’d say. A girl I met over spring break and become friends with told me on the last day that she was so scared of me going to hell for supporting gay rights. She was such a nice person to, and she looked so sincere that I couldn’t help feeling sorry for her and promised I’d read the Bible verse on homosexuality on the flight home. It was just amazing what she believed. She knew my stance from day one, and never let one until that last day. You could tell she would be like the people on this site if she was raised in a parallel secular home, or even a less fundamentalist home.