June is LGBT Pride Month, in anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village starting June 28, 1969. If we're going to talk about this, I'd like to get myself out of the way first. I support marriage equality. I support equal rights for the LGBT community. I've heard the phrase "straight ally" tossed around to represent my thoughts on this, and that's fine. Call me what you want; whatever term means "I don't bat an eyelash whether you like men or women."
As a straight white guy living in America, you can imagine I've faced little to no real prejudice against myself in my 33 years. It pains me to see people with a different skin color, gender or sexuality than mine have to struggle and fight to obtain what I got for free at birth: the right to marry, freedom from most hate crimes and social skepticism and so on. My eyes were opened to discrimination when I lived on Maui for four years with my family and I was bullied daily, beaten regularly and stabbed when I was 13 years old, just for being white. And it sucked. A lot. Then we moved back to the mainland and I saw people being treated the same way I was for those four years - but for their entire lives. And it was worse out in the world: rape, homicide, suicide, second-class citizenship, life-long trauma and abuse just for being different.
Now, people who "look like me" have the least flak thrown their way - no doubt. In fact, having even tasted just a bit of prejudice, I was changed for life. So let's consider some of the points being thrown around regarding LGBT's.
I've heard it said that the movement for LGBT rights is "being blown out of proportion," that "there aren't that many of them in this country." So first, let's look at the LGBT population of the country. A study published many years ago claimed that 10% of the American population was LGBT, while a 2012 Gallup poll claims the numbers are around 3.4%. Even if someone performed polygraph tests on all 322 million plus Americans, asking about their sexuality, polygraphs are only 99% effective, offering a potential error margin of over three million people. Finding an exact report of the sexuality of the United States is impossible, but what we can do is consider the most conservative figures as an "at least" figure. If 3.4% percent of 322 million Americans fit into LGBT identities, that makes for a 10,948,000 population, which is more than the state populations of New Mexico, Arizona and Idaho combined. Just over half that many people seceded from the Union and formed the Confederacy, leading to the American Civil War – excluding their slaves.
That sounds like a lot of damn people to me.
I've heard it said that "being LGBT is a choice," not a matter of how you're born. I'll pretend it's any of my business what the deepest roots of your sexual identity are, but only for a minute, so I can say this. In college I read a study (my apologies for losing the source material since then) in which lab technicians sprayed paper strips with pheromones of either men or women. They offered the strips of paper to test subjects who only knew they were there to smell strips of paper and choose which of the two they found more pleasant or attractive, or both. The subjects had no idea which strips were sprayed with what. Then they were asked if they identified as straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, etc. The results came back and the correlation between sexual identity and natural attraction to pheromones was in the 90th percentiles. Speaking on the laws of probability, the odds that over 9 out of 10 people would coincidentally identify as a sexuality and choose their preferred gender's natural body fragrances over the non-correlating result is pretty astronomical - not impossible, but incredibly unlikely. Other studies have been conducted since then, but the pheromone test helped seal the deal for me. My own personal belief is that people are born with their sexuality, even though it often makes itself known in adolescence.
Many people believe, however, that sexual identity is a choice. Travis Nuckolls released a YouTube video in 2008 asking people on the streets "So when did you choose to be straight?" and it makes a good point - it's worth watching just to see the expressions on people's faces - but I'd like to stick a pin in everything else for a minute and talk about the belief in "LGBT by choice." So, if some undeniable, empirical, end-all be-all, absolute evidence were released that proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that these 10.948 million Americans were making a conscious choice to be gay or straight...isn't that at the very least a choice that they have every right to make? If we have the right to be romantically involved with all kinds of consenting adults, whether they differ in hair color, body type, age, skin color, ethnicity, religion, political affiliation, credit score and everything else under the sun, then shouldn't we also - as physically- and mentally-matured adult organisms - get to choose whether we prefer the company of men, women, both or neither? I've made it a life habit of putting the shoe on the other foot, so if you've read this far, consider this: how would the world react if people said that being straight was just a choice - a phase or a mental condition, even, likely developed from some faulty upbringing - and eventually straights would grow out of it, stop the foolishness and find the right same-sex partner? I hate to go out on a limb and speculate, but I imagine a lot of people would be less than thrilled.
I've heard it said that marriage equality shouldn't have passed because homosexuality goes against the word of The Bible - and I'm going to offer my opinion because I'm an idiot. Much of the debate centers on Leviticus 18:22, which reads (in the English Standard Version) "You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is abomination." Most of my religious friends – my wife included – practice a very "live and let live" or "love thy neighbor" attitude when it comes to religion and sexuality, but this argument is still alive in the news and such, so let’s take a look at it. Many see Leviticus 18:22 as indisputable evidence that homosexuality is a sin, and should therefore be against the law, especially when it comes to marriage. The full grounds for some are "If The Bible says it shouldn't be done, it shouldn't be done regardless of what it is." And I can absolutely respect people wishing to adhere to the word of their god. However, there are dozens of other things condemned by The Bible as well. There are passages in The Bible that forbid tattoos, working on Sundays and women speaking in church - in fact the tattoo taboo is in the very next chapter of Leviticus - and yet none of those things are made illegal. There are lingering connotations about people with tattoos in general, but rarely are they suggested to be made against the law.
I've heard it said that that's different, that homosexuality is "the really important one" to outlaw. And it's fine for people to believe that in their own lives, and to speak their beliefs. The issue is generally that forcing one's religion onto everyone's law is not only a conflict of the separation of church and state, but is actually why colonists fled Europe for North America in the first place – no disrespect to the UK. Look at this passage from the Library of Congress: "The religious persecution that drove settlers from Europe to the British North American colonies sprang from the conviction, held by Protestants and Catholics alike, that uniformity of religion must exist in any given society. This conviction rested on the belief that there was one true religion and that it was the duty of the civil authorities to impose it, forcibly if necessary, in the interest of saving the souls of all citizens" [emphasis added]. We fled, at the time, not because we were Christians in faith and law, but because some of us weren’t but were being told we had to be. And that brings us to freedom of religion.
I've heard it said that the nation is founded on Christian principles, which should be enacted into law. If that's true, nobody told John Adams, who - alongside uniting the colonies in the revolution against Britain - also said "The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion." None of this is to say that the morality of Christianity or any other religions shouldn't overlap with society's laws – because people not killing me and stealing from me are laws I appreciate. It’s just that forcing 322 million Americans to live in accordance with only one religion is fundamentally contradictory to most foundations of our country.
Turning away from the strictly religious facet of the debate, I've heard it said that "tolerance" is hypocrisy because those who favor marriage equality call it being "tolerant" while also being "intolerant" of its opponents' freedoms to stand against marriage equality. However, this is also untrue. If a marriage equality proponent says to someone against it, "You're not allowed to think or speak on your beliefs," then that is hypocrisy - the First Amendment guarantees your right to express your opinions without being thrown in prison. However, that opinion does not equate to fact, law or justification for a crime. To rape, shoot in the head and beat to death different LGBT's isn't anyone's right or freedom regardless of their motives, nor should a civilized society be "tolerant" of that person's actions. This argument is akin to Hitler addressing America and saying "If America is all about freedom, why am I not 'free' to commit genocide in my own country?"
Finally, I've heard it said that allowing same-sex marriages will make hetero marriages "less special" and "less enjoyable," and that it "takes away straights' freedoms." When America freed its African-American slaves, did whites all decide that it wasn't as fun or exciting to be free anymore? Did whites have less freedom (besides the abhorrent privilege to own, rape and kill another human being as their own property)?
In summation, whether you believe sexuality is genetic or a choice, the LGBT population isn't going away. The camps they're sent to, to "pray away the gay," will look in 50 years like a Whites Only bathroom. The "gay agenda" is to not fear for one's life walking down the street. And opinions opposing it are legal to express - but subjugation, harassment and violence in the name of that opposition are not legal, nor respective of the society we claim to represent. Think what you will, but I say when one in six gays report being a victim of a hate crime, and only one in 10 crimes reported lead to a conviction, it's hard to claim that the perpetrators are the ones under attack.