How many more gay people does God have to create before we consider God wants them around?

In Minnesota, the state legislature is considering a constitutional amendment that would prohibit same-sex marriage, despite the fact that marriage is already recognized only as a union between one man and one woman already by the state. Representative Steve Simon (DFL Hopkins/St. Louis Park) used the occasion of debate over the proposed amendment to put forth the observation that there is an alternative religious viewpoint to the one underlying support for a ban on same-sex marriage, and that is the possibility that God creates gay people because God "actually wants them around."

[Transcript below.]

As I have written on many previous occasions, I prefer the argument "It doesn't matter if it's a choice, because my rights end where yours begin," not just because the argument "It's not a choice, so we have to extend equality out of obligation" doesn't feel particularly progressive to me, but also because I respect the experiences of people whose sexuality is more fluid and more open to choice, at least in terms of how that sexuality is expressed. In my experience, both the rigid assertion that sexual orientation is a choice and the unqualified assertion that sexual orientation is not a choice tend to disappear people in the middle.

I like choice arguments: I believe that sexuality exists on a spectrum, is fluid for many people, and, through some combination of genetic predisposition and cultural influence—nature and nurture, if you prefer—we all come to arrive at an individual sexuality along that spectrum, a journey which is less choice for some than others, and we should all be free to choose whatever we like for ourselves, including those with whom we consensually partner, and no one choice should be privileged above another.

That said, because the debate over same-sex marriage (and I still can't even believe that "debate" exists in the first place) is so firmly rooted in religious arguments, and because the most conservative, reactionary, and flatly hateful religious views get most of the attention, I am really pleased to see a legislator put forth this alternative religious viewpoint, if only to make the point that there are competing religious views, so enshrining any one of them into a state constitution is garbage.
We have to be careful about trying to enshrine our beliefs, however religiously valid we may believe 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 at the legislature, too, is how much of homosexuality is nature versus nurture. Is this something that you learn or acquire, or is this something that you're born with? Is this just another lifestyle choice, like skateboarding or gardening, or is this something that's innate within a human being?

And I want to take a page from what I heard last Friday in the Senate testimony; there was a member of the clergy—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 shows more and more every day 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 at a moment 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 to the moral force of your argument? Just ask yourself—not now, in the glare of the Capitol and 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, 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? [takes a deep breath; there is applause and a gavel bangs; some dude says, "Please keep applause to yourselves."] How many gay people does God have to create before we ask ourselves whether [pauses; shrugs] 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's answered that for themselves, necessarily, in this room. But I'm comfortable with a society and a tradition 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 arc 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, in the future, will, although their children and grandchildren will and should be very proud of them for their 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 that we all have to think about and justify in our own consciousness. So I strongly urge a no vote.

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