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ABOUT HOMOPHOBIA

Anti-gay laws, studies of homophobia; public opinion...

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Laws against homosexual behavior:

In the United States, laws prohibiting sexual behavior are the responsibility of the individual states. The result was a patchwork quilt of laws across the country. Until mid-2003:

bulletMany states had laws which banned specific sexual acts -- e.g. anal sex -- whether consensually performed by same-sex couples or by heterosexual couples (married or not).
bulletOther states criminalized certain sexual acts between homosexuals, but allowed the same activity among consenting heterosexual adults.
bulletStill other states had laws that prohibit "crimes against nature", a phrase which is open to wide interpretation.

Although the term "sodomy" is popularly defined as anal sex, the word eas commonly interpreted by the courts as including both anal and oral sex. In some states, police utilize other laws against gays and lesbians; e.g. "solicitation for indecent purposes."

The Georgia anti-sodomy state law was appealed to the US Supreme Court. In 1986, the court upheld the law as constitutional. They decided that individuals have no fundamental federal constitutional right to "engage in sodomy." (Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U.S. 186).

One Internet source listed the status of anti-sodomy laws for various states as of 1995. 1 At that time, twenty states were believed to have had laws on the books: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia. Gays could get life imprisonment in Michigan for repeat offenses. Many other states authorized jail sentences up to 10 or 20 years.

By mid-2003, the number of states with these laws had shrunk to 13. Finally, on 2003-JUN-26, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a Texas state law: Lawrence v. Texas. One effect of this law was to declare all 13 state sodomy laws unconstitutional. Another effect was to declare a new principle of constitutional law: states are now severely restricted in criminalizing private, consensual sexual activity by adults. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said that gays are "entitled to respect for their private lives. The state cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime." Linda Greenhouse, a reporter for The New York Times, said: "A conservative Supreme Court has now identified the gay rights cause as a basic civil rights issue." More information

In Canada, laws controlling sexual behavior are the responsibility of the Federal government, and thus apply across the entire country. They permit sexual activities of all types between two adults, although they currently have a higher age of consent for homosexual than for heterosexual consensual sex. It is doubtful whether this form of discrimination could withstand a constitutional challenge.

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University study of homophobia:

A study that appears to reveal a major cause of homophobia was completed at the University of Georgia in 1996. 3 It involved 64 white men, none of whom had engaged in homosexual acts during their lifetime. Their sexual fantasies involved only women. 35 of them were rated homophobic; 29 non-homophobic. For the purpose of this study, "homophobia" was defined as a negative emotional reaction (e.g., fear, anxiety, anger, discomfort) to homosexuality. It was measured by a questionnaire called the Index of Homophobia. Each was shown three types of X rated videotapes: heterosexual, lesbian and gay. A plethysmograph measuring device (affectionately called a "peter meter") measured the circumference of their penis as a gauge of sexual arousal.

The two groups exhibited similar arousal when they viewed 4 minute samples taken from one heterosexual and one lesbian movie. But they responded differently to the male homosexual clip:

Degree of Tumescence:     Insignificant Moderate Definite
Homophobic men 20% 26% 54%
Non-homophobic men 66% 10% 24%

The researchers concluded that these data are consistent with the belief that most homophobic men have repressed homosexual desires. An alternative, but much less likely, explanation is that the homophobic men's erections were caused by anxiety during the experiment.

Further research is needed to clarify the results and to answer questions such as whether these results would generalize to homophobic women.

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Results of public opinion polls:

One has to be extremely careful when interpreting poll data. The public's response is seriously influenced by the exact wording of the question. Some data:

bulletA TIME/CNN poll in 1994 showed that 52% of US adults found the homosexual lifestyle to be acceptable; this is an increase from 35% from 1978.
bulletThe National Opinion Research Center of the University of Chicago has been asking a fixed set of questions for 24 years. From 1973 to 1996, the percentage of Americans who think homosexuality is "wrong" declined from 73% to 61%.
bulletAn Angus-Reid poll in Canada showed that:
bullet78% of skeptics, non-Christians and atheists,
bullet68% of Roman Catholics,
bullet59% of United Church members (the largest Protestant denomination),
bullet63% of Anglicans (Episcopalians), and
bullet38% of what they termed "conservative" church members favor legal protection from discrimination for gays and lesbians.
bulletThe National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) conducted a telephone survey of a random sampling of US adults. Results were:
bullet64% considered homosexual behavior "just plain wrong"
bullet50% believe that "male homosexuals are disgusting"
bullet45% believe that homosexuality "should not be condemned"
bulletTwo University of California at Davis researchers, Gregory Herek and Eric Glunt, found that the least homophobic persons:
bulletwere politically liberal
bulletwere young
bulletwere highly educated
bulletwere female
bulletknew a gay or lesbian person

Of these indicators, the last one is the most important. It would appear that the more that gays and lesbians come out of the closet, the sooner homophobia will disappear as a potent force in North America. This is not an easy thing to do; coming out frequently leads to loss of employment, loss of accommodation, gay-bashing and even death.

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Arguments used against homosexuals and bisexuals:

Some of the common arguments are:

bulletHomosexuality is unnatural: There is an element of truth in this assertion. The more than 90% of adults who are heterosexual find sexual attraction to a member of the opposite sex to be natural; same-sex attraction for them is unnatural. However, for a homosexual, the reverse is true. Same-sex attraction is the most natural thing in the world for them; sexual activity with a member of the opposite sex is unnatural
bulletHomosexuals attack the family: This argument is often used to oppose recognition of same-sex relationships.
bulletMany religious liberals and others argue that If John and James get married and Jane and Mary get married, then this does not adversely affect Sue and Tom's marriage one iota. Recognition of same-sex relationships does not attack marriage and the family; it merely enlarges the meaning of the words "marriage" and "family" to make them more inclusive.
bulletMost religious conservatives argue that marriage was created by God as the first human institution. It is to be restricted to one man and one woman. The repercussions of allowing gays and lesbians to marry cannot be predicted in advance. More information.
bulletThe Bible condemns homosexuality: Again, beliefs are divided.
bulletMany religious conservatives often cite six biblical passages in Genesis, Leviticus, Kings, Corinthians, Romans and Jude as proof that God hates homosexuality.
bulletMany religious liberals liberals suggest that the Hebrew Scriptures appear to condemn homosexual rape, homosexual prostitution and temple prostitution, both homosexual and heterosexual. The Christian Scriptures criticize male sexual abuse of boys, and heterosexuals engaging in homosexual acts. None of the Biblical passages seem to apply to consensual adult sexual activities within committed homosexual partnerships.
bulletHomosexuals recruit young people: Adults who sexually molest children usually do not have a fully developed sexual attraction to other adults. Thus it is misleading to talk of them as homosexuals or heterosexuals. Where a child molester does have a developed attraction, then they are usually heterosexual.

Almost all heterosexuals do not abuse children; almost all homosexuals do not either.

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Reference used:

  1. "Julie's World" at: http://data.club.cc.cmu.edu/~julie/antisod.html
  2. Linda Greenhouse, "Justices, 6-3, legalize gay sexual conduct in sweeping reversal of court's '86 ruling. Cite privacy right. Texas sodomy law held unconstitutional - Scathing dissent," The New York Times, 2003-JUN-27, Page A1 & A19
  3. Cox News Service, 1996-JUL-31 reviewing an article by Drs. Henry Adams, Lester Wright Jr. & Bethany Lohr "Is homophobia associated with homosexual arousal?", Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 105 (1996), P. 440-445

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