Evolving acceptance of homosexuality, bisexuality, etc.
Biblical times: At the time when the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) were written, people
knew what to do about people who engaged in certain same-sex sexual behaviors.
They executed them. Many religious conservatives today interpret
Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus
20:13 as having reqired the death penalty to all sexually active gays and
lesbians in ancient Israel. However, some follow a literal translation of the Bible and
interpret the passages as applying only to males. Many religious
liberals, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, human sexuality researchers, etc. interpret
the passages as referring only to Jews engaging in same-sex sexual behavior in Pagan temples
-- activity that is not at all common today.
||Past centuries: Over
the past few centuries, many North Americans have changed their degree of toleration
towards sexual minorities, including gays,
lesbians, bisexuals, and transsexuals. During the 17th century, they considered same-sex
sexual behavior a capital offense; by the 19th and 20th centuries , such
activity was considered "merely" a
criminal offense . Some events:|
1624: In the colony of Virginia, Captain Richard
Cornish was charged under the British Buggery Statute with having raped
his male servant. He was found guilty. Both the perpetrator and the
victim were hanged.
1646: Jan Creoli was executed in New
Netherland (present-day New York) for sodomizing a ten-year old boy. His
victim was "only" flogged.
1682: Pennsylvania became the
first state in America to make sodomy a non-capital offence.
1791: The original 13 states ratified the Bill of
Rights. By that time, they all treated sodomy as a non-capital criminal offense.
1868: The Fourteenth Amendment was ratified. At
that time all but 5 of the 37 States in the Union had criminal sodomy
laws. Subsequently, all of the states outlawed sodomy.
||Recent events: During the past decade or so some major
|Recent status of attitudes towards sexual minorities:|
The current status of equality for sexual minorities:
Sexual minorities in the U.S., including lesbian, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons and transsexuals (LGBTs) have sought and are now gradually achieving equal protections and rights under the law. As of 2010-APR:
- The federal hate-crimes law increases jail sentences for hate crimes that are motivated by hatred of the victim's sexual orientation or gender identity (in addition to race, color, religion, national origin, gender or disability). It was signed into law on 2009-OCT-22.
- The ENDA law would eliminate discrimination in employment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. About 40% of all American workers are protected by state laws, However, persons in 29 states can still be fired because of their sexual orientation; persons in 38 states, employees can still be fired because of their gender identity. The bill is now before Congress.
Under their "Don't Ask, Don't tell" policy the military can discharge military personnel becuase of their sexual orientation. This policy is under review.
There is one major hurdle for sexual minorities to overcome: marriage for loving committed couples who are of the same sex (SSM). Note that "gay marriage" is not the topic of the debate, because many same-sex marriages are composed of one or two bisexuals. The main opposition comes from social and religious conservatives who originally opposed SSM because they associated marriage with procreation. After the lesbian baby boom and the rise in adoptions by gay couples, conservatives changed the reason for their opposition: they asserted that children of same-sex parents are disadvantaged. When many studies indicated that children raised by two parents of the same sex did as well as those raised by opposite-sex parents, much of the opposition to SSM is now based on fear of the loss of religious freedom. specifically the freedom to discriminate against minorities because of religious beliefs. An anti-SSM ad by the National Organization for Marriage -- a group that opposes marrige by same-sex couples -- suggested three examples of past attacks on conservatives' freedom to discriminate against LGBT persons:
- A physician whose employment in a fertility clinic is engangered becasue wants to deny her services to all gays and lesbians.
- A church group who wants to deny gays and lesbians services that they have contracted with the government to supply to the general population, and
- Public schools teaching facts about same-sex parenting and marriages.
Such fear-based ads are quite effective, and have increased voters' opposition to SSM, thus allowing anti-SSM constitutional changed to squeak by with 2 or 3% majorities in some states -- notably California and Maine.
SSM remains the last major hurdle to overcome before equality is achieved for LGBT persons. If the battle over inter-racial marriage is any guide, legalizing SSM will probably be fought intensely on a state-by-state until the U.S. Supreme Court legalizes it across the country.
"Gay Marriage Is Back On The Radar For Republicans, Evangelicals But Overall Opposition to Gay Marriage is Less Than in 2004,
" Pew Research Center, 2008-JUN-12, at: http://pewresearch.org/
"Poll results," About.com, at:
Copyright © 2008 to 2010 by Ontario
Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Initial posting: 2008-DEC-12
Latest update: 2010-APR-11
Author: B.A. Robinson