An essay by Dr. Marty Klein
Poor reason to support gay rights: "My son isÂ gay"
Youâ€™ve probably heard that Ohio ultra-conservative Senator Rob Portman has changed his position and now supports same-gender marriageâ€"because, he says, his son is gay.
Thatâ€™s great for progressives. Butâ€¦
Wanting equal rights for your son is a poor reason to support equal rights for a class of people. It reflects exactly the kind of tribalism thatâ€™s preventing most of the Arab world and Africa from ever creating secular democracies. In Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, â€śvotingâ€ is simple: Sunnis vote for Sunnis, Shia for Shia, Kurds for Kurds, etc.. This isnâ€™t voting, its tribal warfare brought indoors.
There are still no civic institutions knitting together the â€ścountriesâ€ of Iraq or Afghanistan, or of Syria, Lebanon, Albania, Rwanda, Azerbaijan, and other places where ethnicity and family history are more important than national identity.
Senator Portman sees public policy as a way of comforting HIS family, not of nourishing the American people. His statements this week showed no recognition of any actual principle of fairness. He acknowledges that his past opposition to civil rights for gay people is rooted in his faith traditionâ€"itself a bizarre (if too-common) abdication of his legislative responsibility. He now says that he sees gay couplesâ€™ desire to marry as a tribute to marriage rather than a threat (recalling the old fear that giving Blacks civil rights would endanger the rights of Whites). He also says his new position is rooted in the Biblical value of compassion.
But as inappropriate as it is to reference his nouveau interpretation of the Bible for a legislative position, he isnâ€™t extending this â€ścompassionâ€ to any other Americans in any other situations.
So this is a mind that has NOT opened. Because as Portman himself said, heâ€™s â€śhad a change of heart based upon a personal experienceâ€â€"not social science, not Constitutional analysis, not a desire to extend Americaâ€™s sweet promises to all its inhabitants.
In order to implement this Biblical â€ścompassionâ€ among the rest of his eleven million non-gay constituents, does Portman require a daughter who needs an abortion, a son who marries outside his race, a grandchild with a mental illness, an elderly parent who canâ€™t afford medical care? For the good of the nation, should we hope that Portmanâ€™s brother is swept up in an FBI sting while enjoying age-play fantasies in an adult chat room?
Our government confers dozens of civil rights on everyone who marries. Thus, all adults should be eligible to marry, or the government should stop privileging married people and simply go out of the marriage business.
And so Iâ€™m glad to have Portmanâ€™s support for extending the option of marriage to non-heterosexual Americans. But this support is just a kinder, gentler version of political opportunism. Instead of voting in a way that lines his pocket, heâ€™s now voting to enrich his sonâ€™s life. Other gay men and women will benefit. But anyone else who needs â€ścompassionâ€â€"or as I call it, civil rightsâ€"will have to wait until the next development in Portmanâ€™s private life.
Reprinted from Sexual Intelligenceâ„˘Â Marty Klein, Ph.D. (www.SexualIntelligence.org). Dr. Klein generously allows quotations if the preceeding attribution is included.
Originally posted on sexualintelligence.org on 2013-MAR-17.
Originally posted on this web site on 2013-APR-04.
Latest update: 2013-APR-04
Author: Dr. Marty Klein.
Webmaster's comment on the above essay:
Clearly, the path that Senator Portman took from his opposition to acceptance of equal rights for the LGBT community was triggered by the discovery of his son's sexual orientaiton. However, I respectfully differ with Dr. Klein on his interpretation of the process that Portman went through. My interpretation is that he did not decide to support marriage equality because of his love and respect for his son. Rather, I suspect that congnitive dissonance lies at the core of Senator Portman's change of attitude.
Until recently, his high respect for his son apparently coexisted with very negative attitudes towards the LGBT community. Then, he found out that his son is gay. The two belief systems could not comfortably coexist in his brain. He either had to reject his positive views towards his son, or to examine the validity of his negative beliefs towards all LGBTs. I suspect that after he examined his beliefs about LGBTs, which he has acknowledged were derived from his religious faith, he found that they did not correspond with reality.
Surveys have shown that the most powerful influence to change a person's beliefs about LGBTs is to discover that a friend or family member is gay. I feel that much of the surge in support for marriage equality is being caused by people risking spiritual, emotional and physical abuse, coming out of the closet, and going public with their sexual orientation.