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Definitions of the term "sexual orientation"

In federal legislation and by other groups

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"Sexual orientation" defined in federal legislation:

If passed, H.R. 2015, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2007, 1 would make discrimination in employment on the basis of sexual orientation illegal. As of 2007-JUN, Section 3a9 defines:

"SEXUAL ORIENTATION - The term `sexual orientation' means homosexuality, heterosexuality, or bisexuality."

Note that this bill is not intended to protect only homosexuals from discrimination. It would equally protect heterosexuals, bisexuals and homosexuals. 2

Bill S. 1105, the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007, 3 would expand the hate crime coverage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The existing law only covers criminal actions motivated by hatred of the victim' race, color, religion, or national origin. Bill S. 1105 would expand coverage to include physically violent crimes in which the perpetrator was motivated by hatred of the victim's sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability.

Unfortunately, the bill contains a near fatal deficiency in the "Definitions" section, 249 (c). It does not define "sexual orientation." This leaves the way open for critics to attack the bill because, in their view, the bill would cover abusive pedophiles (adults who sexually abuse pre-pubertal children), hebephiles (adults who abuse post-pubertal children), and persons involved in any of a few dozens of paraphilias.

 Bill H.R. 2232  "To affirm that Federal employees are protected from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and to repudiate any assertion to the contrary." 4 also does not contain a definition of sexual orientation.

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Other definitions of "sexual orientation:"

bullet American Psychological Association: "Sexual Orientation is an enduring emotional, romantic, sexual or affectional attraction to another person. It is easily distinguished from other components of sexuality including biological sex, gender identity (the psychological sense of being male or female) and the social gender role (adherence to cultural norms for feminine and masculine behavior)."

"Sexual orientation exists along a continuum that ranges from exclusive homosexuality to exclusive heterosexuality and includes various forms of bisexuality. Bisexual persons can experience sexual, emotional and affectional attraction to both their own sex and the opposite sex. Persons with a homosexual orientation are sometimes referred to as gay (both men and women) or as lesbian (women only)."

"Sexual orientation is different from sexual behavior because it refers to feelings and self-concept. Persons may or may not express their sexual orientation in their behaviors." 5
bullet "The direction of one's sexual interest toward members of the same, opposite, or both sexes." 6
bullet Bolder Country, CO: Public Health: Sexual orientation is the affectional or loving attraction to another person. It can be considered as ranging along a continuum from same-sex attraction only at one end of the continuum to opposite-sex attraction only at the other end. 7
bullet Online Learning Center, McGraw-Hill: "A person's erotic and emotional orientation toward members of his or her own gender or members of the other gender. 8
bullet L. Reiter: "A homosexual is an adult whose fantasies, attachments and longings are predominantly for persons of the same gender, who may or may not express those longings in overt behavior, and whose orientation may or may not be accompanied by a homosexual identity." 9
bullet Sexual Health Glossary, WebMD: "A term used to refer to a person's emotional, romantic and sexual attraction to individuals of a particular gender (male or female)." 10
bullet University of Rhode Island: Office of Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity: "A private preference of an individual protected by Executive Order No. 28 for heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality; or a history of such a preference; or an identification with having such a preference." 11
bullet Wikipedia: Sexual orientation refers to the direction of an individual's sexuality, usually conceived of as classifiable according to the sex or gender of the persons that the individual finds sexually attractive. The most commonly used categories of sexual orientation are heterosexuality (being sexually attracted to members of the opposite sex), homosexuality (being sexually attracted to members of the same sex) and bisexuality (being sexually attracted to members of either sex). 12

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. The text of H.R. 2015 is at:
  2. "H.R.2015 Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2007" at:
  3. The text of S. 1105 is at:
  4. The text of H.R. 2232 is at:
  5. "Answers to Your Questions About Sexual Orientation and Homosexuality," American Psychological Association, 2007, at:
  6. "Sexual orientation," Answers, at:
  7. "Definition of Terms and Concepts Related to Sex, Gender, and Sexual Orientation," Public Health, Boulder County, CO, at:
  8. "Understanding Human Sexuality, 9th edition," McGraw-Hill, Online Learning Center, at:
  9. L. Reiter, "Sexual orientation, sexual identity, and the question of choice," Clinical Social Work Journal, 17, (1989), Pages 138-150.
  10. "Sexual Health Glossary," WebMD, at:
  11. "Glossary of Affirmative Action Terms," University of Rhode Island: Office of Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity, at: :
  12. "Sexual orientation," Wikipedia, at:

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Site navigation: Home > "Hot" topics > Homosexuality > Basic data > Orientation > here

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Copyright 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2007-JUN-05
Latest update: 2007-JUN-05
Author: B.A. Robinson

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