About the Natural Law and the LGBT community
Part 1: An alternative form of natural
law that favors same-sex marriage
The acronym "LGBT" refers to lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender persons.
"LGB" refers to
lesbians, gays, and bisexuals.
The acronym "SSM" refers to same-sex marriage, often called "gay marriage"
We prefer the former term because some same-sex marriages include one or
bisexuals. Also, "gay" sometimes refers to male gays and sometimes
gays and lesbians.
About the concept of "natural law":
George Weigel, columnist for the Denver Catholic Register, very eloquently described natural law as consisting of universal and fixed:
"... moral truths built into the world and into us -- truths that we can grasp by reason." 1
The famous British philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588 to 1679 CE) also wrote about natural law in his work Leviathan (1651 CE). In it, he said that natural law was:
"A precept, or general rule, found out by reason, by which a man is forbidden to do that which is destructive of his life, or takes away the means of preserving the same ..." 2
By extension, it could be argued that natural law is a general rule by which people are encouraged to do whatever has a positive influence on their life.
During late 2012 and early 2013, several prelates in the Roman Catholic Church used arguments from natural law to support their case against allowing the marriage of loving, committed same-sex couples. The prelates concluded that wherever same-sex marriage (SSM) is adopted, society itself, the institution of marriage, and the children of same-sex couples are almost certainly to be seriously harmed. The prelates used their interpretation of natural law to justify their strong opposition to the legalization of SSM by Illinois courts or legislatures. Being based on natural law, they claimed that their conclusions are both universal and fixed. That is, their arguments against SSM are applicable to all cultures now and forever into the future.
If one accepts the accuracy of the Catholic prelates' natural law beliefs, then their arguments in opposition to SSM are completely logical. However, their logic may contain a fatal flaw. We suspect that their interpretation of natural law may not match similar interpretations of natural law by Catholic laity and non-Catholics. If multiple and conflicting versions of natural law exist, then the prelates' arguments against SSM will be far less credible. The absolute and fixed moral truths claimed of their natural law would then become just another relative truth, valid perhaps for one faith, in one culture, and one era.
Goals of this essay:
The main goal of this essay is to make use of the findings of social sciences -- "the scientific study of human society and social relationships," 3 to try to develop an alternative statement of natural law on the topic of sexual minorities -- one that that is based on scientific findings. Then we attempt to apply that version of natural law in order to evaluate the morality and desirability of SSM.
If an alternate natural law on this topic can be developed, then one might conclude that multiple interpretations of natural law exist. Thus, natural law is not unique, universal, or fixed as the Catholic Church teaches.
Step 1: Select a source for reliable information about sexual minorities:
One of the most convenient resources for such information is found in the official statements of professional associations in the fields of psychology, psychiatry, social work, anthropology, education, human sexuality, biology, and probably a few others.
On matters relating to sexual orientation, various professional associations teach very different beliefs. Among the most influential groups are:
- The American Psychological Association, a secular group with "... more than 137,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students as ... members." 4
- The American Psychiatric Association, another secular group, representing "... more than 33,000 U.S. psychiatric physicians." 5
- The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), who describe themselves as:
"... a scientific and professional organization that includes highly qualified academics and fully licensed mental health professionals." 6
However, Warren Throckmorton, a professor of psychology at Grove City College, suggests that only about a quarter of NARTH's approximately 1,000 members are mental health professionals. He writes:
"... the lion’s share of NARTH’s members consist of lay people, ministers, and activists who have an interest in the materials provided by NARTH but are not scientists or therapists." 7
NARTH, the Family Research Council (FRC) and many other conservative religious groups, denominations, and parachurch organizations share many similar or identical beliefs concerning sexual orientation. However, all or almost all of these beliefs are very unlike the views expressed by the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association -- the two APAs.
We often refer to NARTH and the two APAs as the "two solitudes" because they teach totally different belief systems, rarely interact, and never appear to dialogue. NARTH once suggested a joint study of homosexuality with one of the APA's, but were rejected. This lost opportunity may well have contributed to the deaths by suicide of hundreds or thousands of gay and lesbian youth who simply ran out of hope that life would ever "get better" for them.
While the Roman Catholic Church and the APA's disagree on almost every point concerning sexual orientation, they do agree that homosexual orientation is not a choice. However, most conservative Protestants still maintain that it is an orientation or behavior that is chosen by the individual, perhaps during or after puberty.
Points on which NARTH, the Catholic Church and most conservative Christians agree among themselves but disagree with the APAs are:
- whether or not homosexuality is a mental illness;
- whether or not same gender sexual behavior by persons with a homosexual or bisexual orientation is immoral, disordered, or degenerate;
- whether or not a homosexual orientation is normal;
- whether or not a homosexual orientation is natural;
- whether same-sex relationships are driven by love, caring for the other party, and commitment, or by simple lust;
- whether reparative therapy has a high success rate at converting gays and lesbians to heterosexuality;
- whether reparative therapy is safe;
- whether homosexuality is caused by one's genes, or pre-birth hormones, or poor parenting, or being sexually abused as a child, or some combination of the above, or by some other cause(s);
- whether children raised by a same-sex couple have poorer outcomes than those raised by opposite-sex parents. 6
One concern is that The Family Research Council (FRC), which has been designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group, 8 has very close ties with NARTH. 7
In order to attempt the development of an alternate natural law, we chose to accept the findings of the two APAs as valid representations of the reality of homosexual and bisexual orientation.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- George Weigel, "The natural law = bigotry? Please." National Catholic Register, 2009-NOV-25, at: http://www.archden.org/
- "What is Natural Law?," WiseGEEK, undated, at: http://www.wisegeek.com/
- The result of the search: "define: social science" in http://www.google.com
- "About APA," American Psychological Association, 2013, at: http://www.apa.org/
- "About APA and Psychiatry," American Psychiatric Association, 2012, at: http://www.psychiatry.org/
- "Admin," "Answers to frequently asked questions about NARTH & homosexuality," National Association for Research
and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), 1912-OCT-11, at: http://narth.com/
- Warren Throckmorton, "NARTH is not primarily composed of mental health professionals," 2011-OCT-24, at: http://wthrockmorton.com/
- From the Winter 2010 issue of the Southern Poverty Law Center's (SPLC) Intelligence Report. The SPLC monitors racist, homophobic, nativist, and other hate groups in the U.S.
Copyright © 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2013-JAN-10
Author: B.A. Robinson