Imagine you were born into a world where being straight was taboo. You were raised by same sex parents, as all of your friends. Fornication of the opposite sex was merely to have children, but a relationship between the two was virtually unheard of. It was believed that same sex parents provided a better home for children. Love between a man and a man (or a woman and a woman) was believed to be the perfect love because it was loving an equal. If one should love the opposite sex it was believed that they secretly wanted to be that sex. Everything you have ever known and been taught was based around same sex relationships. When you watch television every program along with every commercial is same-sex oriented. After a short period of time, at a relatively early age, you realize that there is something a little different about you. Think of the isolation you would have felt when you found yourself walking down the street and instead of turning your head at the same sex, your head was turned at the opposite. A feeling that you might be straight in a homosexual world would be terrifying. You know if you were to ever express your attraction to the opposite sex you would be outcast, beat up, made fun of, or maybe even disowned by your own family for being different.
These are the kind of fears homosexuals must face in our heterosexual world. It is our lack of compassion that has chosen to outcast them instead of trying to understand why they are the way they are. Sexual orientation cannot be chosen, yet still small minded people discriminate against homosexuals. The Catholic Church does not condone homosexual activity, but she also does not condemn homosexual orientation. Instead, the Catholic Church encourages celibacy with the help of various support groups.
Homosexuals are persons who find themselves attracted to members of their same sex. The terminology generally used for male homosexuality is “gay.” In the same, homosexual women generally prefer the term “lesbian.” Before one can understand homosexuality, the person must first understand sexual orientation.
Sexual orientation is one of the four components of sexuality and is distinguished by an enduring emotional, romantic, sexual or affectionate attraction to individual of a particular gender. The three other components of sexuality are biological sex, gender identity, and social sex role. Three sexual orientations are commonly recognized. These being : homosexual; attraction to one’s own sex, heterosexual; attraction to the opposite sex, and bisexual; attraction to both sexes (Clausen 25-27).
The way a particular sexual orientation develops in an individual is not well understood at this point. Various theories have proposed different sources, including genetic or inborn hormonal factors and life experiences during early childhood. Many scientists share the view that sexual orientation is shaped for most people at an early age through complex interactions of biological, psychological and social factors. Sexual orientation emerges for most people in early adolescence without any prior sexual experience. Psychologists do not consider sexual orientation for most people to be a conscious choice that can be voluntarily changed. Some people report trying very hard over many years to change their sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual with no success (Blumenfeld 122-133).
Psychologists, psychiatrists, and other mental health professional agree that homosexuality is not an illness, mental disorder, or emotional problem. Homosexuality was thought to be a mental illness in the past because mental health professionals and society had biased information about homosexuality since most studies only involved lesbians and gay men in therapy. When researchers examined data about gay people who were not in therapy, the idea that homosexuality was a mental illness was found to be untrue. Then in 1973, the American Psychiatric Association confirmed the importance of the new research by removing the term “homosexuality” from the official manual that lists all mental and emotional disorders. This helped end the idea that the homosexual orientation is a mental illness (Genovesi 449-451).
Even though homosexual orientation is not a mental illness, some therapist believe they can still change the sexual orientation of a homosexual person to that of a heterosexual person. Some therapist have reported success in these types of treatments, but in 1990, the American Psychological Association stated that scientific evidence does not show that conversion therapy works and that it can do more harm than good. Changing one’s sexual orientation is not simply a matter of changing one’s sexual behavior. It would require changing one’s emotional. romantic, and sexual feelings, reconstructing their own self-concept and social identity.
There are many up-to-date sources of the Catholic Church’s views on homosexuality, but homosexuality can be found even mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible. In Leviticus 18:22 it states, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; such a thing is an abomination.” Homosexuality has been an issue since the beginning of sexuality itself. Homosexuality is also found in the animal kingdom. Unequivocally, homosexuality is an issue that is impossible to ignore. The human race is at the point that homosexual issues enter world news daily.
In 1976, the American Catholic bishops in their pastoral letter, To Live in Christ Jesus, wrote a concise, yet understandable and balanced view of homosexuality from a Catholic perspective. In it they wrote:
“Some persons find themselves, through no fault of their own, to have a homosexual orientation. Homosexuals, like everyone else, should not suffer from prejudice against their basic human rights. They have a right to respect, friendship and justice. They should have an active role in the Christian community. Homosexual activity, however, as distinguished from homosexual orientation, is morally wrong. Like heterosexual persons, homosexuals are called to give witness to chastity, avoiding, with God’s grace, behavior which is wrong for them, just as non-marital sexual relations are wrong for heterosexuals. Nonetheless, because heterosexuals can usually look forward to marriage, and homosexuals, while their orientation continues, might not, the Christian community should provide them a special degree of pastoral understanding and care.”
The Catholic Church does not condemn homosexual orientation. It condemns the homosexuals activity, as it condemns premarital sex. The Catholic Church encourages homosexuals to pick up their cross, despite its difficulties, and strive to live a Christian life. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “ Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.”
The Catholic Church has not always been so understanding of the homosexual condition. Their first recognition of the need for Christian support of homosexuals was in 1969, when an organization called Dignity was begun. It was the first spiritual support group for lesbian and gay Catholics. As Dignity spread it forced church hierarchy to deal with the issue of homosexuality. By 1982 eight dioceses had established some official outreach to the lesbian and gay community (Blumenfeld 187-189).
In 1977, another organization was founded. The group called themselves, New Ways Ministry. It provided the non-gay community education enabling them to learn more about the hidden minority within our Church and society. With the increase of education about homosexuals and the rise of support groups for them, there was evidence of an attitudinal shift in the Catholic Church by the 1970’s (Blumenfeld 187-189).
Despite the advance of information available about homosexuals, there will, unfortunately, always be controversy and discrimination. The general prejudice against homosexual people has come to be called homophobia. Homophobia literally translated means “fear of the same.” Studies have revealed that individuals who manifest homosexual prejudice also exhibit other attributes. Generally such people tend to be “more authoritarian, intolerant of ambiguity, status conscious, and cognitively rigid; more dogmatic; more sexually rigid and more guilty about their own sexual impulses” (Kirk 120-129).
It seems that individuals who are afraid or intolerant of homosexuals seem to react the same way to other social situations as well. The personality characteristics of homophobic people can easily be identified in others that belong to another group of prejudiced people. From the personal perspective, homosexual prejudice can be a form of anxiety regarding one’s own sexual feelings. Ignorance often spurs such feelings as fear and anxiety, and this also can be attributed to these prejudices.
There seem to be points in history where, because of discrimination going too far one, a new social movement was started bringing about new social changes. The incident credited with igniting the recent struggle for gay and lesbian liberation occurred at a small gay bar, the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street, in New York’s Greenwich Village, on June 27, 1969. On that Friday evening, Deputy Inspector Seymour Pine along with seven other officials from the Public Morals Section of the First Division of the New York City Police Department attempted to shut down a local bar frequented by gay street people, drag queens, and others. The charge was selling liquor without a license. This was a common event, for there were frequent raids of gay bars in that city. Patrons usually accommodated the officials. This evening, however, was different. Feeling they had had enough of this treatment, people fought back by flinging bottles and rocks at police on this night and on successive nights (Clausen 87-99).
It was no coincidence that the revolt began in a bar, for bars have been significant to gay culture long before Stonewall. Bars were places where people could meet others like themselves. They were also targets of longstanding state harassment. In New York City, for example, a law dating back to 1923 was used to arrest and fine any man who invited another man home for sex on grounds of “degenerate disorderly conduct.” Behavior considered “campy,” same-sex dancing, touching, and kissing were also classified as “degenerate.” In the 1930s the Liquor Control Law was passed in New York City giving the State Liquor Authority the power to close bars it deemed “disorderly.” “Homosexual” was often placed in the category and subsequently gay and lesbian bars were constantly threatened with closure and in many instances actually shut down. Though small pockets of resistance on the part of bars and bar patrons was in evidence, the Stonewall Riots marked a turning point in the struggle for equality (Clausen 100-103).
The first gay and lesbian group coming from the new wave of gay liberation to take a national focus was the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF). It was founded in November 1973 as a professionally staffed organization which blended the old homophile and newer reformist gay and lesbian liberationist strategies. As originally stated, NGLTF’s purpose is : “…to re-educate society, including its homosexual members, to esteem gay men and women at their full human worth and to accord them places in society which will allow them to attain and contribute according to their full human and social potential.” (Bruce Voeller, in first NGLTF Newsletter.)
NGLTF and other civil rights advocates have been working with Members of Congress and officials at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for more than two years towards the introduction of stronger and more effective federal hate crimes legislation. Just before Congress recessed for this year, legislation was introduced in the Senate and House to enhance the federal government’s enforcement of hate crimes and to broaden coverage of bias crimes to include not only those based on race, color, religion, and national origin but also those based on sexual orientation, gender and disability (Blumenfeld 311-312).
Legislation to ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation was reintroduced in both the House and Senate on June 10, 1997. Efforts to educate about the advocate for The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is a high priority for the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, a national coalition of 180 organizations representing people of color, women, labor organizations, people with disabilities, older Americans, LGBT groups, and major religious groups. The Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee held a hearing on October 23.
As in the last Congress, there was another unsuccessful attempt this year to deny joint adoptions by gay men and lesbians in the District of Columbia using the annual DC appropriations bill. There was also an attempt to limit joint adoptions to ?spouses? of the person petitioning for adoption. The same approach was tried this year, although language was added to this year’s amendment to make clear that unmarried persons could still adopt so long as no one else joined in that adoption.
On October 29, Representatives Barney Frank introduced The Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act of 1997 to extend domestic partnership benefits to federal employees and their partners. It would apply to both same sex and opposite gender couples. The benefits would be available to partners of government employees and would cover civil service or federal employee retirement programs, life insurance, health insurance, and compensation for work injuries.
In Indiana, the government party and House party is that of democrats. The senate party is that of republicans. Control of the House was divided after the 1996 elections. Democrats control Speaker and Committee Chairs. In the legislative session of January 8 – March 13, the governor condemned anti-gay intolerance in the state and replaced Indiana Civil Rights Commissioner, Ruth Benevente, who wanted to fire all gay and lesbian people in the state.
Indiana seems to dodge sexual orientation in many of there laws where it is definitely called for. Civil rights law includes no sexual orientation. Hate crimes law includes no sexual orientation. There is no sodomy law in place. Yet, same gender marriages have been considered and banned, in Indiana, by law.
With the extent of the progress being made in the education of the homosexual condition, there is no excuse for prejudice. The Catholic Church embraces everyone. Homosexual activity is not right, but homosexuals may still live a full life within the church. They are called to chastity as demonstrated in this bible passage:
“That [celibacy] is something which not everyone can accept, but only those for whom God has appointed it. For while some are incapable of marriage because they were born so, or were made so by men, there are others who have themselves renounced marriage for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Let hose accept it who can” (Matthew 19: 11-12).
In many cases the wisest words ever stated on various subject were stated years and years ago. This last Bible passage, if carefully read, demonstrates the way in which we, as human beings, should act towards one another when differences of our persons arise.
“Do not conform to the standards of the world around you, but change your attitudes through a complete renewal of mind, that you may discern the will of God and know what is good, desirable, and right… Just as there are numerous parts in the human body, all with different functions, so too we – though many – form one body in Christ and belong individually as members to each other and yet have different personal attributes according to the favor God has bestowed on us… Love each other with the affection of sisters and brothers, and have a profound respect for one another… Treat all people in equal consideration; never be haughty, but go about with humble folk; and under no circumstances allow yourself to become self-satisfied… Do whatever possible, on your part, to live at peace with everybody… (Romans 12: 2, 4-6, 10, 16, 18.)
If we can all live by these words, whether we are educated on a subject of prejudice or not, we can all live in harmony around one another complementing all the wonderful attributes God has bestowed on us differently. The only way one can attempt to tackle such an issue is to keep reminding oneself how Jesus would have reacted if put in the same position as such controversies today.