The issue of gay rights is matched only by abortion in its ability to spark acrimonious debate among the righteous. However, as members of both sides of the issue have hotly accused the other of moral crimes, one point has become clear: In our midst, there is a collection of individuals who -- politically incorrect as it may be to say it -- have an unhealthy obsession with gay sex.
This group, of course, is the religious right.
Take, for example, these steamy tidbits from a Colorado for Family Values brochure:
These statements raise some disturbing questions. Most notably: Is this a family values treatise or the gay porn story hour? Do we really need to subject our children to such lurid imagery as 500 white lesbians fisting each other? And titillating as all this information may be, what does any of it have to do with gay rights?
- "`Gays' are far more promiscuous than heterosexuals... 79% of `gays' surveyed admitted that over half of their partners were total strangers."
- "`Gays' engage in deviant sexual behaviors like anal intercourse; `fisting' (inserting a fist or entire arm into a partner's rectum); urinating or defecating on partners; sado-masochism; even ingesting feces and urine."
- "One study reported 41% of white lesbians as admitting to having as many as 500 sexual partners."
Colorado for Family Values is not the only religious right organization fond of advancing vivid descriptions of the minutiae of gay sex. Put any religious right spokesperson in front of a microphone to discuss gay rights, and inevitably the conversation veers toward breathless, detailed descriptions of various homosexual acts of perversion. These religious activists seem to be thinking about gay sex more than gay people do. The volume of gay porn it takes to keep up on all the latest variations must be, to say the least, quite a drain on the collection plate.
For heterosexuals, the verdict on homosexual sex is clear: Who cares? Memo to the religious right: If you're against homosexual sex, don't have any. And if you're against gay porn, for God's sake, stop renting it.
Titillating though it may be, the religious right's laser focus on gay sex does serve another, more "valid" purpose: that of forwarding the anti-gay argument via the tried-and-true debate tactic of name-calling. It's a favored tactic for a movement forced into an intellectual corner by the fact that all its arguments about "values" and "lifestyles" suffer from a single, fatal flaw: Gay rights, whether advanced or denied, do not affect the lives of heterosexuals in the slightest.
Perhaps the debate could be settled if it were clarified that gay marriages would be voluntary, not compulsory. Christians could then rest assured that "Gay Agenda Stormtroopers" are unlikely to burst into the local Sunday services and force the choirboys to marry each other. Along the same lines, gays in the military, contrary to Christian lore, have no plans to seduce their way up the chain of command and, with missionary zeal, mobilize the U.S. Army to force heterosexuals to "convert." Having a gay teacher in high school will not -- repeat: not -- result in the football team being renamed the "Fighting Sodomites."
In fact, if gays achieved every item in what the religious right refers to darkly only as "The Gay Agenda," the lives of America's heterosexuals would be stunningly, spectacularly unchanged. So why has the religious right chosen to direct such herculean amounts time and energy into vilifying gays (as opposed to other, ostensibly Christian activities such as tending the sick or easing hunger)?
Religious right activists justify their position (and lurid descriptions) by noting that they don't want to be forced to "sanction" homosexual behavior, i.e. rent to or employ homosexuals. To be put in such a situation, they insist, would be an affront to their religious beliefs.
However, even those who paid attention in Bible study don't seem to recall Christ mentioning anything about "the right to fire queers." Christ's message, rather, was one of love, forgiveness and respect for fellow human beings. It had little to do with obsessing on innocent people's sexual habits and then vilifying them for it. That Matthew 7:1 has somehow been interpreted as "track homosexuals down to the ends of the Earth and make their lives a living hell" does more than frighten gays and astound the rest of us -- it discredits the very religion that these activists purport to represent in the first place.
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Originally published in the Boulder Weekly, June 20, 1998.