NYTimes.com Article: Lovers Under the Skin

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Dear Everyone;

An interesting op-ed article which should generate for the writer even more rhetorical responses than his last op-ed article.

Ron Getty
SF Libertarian


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Lovers Under the Skin

December 3, 2003

Recently I wrote a column arguing that there is growing
evidence that homosexuality has a biological basis, and
that this is one more reason not to discriminate against
people on the basis of whom they love.

The result was a torrent of fire and brimstone from readers
who are aghast at gay marriage, and who accuse me of
blasphemy for defending vile behavior that they say God is
on record as denouncing. Never mind that the Bible also
advises that people who work on the Sabbath should be
stoned to death (Numbers 15:35) and condones the beating of
slaves "since the slave is the owner's property" (Exodus
21:21). Somehow it's only the anti-gay bits that seem
engraved in stone.

Yet surprisingly few readers raised the most obvious
question: if homosexuality is partly genetic, why are there
so many gays?

After all, gays are presumably less likely to engage in
heterosexual pairings - the behavior that passes down
genes. So if there are genes linked to homosexuality (which
is still not proved, but seems increasingly likely), then
how have they been passed down to our day?

Scientists have offered a range of theories. One is that
gays might not have been fecund baby-producers, but that
they guarded their nephews and nieces from saber-toothed
tigers and thus helped ensure the survival of closely
related genes.

Another theory is that gays have unusually strong sex
drives, and that while most of this energy has been wasted
on nonreproductive flings, enough goes toward male-female
pairings that the genes are passed on. Both theories have
largely been discounted.

One clue to a more subtle theory is that other primates,
including close relatives like the bonobos, often engage in
homosexual behavior, apparently as a way of forming
alliances. Bonobos curry favor by performing oral sex on
others of the same gender, even though they also seize
every opportunity to mate with those of the opposite sex.

It may be that for bonobos - and perhaps for our
cave-dwelling ancestors - an inclination to engage in
homosexual sex conferred Darwinian advantages by helping to
gain favor and protection from group leaders. But the
pattern fits bonobos better than it does human males:
bonobos appear primarily heterosexual or bisexual, while
some human males (more than females, some scholars say)
seem hard-wired to be exclusively gay.

So some journal articles speculate that several genes may
be loosely linked to homosexuality. When all come together,
perhaps in conjunction with other factors, like unusual
androgen levels in the womb (which also appear to play a
role), the person may be gay and less likely to pass on
those genes.

But more commonly, so the theory goes, only one or two of
these gene variants are present, and then they produce not
gays but straights who are relatively sensitive,
conciliatory and empathetic - qualities that help them find
a mate. Thus these variants would be genetically
advantageous and would proliferate.

The arguments get far more complex, of course, but I hope
that religious conservatives will ponder this question: If
homosexuality is utterly contrary to God's law, why is it
so embedded in human biology and in the rest of the animal
kingdom? (Serious journal articles have described
supposedly lesbian seagulls.)

Critics used to say that adopted children of gay couples
would end up gay. But there's growing evidence that
children raised by homosexuals are no more likely to end up
gay than those raised by heterosexuals.

The bottom line is that same-sex love is a mystery far more
subtle than just a matter of Biblical injunction - just as
interracial love has turned out to be. A 1958 poll found
that 96 percent of whites disapproved of marriages between
blacks and whites (Deuteronomy 7:3 condemns interracial
marriages). In 1959 a judge justified Virginia's ban on
interracial marriage by declaring that "Almighty God . . .
did not intend for the races to mix."

Someday, we will regard opposition to gay marriage as
equally obtuse and old-fashioned.

No force is more divine than love, and if some people are
encoded to love others of the same sex, how can that be
unholy? To me, the blasphemy is not in those who want to
share their lives with others of the same sex, but rather
in anyone presumptuous enough to vilify that love.��