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This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Mary Cheney's Gay

[See added update at the bottom]
KERRY: We're all God's children, Bob. And I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell you that she's being who she was, she's being who she was born as.

I think if you talk to anybody, it's not choice. I've met people who struggled with this for years, people who were in a marriage because they were living a sort of convention, and they struggled with it.

And I've met wives who are supportive of their husbands or vice versa when they finally sort of broke out and allowed themselves to live who they were, who they felt God had made them.

I think we have to respect that.

The candidates were asked during the third debate if they felt homosexuality was a choice. In Sen. Kerry's response, he referenced Mary Cheney, the lesbian daughter of the Vice President. This upset various people, and not just Republican sorts (and her parents), whose response might be deemed either personal or a bit too convenient. Sen. Edwards brought up the subject as well in his debate, but it received somewhat less comment.

I find this concern overblown. The ultimate reason is that the only way we are to answer prejudice is to force people to see the hypocrisy of it all. The truth is that we always have exceptions in such cases. Certain people who we give a pass to because they are an exception for some reason or it's uncomfortable to bring them up. The daughter of a leading friend of the conservative base of the party is such a person though Alan Keyes, running for Senate in Illinois, is consistent in his anti-homosexual rhetoric.

And, yes, the result is that the people mentioned might be seen more as means toward an end than actual people. Or, their private lives (this is not an "outing" situation, though, so that is a separate matter*) might be made fodder for political debate. So be it: Mary Cheney is out there helping her dad's political career, one that furthers an administration that hurts homosexuals in various ways. This is so even when President Bush answers the "choice" question thusly:
BUSH: You know, Bob, I don't know. I just don't know. I do know that we have a choice to make in America and that is to treat people with tolerance and respect and dignity. It's important that we do that.

And I also know in a free society people, consenting adults can live the way they want to live.

And that's to be honored.

But as we respect someone's rights, and as we profess tolerance, we shouldn't change -- or have to change -- our basic views on the sanctity of marriage.

A nifty turn of the word "choice" there. Still, it's a bait and switch: tolerance and freedom ... up to a point. While governor, such "tolerance" apparently didn't include same sex couples even having sex, which was outlawed in Texas at the time.

It doesn't include equal protection at the work place. And, it doesn't include marriage ... or any marriage sort of arrangement set up so that benefits arising from the relationship are in place. [For those who think there's not a dime's worth of difference between them, Kerry made clear he supports such things, marriage excepted.] But, hey, Mary Cheney can live as she likes. This is just hypocritical.

Finally, I think we must underline the fact that determining if homosexuality is a "choice" or not only takes us so far. It is important to determine if a certain aspect of one's identity is inherent for various reasons, partly because we give special weight to such things. Also, if it is not a "choice" per se, there is less "guilt" in acting out one's true identity. All the same, something can be natural to oneself and still bad. A disposition to violence, for instance.

The question also belies a certain simplistic interpretation of sexuality. We might not all be bisexuals, but it is clear that a society that did not find same sex relations so distasteful would be one in which there was more same sex relationships. One need not be a "homosexual" per se (whatever this means ... is Madonna a lesbian? the co-star of Sex in the City now going out with a woman? someone who has a "lesbian vacation" at college?) to be in a same sex relationship or enjoy sex from members of the same sex. Equality need not, and ultimately probably should not, be a matter of genetics.

And, for any number of reasons, the homosexual aspect of one's identity might not be lived out. This need not be because one finds it sinful. Is a bisexual who marries a member of the opposite sex a "homosexual?" If nothing else, I do not think society considers such a person such. Ultimately, we do "choose" our lives, including how to live out our often complex true identity.

Besides, I do not think the other side denies people have certain "urges" or whatever. The idea is that they "choose" to carry them out, though many think such desires have twisted origins. Still, the ultimate tendency must in some sense be "natural," yes? Their problem, however, is that it is considered a unnatural (immoral) tendency. They also tend to ignore that a desire to partake in heterosexual relationships in various cases also is influenced by societal factors as well.

So, the "nature/nurture" debate really is a somewhat simplistic one. It is a bit akin to "fat free" food -- a plate full of salt is fat free; doesn't mean it's healthy. Sounds good though. And, discrimination based on religion is a bad idea, even if one "chooses" what religion one follows. After all, whites have the same legal rights as blacks not because blacks were born that way. It is because skin color shouldn't be a reason to discriminate. Same here, however the genetics falls.

Thus, is the choice issue really relevant to the gay marriage debate? If so, just how much?


* Update: Many might not know her sexuality, so it might be deemed as some form of "outing." On the other hand, she is not secretive about her sexuality and has made herself a public figure by actively supporting her father's political career. Therefore, it is a weak form of outing at best.

I'd also say that I understand the dangers of personalizing politics in this nature, but we do it all the time. And, when basic equality is at issue and handled in such a hypocritical way, at some point, the concern just seems overblown. We cannot have leaders of discriminatory movements that ignore the fact their policies harm their vice president's daughter, or even their own daughter, without calling them on it in some fashion. If we do not, we just deny reality and help to uphold the wrong.