It comes up often enough, doesn’t it: People compare race to sexual orientation, when discussing questions of marriage, medical access, and so on. Is this comparison legitimate?
This comparison is not pleasing for at least some church members. It’s generally seen as one that undercuts arguments against gay rights. (It is widely accepted today that prior attitudes on race were morally wrong.)
And it’s certainly true that one can make principled distinctions between the two categories of race and orientation. But, it’s not as simple as saying, “race is different,” is it? Let’s look at some potential arguments on each side.
Some reasons why the comparison could be viewed as apt:
1. Historical similarities.
When was the last time that these kinds of slippery slope arguments were widely used in the marriage context? In cases about interracial marriage.
(The similarities between arguments made against interracial marriage and arguments made against same-sex marriage are really striking.)
When was the last time that doctors said, in effect, “I don’t want to serve that group of people”? The last time this argument was advanced to a large degree, was under Jim Crow.
And so on.
One cannot change one’s race. Similarly, gay-rights advocates point to studies indicating that one cannot change one’s orientation.
3. Legal similarities
Under existing law, the two are often treated similarly (such as various antidiscrimination statutes).
Some reasons why the comparison might be viewed as inapt:
1. Choice / status.
To the extent that one believes sexual orientation does not exist, and that gays and lesbians are simply people choosing certain sexual acts, then they do not seem to be an immutable category like race. They don’t need protection as a group; they just need to stop doing gay things.
2. Current doctrinal status.
Currently, church doctrine treats homosexual acts as sinful. In contrast, interracial marriage (and other racial mingling) is not currently treated as sinful. For many church members, this may be the most important factor.
(Though, it gets tricky to simply say, “the prophets speak against homosexuality.” Because, prophets and apostles also spoke against the civil rights movement and against changes to Jim Crow at various points in the past.)
3. Various empirical arguments.
As Julie’s thread notes, various empirical arguments have been made. (I.e., children don’t do well without opposite-gender parents.) To the extent that those are orientation-specific, they are one way to differentiate race from orientation.
What do people think? What arguments do you see as relevant or dispositive in upholding or discounting the comparison between race and orientation?