Now that the Supreme Court will be weighing in on the issue of same-sex marriage, the Justices’ biases on the basic principles of sexual orientation are under scrutiny — none perhaps moreso than Justice Antonin Scalia. Recently, he defended his comparison between homosexuality and murder, arguing simply that either can be morally condemned. He obtusely couldn’t understand why the gay Princeton student who asked the question wasn’t convinced by his response.
Insights into Scalia’s understanding of homosexuality (or lack thereof) can perhaps be found through his son, Rev. Paul Scalia, a Catholic priest in Arlington, Virginia. The younger Scalia has worked with the Church’s Courage ministry, which promotes “chastity” for gay Catholics using principles from ex-gay therapy. He has also spoken openly on the topic, and though he’s proven quite capable of reiterating the Church’s anti-gay teachings, a 2005 article reveals just how distorted the family’s view on homosexuality may be.
Writing about labels, Rev. Scalia compares identifying as gay to other school stereotypes like “preps,” “jocks,” and “geeks,” and argues that it’s unhelpful to young people to encourage them to embrace such labels. Challenging the notion that homosexuality even exists, he tries to distinguish between having “homosexual inclinations” or identifying as “a gay,” suggesting that some kids are “just confused.” Of course, his intention is to reduce homosexuality to “behaviors,” inferring that people with same-sex orientations are simply heterosexuals inclined to a special kind of sin. His true goal with this wordplay is to find a way to justify parents’ rejecting their gay children:
Granted, the more accurate phrases do not trip easily off the tongue. But what is lost in efficiency is gained in precision. Terms such as “same-sex attractions” and “homosexual inclinations” express what a person experiences without identifying the person with those attractions. They both acknowledge the attractions and preserve the freedom and dignity of the person. With that essential distinction made, parents can better oppose the attractions without rejecting the child. And as the child matures, he will not find his identity confined to his sexuality.
Further, opposition to homosexual attractions and actions makes sense only when it is rooted in the full truth of human sexuality. Gay school groups gain approval and support partly because heterosexual unchastity (contraception, masturbation, premarital sex, adultery, and all the rest) has compromised so many. Our culture’s deliberate separation of sex from procreation has destroyed our ability to articulate a coherent explanation of sexual ethics. Parents and educators have damaged the tools that would allow them to explain why homosexual activity is wrong.
For the Scalias, moral condemnation of homosexuality is just assumed, and the consequences of that judgment are par for the course. The consequences of family rejection for LGBT youth have been thoroughly documented, but for these men, rejecting “homosexual inclination” takes priority. Rev. Scalia relies on genetic uncertainty to conclude that homosexuality is not a “fixed, inborn orientation,” even though science does not doubt that is exactly how sexual orientation presents, regardless of its causes. He seeks to reject people for something that is wholly part of who they are and how they will lead their lives, ignoring that such an approach unquestioningly deprives them of life’s most basic sources of happiness and support: a loving partner and the opportunity to raise a family.
The phenomenon of “coming out” only exists because a culture that shuns homosexuality has demanded gay invisibility. The concept of “gay pride” came about not as flamboyant flaunting, but to counter the expectation of “gay shame.” These unique aspects to gay identities reflect the consequences of condemnation, not an impetus for them. Moral condemnation is not inherent; in the court of law, it must be justified beyond tradition and religious belief. Unfortunately, it seems Justice Scalia is not interested in such intellectual justice.