The Illinois Family Institute, a designated hate group, is joining the chorus of conservatives claiming that gays and lesbians already have equality under the law. Unlike the National Organization for Marriage and Family Research Council, IFI is a bit more candid about how exactly it sees this vision of “equality”:
First, those who choose to place their same-sex attraction at the center of their identity are “treated like anyone else under the law.” They are perfectly free to participate in the sexually complementary institution of marriage. They choose not to. They are not asking to be treated equally. They are demanding to be treated specially. They want the unilateral right to jettison the central defining feature of marriage (i.e. sexual complementarity) — something, by the way, that polygamists, polyamorists, “minor-attracted persons,” and sibling-lovers are not permitted to do.
Second, does our president actually believe the idea he clunkily articulated in his speech, that “surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well”? Does he believe the love polygamists “commit” to their wives “must be equal as well”? Does he believe the love a high school teacher commits to his student “must be equal as well”? Does he believe the love five polyamorists of assorted genders “commit” to one another “must be equal” as well? Does he believe the love a brother and sister “commit” to each other “must be equal as well”?
IFI’s Laurie Higgins presents this not-so-compelling argument in the context of homosexuality is not “heritable” or “immutable,” an allusion to her belief in the validity of ex-gay therapy, despite ample research showing it is at best ineffective and at worst quite psychologically harmful. She goes on to claim Obama has “heretical views of marriage” that are “destructive” and “pernicious.”
It’s an important opportunity to recognize why the comparisons Higgins provides are offensive and inaccurate. Polygamists and polyamorists who are open to multiple simultaneous relationships are not acting on behalf of an innate sexual orientation. A high school teacher in a romantic relationship with a student is violating that student’s consent and compromising the learning environment. Laws against incest protect young people from rape, child molestation, and abusive incest as well as the genetic consequences of inbreeding. Though homosexuality has historically shared a reputation with these other forms of relationships for being taboo, modern understandings of sexuality negate the ongoing juxtaposition. Of course, IFI refuses to acknowledge the innate nature of sexual orientation or the lived experiences of gays and lesbians.
Once again, conservatives are trying to simultaneously claim that the LGBT community already has equality but doesn’t deserve it. Reality shows the opposite of both points to be true: LGBT people do not have equality in society, but there’s no justified reason for continuing to deny it.