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Gay rights activists deny our moral agency

By Shimon Cowen - posted Wednesday, 10 August 2016

The basic argument of my book, Homosexuality, Marriage and Society, is that the debate over "same sex marriage" is about the very definition of a human being and what follows from it. Is the human being defined by physical (in this case sexual) impulses and actualized through their gratification? Or does the human being possess a soul – or conscience with its own objective moral compass – which is the essential human being, and which arbitrates, whether and which impulses should be given expression? The latter is the standpoint of this book, and in so doing, it takes up the position of the Abrahamic faiths, which underpin our civilization and have as their adherents the majority of humanity.

According to this view, the human being, by definition a soul housed in a body, constantly faces a struggle to arbitrate right from wrong amongst the impulses which come from a variety of sources. But the individual has a great resource with which to carry out this struggle: the soul made in the image of its Creator, a moral compass or sense that aligns with universal, objective and transhistorical values (which imitate Divine attributes). Amongst these values is the norm of the heterosexual union, enshrined in traditional marriage.

According to this traditional understanding of the human being, homosexuality does not define the essential dimension – which is the soul or conscience – of any person. Rather, homosexuality is a behaviour, derived from sources extraneous to the central being of the human. It may come from certain physical and temperamental predispositions, such as an effeminate temperament in a man; it could be the result of psychological trauma, which derails normal sexual development, such as rejection by, and failure to bond with, a father. It could also have cultural sources – a cultural homosexuality which encourages people who are physically and psychologically capable of heterosexual relations (and have in fact raised a natural, biological family) to "experiment" with homosexuality. From the standpoint of the Abrahamic faiths, a human being – a homosexual – understandably struggles and legitimately engages help to struggle with all of these factors. To be able to delineate one's real "I" – the "I" of conscience – which transcends all internal and external predicaments, is vital to that struggle.


The consequences of the doctrine of the same-sex marriage movement, that the impulse is the person, and conscience is an illusion, impacts profoundly on family and children. The traditional nucleus of heterosexually complementary partners – husband and wife – is more stable as the statistics – of greater breakup of homosexual marriages (where these have been legalized) – indicate.

But its most serious familial impact is upon children: in the nexus of generations. The human being is distinct from all other species in that lineage – the knowledge of one's parentage – has deep personal significance. Children commissioned through artificial reproductive technologies for homosexual unions are denied that conscious continuity of identity with both one's mother and father. Apart from this basic deprivation of personal identity, children raised in a homosexual households miss out on the complementary unique contributions of the distinct role-modelling of a father and the nurturing of a mother.

All of this is justified by a mystique of the "equality of love", though most would agree that the fallacy of the formula is exposed when applied to permit incest between adult siblings (who may marry in Sweden). The ideology of same-sex marriage clashes with the traditional Abrahamic concept of marriage which makes children the principal concern of marriage. It is no accident that the nine Western European countries with the highest birth-rates out of wedlock have all legalized same sex marriage. These are cultures where personal gratification and a self-centred "love" has priority over the conditions which maximize the welfare of children.

Paradoxically the greatest victim of the same-sex marriage movement – with its doctrine that homosexual impulse, whatever its origin, irremediably defines a person as homosexual – is the homosexual him or herself. The political-psychological doctrine that homosexuality is a "normal" variant of human sexuality is linked to corollaries that change is both impossible and unethical for a homosexual, even when that person is unhappy with his or her same-sex attraction. Any distress of the homosexual with his or her homosexuality is put down to "internalized homophobia" and social stigma. Negated is the notion of a genuine dissonance arising from a clash between homosexual impulses and one's own inner sense (rooted in soul or conscience) of what is normative. Thereby – and reinforced by political attempts to ban all therapy for (and sought by) homosexuals wanting change – the concept of personal, patient autonomy and choice is denied. With its principle that the physical impulse is the person, the movement imposes a fate on the homosexual. It is as sad paradox that this dogma of the impossibility of change is actually a source of suicidal ideation for homosexuals, who want to change.

The most serious consequence – for both society and for individuals – of the same-sex marriage doctrine that the impulse is the person, is in its concomitant programs to recast the education and socialization of children. In seeking through the "Safe Schools" and related programs to teach "sexual and gender diversity", it targets young children at their developmental stage of greatest sexual-identity fluidity (as experienced by over 25% of all 12 year olds, notwithstanding that some 98% would otherwise eventually settle into heterosexual roles). By suggestion and encouragement the movement seeks to confirm children into a variety of sexual identities, such as might be felt in the fluidity of their situation: a crush on another girl means she is a lesbian and so on. The result is played out not only by seeking to lock unformed and uncertain children into homosexual identities, but also in a general concept of variable gender self-selection, with the prospect of follow-up sexual reassignment surgery for children. Not only does the same-sex marriage movement claim that the human being is determined by impulse, but radically and polymorphously so.

The Abrahamic faith tradition, the foundation of our civilization, states the opposite. The essential human being - soul or conscience – but for its repression under contemporary cultural ideologies – tends to resonates with eternal and objective values, amongst which is the norm of heterosexual marriage. The acceptance of the idea of an innate universal moral compass – and that the human being is bound to struggle to actualize it in his or her life – does not enslave the human being. To the contrary, it confers freedom and responsibility. We are free to engage in that struggle and it is our responsibility to do so. To be told that conscience is an illusion, and we must follow the dictates of our impulses, whether into homosexuality, sex change or any other physical will, is the real servitude. This may be as unfashionable to say, as it is to speak of a Creator, who wants certain behaviours and does not want others and Who created the world for its ethical perfection. But this is really what most people (whose souls are allowed to "breathe") do believe and have for millennia believed. May we join with all of our fellow human beings, with love and compassion, but also with moral clarity, freely to actualize that universal ethical potential?

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Shimon Cowen's book Homosexuality, Marriage and Society is available from Connor Court for $19.95 by clicking here.

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About the Author

Rabbi Shimon Cowen is director of the Institute for Judaism and Civilization.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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