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The freedom to be gay

July 02, 2006

IS HOMOSEXUALITY THE RESULT OF NATURE, nurture or simply individual choice? The latest study on this fascinating subject of scientific inquiry, by a Canadian psychologist, indicates a biological -- though not genetic -- link to male homosexuality. The more older brothers a boy has, the more likely he is to be gay.

And that's true whether he's reared in the same household as those brothers or even by completely different parents through adoption. The theory is that something, perhaps an antibody, changes in the mother's womb with each male fetus.

Activists on both sides of the gay rights debate see the new study as a point of contention, because people who believe sexual orientation has its origins in biology are more likely to favor gay rights than those who believe it is a choice or a result of child-rearing styles.

Even if a laboratory found incontrovertible proof that sexual preference is solely biological -- for that matter, if a flag of divine truth saying the same thing fluttered down from the heavens tomorrow -- it would not change the minds of religious conservatives who deplore homosexuality and seek to limit gay rights. Many of them have moved beyond the question -- or rather, veered around it.

Homosexuality might well be innate, they argue, but many other behaviors are equally natural -- such as the desire of adolescents to have sex before marriage or the urge of spouses to stray from fidelity. The origin of the desire is unimportant to them; it's still immoral behavior in their book, so the desire must remain unfulfilled.

We disagree with the notion that some people should dictate how others choose to live their lives. But religious conservatives are right, in a sense, to say that the reasons some people are gay should have no bearing on their rights. Whether someone is born gay or somehow chooses to be gay, gay rights stem from a consenting adult's inherent freedom to live as he or she sees fit, without harming others.

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