Monday, June 04, 2007

A rhetorical red herring

Opponents of gay rights sometimes raise a specious but effective red herring argument whose danger is how it gets gay right advocates to surrender rights to set the terms of the argument. It goes like this.

"According to this highly dubious and probably unscientific source I have here, the supposition that homosexuality is inborn is not true! Homosexuality is merely a choice, and one which can be chosen against. Therefore, we should not be talking about gay rights."

The question of whether homosexuality is nature or nurture is an important one, and there are times to argue about it. But on the topic of gay rights, it is immaterial. More than that, it's a red herring whose sole purpose is to get you to let the neocons set the terms of the debate to ones where your case isn't quite as strong. Once you give in to the bait and try to refute their argument by focusing on the question of whether homosexuality is innate, you have implicitly accepted their assumption, their begging the question: that gay rights should only be granted if it is inborn, not a choice.

And that's simply not so. Amongst the most cherished, and arguably the first established, of all our rights that protect us against prejudice, is the protection of freedom of religion. And religion is unquestionably not inborn, but is entirely a choice, and definitely something which can be chosen against.

Don't let the conservatives choose the battlefield. Don't let them get away with such a key assumption.

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