Why Homosexuality is Not Analogous to Murder


Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is clearly very worried about the pervasive immorality that’s taking over America these days. First gay sex will become okay, then murder.

Yes, he really said that. “If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things?”

Here’s the context: Scalia was speaking at Princeton University and a student asked him about his decision to dissent in the landmark ruling of Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down that state’s ban on sodomy as unconstitutional. Scalia believes that the Supreme Court has no place in this “culture war” and that the activists who wanted to overturn anti-sodomy laws were advocating a “homosexual agenda” (his words, not mine).

When asked about this decision, Scalia used a slippery slope fallacy to suggest that if we can’t have “moral feelings” about homosexuality, then we can’t have them about murder, either.

Yes, yes, I get it. He’s not really saying that homosexuality is like murder. He’s making an analogy. But it’s a terrifically bad one.

Scalia, like many people who enthusiastically infuse their political opinions with religion, seems to think that murder is morally wrong cuz god said so–and, therefore, so is homosexuality. He seems not to realize that most people nowadays think that murder is wrong not because they’ll go to hell for it but because an innocent person is being deprived of their life. 

Who is being hurt by someone having gay sex? Who is being hurt by a same-sex couple getting married and living out their lives together? Who is being hurt when kids are discouraged from (and disciplined for) bullying a classmate for being gay?

Honestly, I think this is why religious conservatives started spouting all that stuff about gay people “converting” children to homosexuality. This is the reason for all those initiatives there used to be to ban openly gay people from teaching in public schools, and the reason why, even today, organizations like the Florida Family Association accuse Office Depot of turning kids gay by selling products saying things like “Be Yourself.”

Even though there is no evidence for the theory that homosexuality is some sort of infectious disease, religious conservatives insist that it is, because that allows them to claim that it actually harms people. And that makes the morality argument a very different one.

I’m also shocked that Scalia (and so many other people) really don’t see any difference at all between having “moral feelings” and legislating those moral feelings upon the rest of the country. These are probably the same people who go around wailing about “Christian persecution” because, guess what? You have the right to say and believe whatever you want, but that doesn’t mean you have the right to force others to live by it. Making sure you don’t have the latter right doesn’t mean you’re somehow being discriminated against.

In short, yes, you can have “moral feelings” about homosexuality. And murder. And whatever else you want. We just don’t have to live by your moral feelings.

I’ll grant that when someone says something like, “I don’t care if the gays can get married or not but I still think homosexuality is Bad/Unnatural/Gross/Sinful/Wrong,” I will argue with them. I still think they’re wrong. But I care a lot less about these people than about the ones who do care whether or not same-sex couples can get married, and especially the ones who by some twisted logic claim that there is anything at all acceptable about laws banning sodomy.

And, of course, in these debates, someone who thinks they’re really smart always shows up and asks things like, “But aren’t you legislating your morality upon others by saying that they can’t legislate their morality upon others?”

No; this is asinine. The default in a free, just society should be having rights rather than not having rights. So if you’re going to take away someone’s right to do something, you’d better have a damn good reason.

So why can we ban murder but not gay sex?

Well, even if homosexuality were wrong, it would still be wrong in a completely different way than murder. If homosexuality is wrong, it’s wrong because we (or god) just don’t like it. Murder is wrong because it infringes on the rights of others to live.

And, really, if we’re going to base our legal system on religious scripture, I’m still waiting for the laws banning gossiping, lying, speaking ill of one’s parents, working on Sundays, and refusing to love thy neighbor.

Comments

  1. smrnda says

    This is basically the point that doesn’t seem to get through the thick skulls of anti-gay conservatives. It might be because they tend to be authoritarian and can only think of morality in terms of what might offend some god. It’s useful to keep bringing up that though a person might feel that something is wrong, we should only be outlawing things or denying people the right to do things if it can be shown to be harmful. I mean, having moral feelings is like having any other sort of feeling – feelings are good place to start, but then we need to look for facts. If I have a feeling that something is wrong to do, I should investigate to figure out what harm it does.

    Perhaps basing morality on harm bothers authoritarians since it’s best served by a democratic decision making process where people get to talk about how actions affect them, and decisions are made based on everybody’s input rather than because some god or some person says so.

    • says

      Perhaps basing morality on harm bothers authoritarians since it’s best served by a democratic decision making process where people get to talk about how actions affect them, and decisions are made based on everybody’s input rather than because some god or some person says so.

      Exactly. People like Romney (and tons of other religious conservatives) oppose anti-bullying initiatives that aim to protect LGBT kids from harassment, and defining an immoral action as one that harms someone else gets in the way of that. It’s in their best interest not to base morality on harm.

  2. rilian says

    A bunch of my libertarian friends went crazy for ron paul, but he too was opposed to the supreme court overturning those laws. He would go “states’ rights!” and say that “the state” (ie a small handful of people) has a “right” to “regulate social issues” and somehow what kind of sex people have is a social issue according to him.

  3. B-Lar says

    Having conversations with a christian about gay marriage, I discover that the reason being gay is bad is because god says so, and god says murder is bad, so he must be right about everything else, right?

    Murder is bad because among other things it robs society of a capable pair of hands, robs families of loved ones, and is permanent.

    Homosexuality is bad because it potentially robs society of 2 breeding pairs. A problem in bronze age palestine, but not so much today.

    That judge shockingly has not done his due diligence on what constitutes morality. Lazy minds shouldnt be in jobs like that.

  4. suttkus says

    Who is being hurt when kids are discouraged from (and disciplined for) bullying a classmate for being gay?

    I would think the answer was obvious. Will no one think of the poor bullies?

  5. baal says

    I’m deeply and personally embarrassed to have Scalia on the SCOTUS. Regardless of the subject matter (I’m for marriage equality), it was a poorly made argument and Scalia recited it what amounts to a personal bias instead of LAW. The man is an odious toad.

  6. jenny6833a says

    Miriam says, In short, yes, you can have “moral feelings” about homosexuality. And murder. And whatever else you want. We just don’t have to live by your moral feelings.

    Oh, but we do, we absolutely do. And I’ll bet you support many such laws.

    For example, I’m guessing that you support laws against public nudity. I’m also guessing that you can’t make a harm-based argument in support of such laws.

    I’m guessing that any argument you do make will come down to either “I don’t like it so you can’t do it” or “Our culture doesn’t like it so you can’t do it.” Or maybe the ‘democracy’ argument, which goes “Majority rules, and the majority doesn’t have to respect the harm concept.”

    Of course, all such anti-nudity justifications apply to homosexuality as well.

    • says

      You would do well not to make so many assumptions about what I support and what I don’t. In fact, I don’t support laws against public nudity. I can’t think of any rational reason we should have them. Granted, repealing them is nowhere near the top of my list of priorities because there are so many glaring inequalities to worry about first.

      • jenny6833a says

        Miriam, please accept my apologies. I was remiss. I forgot to list “Repealing anit-nudity laws is nowhere near the top of my list of priorities because there are so many glaring inequalities to worry about first.”

        Hey, you didn’t even say “… so many other glaring inequalities….”

        • says

          I don’t see how that’s the same thing as supporting those laws. At all. Stop moving the goalposts. If my local government were considering repealing anti-nudity laws, I would encourage my representatives to vote to repeal them. If a petition came up to repeal them, I would sign it. If I heard someone making dumb arguments in support of anti-nudity laws, I would argue with them.

          But this isn’t what I focus on, because I can’t focus on everything. Right now, I care more about LGBT rights, mental health, ending rape culture, reproductive rights, racial inequality, and so on. You’re allowed to care more about public nudity rather than those things if you want, but excuse me if I focus on the problems that lead to needless suffering and even death.