Same-Sex Sex and Civil Unions
You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God disapproves of the same people you do. – Zhang Fu Lai
Many people argue that normal sexual activity is that which God intended for humankind in the natural order of creation, namely heterosexuality. And since God intended it, it is right, correct, or moral, and therefore acceptable. It follows that deviation from normal or natural, including homosexuality, constitutes abnormal or unnatural sexual activity, which is wrong, incorrect, or immoral, and therefore unacceptable. By implication, civil unions between opposite-sex adults are acceptable, but civil unions between same-sex adults are unacceptable.
These arguments have come under fire recently in efforts to redefine acceptable sexual activity in the civil arena of society to include homosexuality, and by implication, redefine acceptable civil unions to include those between same-sex adults. At the outset of an argument for the inclusions, it is useful to keep in mind that the separation of the civil and religious authorities in a free and democratic society guarantees individual freedom from religion as well as freedom of it. This means no one has the right to restrict the individual freedom of others in the civil arena of society on religious grounds. Moreover, civil laws that restrict individual freedom on religious grounds violate the principle of freedom from religion.
Modern free and democratic societies do a reasonably good job of guaranteeing freedom of religion, but they fall short in efforts to guarantee freedom from it. The reason for the latter is that many people are so convinced their will and God’s will are the same that they seek to impose their will on others in not only the religious arena but also the civil arena of society. Their efforts reek of dictatorship of religion or theocracy.
It is also useful at the outset of an argument in support of the inclusions to address a problem of semantics. Invariably, people who argue against the inclusions use words that are ill-defined and so emotionally charged that the fairness of the inclusions in the civil arena of society escapes them. In an attempt to alleviate the problem, consider the following clarifications:
(1) The words acceptable and unacceptable raise the question of acceptable and unacceptable according to whom? In the religious arena of society, acceptable and unacceptable depend upon declarations of God’s will by the faithful. In the civil arena, acceptable and unacceptable depend upon the collective will of the people with guarantees of individual freedom from all religious declarations of God’s will, individual or collective.
(2) The words moral and immoral are used to denote forms of sexual activity that are acceptable or unacceptable, respectively, because they are right or wrong, respectively. This raises the question of right or wrong according to whom? More often than not, it means right or wrong according to some religious declaration of God’s will in the religious arena of society. However, it can mean right or wrong according to whether it permits or denies individual freedom in the civil arena. Civil morality may be at variance with religious morality, but in the civil arena, civil morality is all that matters with regard to freedom from religion.
(3) The words normal and natural are often used interchangeably, but they do not mean the same thing. Normal sexual activity and deviation from normal are statistical terms with no inherent religious connotation. Normal refers to observed sexual activity in nature that is typical, usual, the mode, or the norm. Deviation from normal refers to observed sexual activity in nature that deviates from normal. Since both exist in nature, however, both constitute natural sexual activity by definition just as unnatural sexual activity is that which is not observed in nature—hypothetical or imaginary.
Mindful of the foregoing clarifications and the guarantees of freedom from religion as well as freedom of it in a free and democratic society, it behooves people in the civil arena to come up with a definition of acceptable sexual activity that protects victims from sexual exploitation and abuse, including children, non-consenting adults, the mentally handicapped, and animals, without unnecessarily restricting the individual freedom of others.
Although many people resist the inclusion of victimless homosexuality in the definition of acceptable sexual activity on religious grounds, the expanded definition makes sense on the grounds that it is consistent with freedom from religion as well as freedom of it. These freedoms ensure that consenting adults are free to engage in either victimless homosexual or victimless heterosexual sexual activities, and by implication, free to form either same-sex or opposite-sex civil unions without fear of prohibition on religious grounds.
The more inclusive definition of acceptable sexual activity also makes sense on the grounds that it makes some people better off without making anyone else worse off. People who engage in victimless homosexuality are better off, and neither victims of sexual exploitation and abuse nor people who engage in victimless heterosexuality are worse off. By implication, those who wish to form same-sex civil unions without religious sanction are better off, and those who wish to form opposite-sex civil unions with religious sanction are no worse off.
Copyright © September 2009 Frank Zahn. Published in ViewsHound, June 11, 2011; The Writings of a Curious Mind: A Collection of Essays, Memoirs, and Short Stories, Vancouver Books (Kindle Edition) 2017.