Stop Comparing Homosexuality to Skin Color

April 18, 2014


There is one theme that pervades the discussion on gay marriage: “this debate is the same as the debate we had on skin color in the 1960s.” Memes fly around the internet comparing the two fights. One recently on my newsfeed showed a picture of an interracial couple from the 1950s and a gay couple from today side by side with a statement “both illegal marriages.” When Arizona tried to pass its “religious freedom bill” that would allow the religious to refuse service in some situations to homosexuals, the response was clear: ‘this is the new Jim Crowe’. As a result, Jan Brewer vetoed the bill (probably fearing looking like the new George Wallace).

But the comparison is a bad one. The two causes should not be compared. They are nothing alike. To compare them is not only confusing but insulting to anyone who hates racial discrimination.  

The comparison is wrong for one reason: Behavior is not skin color.

People often point to the idea that homosexual desire is innate. If it is innate, they argue, it is like skin color (something we cannot change) and therefore worthy of the same sort of civil protections. But is this true? A moment’s reflection shows the error of this thought. We are all born with a wide variety of innate impulses and desires (sexual and otherwise). Some of our innate desires and impulses are good and some are not. We all judge our desires and make decisions on when, how, and whether to act on them. These innate impulses are not behaviors. The fact that we have an innate desire/impulse in no way means that acting on that desire (behavior) must be accepted, licensed by the state, or endorsed by the public.

This concept is manifestly true based on the fact that we all regularly do not act on a whole host of our innate desires. We don’t because doing so would often be often be socially unacceptable (and sometimes illegal depending on which desire in which context). Only some behaviors are socially acceptable (depending on the culture, legal code, and situation). We all filter our innate desires and choose which behaviors are good and which are bad.

We cannot automatically assume that because a desire is innate the corresponding behavior must be accepted by all…..that is almost never true. Desire is not behavior. Behavior is not innate.

Very few behaviors are established as civil rights in our country and I have a hard time seeing why this one sexual behavior should be classified alongside skin color. 

The current debates (i.e. gay marriage, sodomy laws, and conscience laws and etc) are all about behavior. No one is discussing thought control. The innate desires are not being restricted – no, there are questions about behaviors. And such discussions are appropriate and good. There is nothing hateful when we determine to reject certain behaviors as bad (we all do that every day).  In fact, behaviors must be evaluated, judged as ethical or not, and rejected (or embraced) as part of living in a civil society.

There is fundamental difference between skin color and behavior. It seems obvious but our society continues to confuse the two. It is time this confusion ended. 


8 Responses to “Stop Comparing Homosexuality to Skin Color”

  1. vivalaleta Says:

    You are wrong. This isn’t about behavior but where it originates. Why would anyone be gay in America’s climate if they were attracted to the opposite sex? I have known homosexuals from childhood and they picked their sexuality like they picked their eye color.
    You belong to a past century. We are moving forward.

  2. aar Says:

    You are restating the idea that these desires are natural from a young age and perhaps birth. There is nothing we wrote that would disagree with that. What the point of the post is what should be done with those desires. And what to do with our desires is a choice that can be judged good or bad.

    Skin color is not a choice nor a behavior. It is a trait. No one (not even the biggest racist) can say that having dark (or light) skin is immoral.

    As far as us being ‘in the past century’, that is sort of presumptuous I would say. No one can know the future. We are of the opinion that this present confusion is so obviously wrong that it is only a matter of time when people look back at the gay movement and say ‘what the heck was that about?’.

  3. vivalaleta Says:

    I am stating that these are not “desires”. and are not in any way immoral instincts. Did you choose to be heterosexual once you reached puberty? Neither did they choose not to be. They are doing nothing wrong.

  4. aar Says:

    Again. I think that you need to understand that behavior is not the same thing as desire or instinct. We may not choose our instincts but we choose when or if to act on them.

  5. vivalaleta Says:

    This is an ignorant argument. Being gay is just like skin color in that one doesn’t choose it. It’s abominable to try and hide skin color and it is wrong to try and hide being gay. I sincerely would wish that one of your children turn out to be homosexual to teach you a good lesson, but I would never want to see a kid going through hell in a rigid, religious system you are involved with. THIS is why no sane person would ever choose to be gay and things that are natural like this are not immoral. You have no right to say it is.

  6. JannelleCT Says:

    Do people choose to be anxious or shy? Fat or skinny? Using the argument that you’ve been like that all along is not good enough. I do believe all personality traits have some genetic component (I have studied the subject in college), so why not accept that all of these behaviors are inherent and choose not to discriminate based on this? It is well known that BMI is more heritable than all these other traits (up there with height), yet one can be discriminated against for weight.

  7. Vegan Baller Says:

    I can’t believe there are people out there actually disagreeing with this….the brainwashing is real

  8. CS Says:

    I think what’s being missed here is that the author is making no value judgment about homosexuality one way or another. The author is pointing out logical fallacy. That is to say that comparing apples to oranges does not add to a debate.

    Further, attributing a motive to the unmade value judgment is yet another ligical fallacy.

    The auther simply notes that being something is not the same as doing something.

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