One of the most frequent arguments right wingers make against constitutionally guaranteed equality under the law for homosexual couples is the claim that homosexuality is unnatural. Harold S. Martin of the Brethren Revival Fellowship represents this debate tactic when he writes,“It is not normal to be attracted to a member of the same sex. It violates the basic sexual structure which God created. It is a perversion. It is against nature. “
This argument has a central weakness: Homosexuality is not unnatural. Nature is filled with examples of homosexuality. Watch a troop of bonobos for a while, and you’ll see this behavior yourself. Heck, there are even cross-dressers in nature. Submissive roosters will imitate hens. Male cuttlefish will imitate females in order to sneak around competitors for some heterosexual romping.
But what if homosexuality were not found outside of human behavior? What would that mean? Computers aren’t found outside of human behavior either. Neither are socks, or toenail clippers, or prayers. So, are computers, socks, toenail clipping and praying therefore sinful? The whole church thing is definitely unnatural, except for perhaps jack in the pulpit, or maybe monkfish.
Should we build our human sexual morality just by copying what non-human animals do? Should we follow the example of a fish given the unnatural name of California sheephead. The Monteray Bay Aquarium tells us the following about the sexual life history of the sheephead: “All sheephead are born female. Most of them change to males following environmental clues we don’t fully understand.”
If we are to follow the logic of Harold S. Martin and his brethren, we should actually encourage female-to-male sex change operations. As the California sheephead prove, gender transformations are a part of nature.
But, let’s not stop there. Let’s look at other species for examples of God’s intentions for our sexual mores. The anglerfish is a highly sexually dimorphic species, in which the female is many times larger than the male. The little male finds the big female in the dark depths of the sea, then bites her and never lets go. He becomes permanently attached to her body, feeding from her bloodstream and never swimming for himself again. By Harold S. Martin’s logic, this should contribute to arguments in favor of women going out to work professionally, while men stay back at home, doing nothing except maybe watching television.
Hammerhead sharks and komodo dragon females sometimes give birth to children that don’t have any fathers. Through this process, called parthenogenesis, such complex vertebrate species are able to conceive offspring without ever having heterosexual copulation. If we think as Harold S. Martin does, the clear moral lesson about human family lives is that it is natural, and therefore acceptable, for single human lesbians to raise children on their own, without any men involved.
Here’s an alternative proposal: Human sexual morality ought to be based upon the best human thinking about how to deal with other people in a reasonable way, rather than by imitating animals.