The California State Assembly is considering a bill right now, the "The Dignity for All Students Act," AB 222, that would add "sexual preference" to the ever-growing list of groups and attributes covered under the state education code's anti-discrimination provision. The Assembly Education Committee approved it last week.
As Assemblywoman Gloria Romero, a Los Angeles Democrat and committee member, told a reporter after Wednesday's vote, "To me, this really is a bill that should be a no-brainer." That is an able description of the thought process behind this bill.
How would this law work in practice?
To begin with, "sexual orientation" is an indefinite term, open to interpretation and subject to litigation. As Amherst College political scientist Hadley Arkes has observed, the term could cover bestiality. Why not also pedophilia, which according to recent news reports is gaining respectability among professional psychologists and the American Psychological Association? Why not sadomasochism, among friends, when they are in the mood?
The law will have an effect upon curricula: "No teacher shall give instruction nor shall a school district sponsor any activity that reflects adversely upon persons because of their . . . sexual orientation . . .."
Would that prohibit public schools from allowing the Boy Scouts of America to use school facilities? Would it prevent scouts from wearing their uniforms to school? Scouting has held for more than two generations that homosexuality is inconsistent with the requirement that scouts be "morally straight." It teaches that sex should be confined to marriage, and marriage should be between men and women. This, until recently, was widely thought a fine thing for young boys to be hearing. People who hope that those boys will not grow up to assault women should worry if these lessons are forbidden.
How, one wonders, will this law alter the already questionable sex-education that graces public school teaching? What would teachers be allowed to say about the transmission of AIDS among the homosexual population?
What about the connection between sex and the conception and raising of children? What about the need for strong families, with a man and a woman married to each other at the head, to do the hard job of raising children? What about the success that this family, as it is defined in nature, has over the alternatives in that vital task? Would the citation of data demonstrating the goodness of fidelity in marriage become illegal under this law?
The political agenda at work here is comprehensive. It aims to reform the law both civil and criminal. It aims to remove all the special protections of the natural family and to forbid in many public settings any argument that it is superior. It already affects deeply the popular culture, including films, television and print. And now it makes its way into the schools.
The root idea of homosexual rights stands upon a different and incompatible ground from the "natural rights" our nation was built to secure. Many people of good will, homosexuals and others, argue that homosexuality is "genetic," which it may or may not in some cases be, and that "genetic" is a synonym for "natural." That, it cannot be.
The "nature" of something means two things that are most relevant here. First, it means the thing itself, the essential properties of a thing that make it what it is. Second, it means the process of begetting and growth by which something realizes its nature.
Make no mistake, human beings are as much dependent upon this process of begetting and growth as any other creature. On the one hand, humans (even legislators who do not often use their brains) are rational creatures. They have the gift of conceiving universals, which gives them the power of choice and the responsibility for their choices. This is the ground of freedom and one part of the ground of rights.
On the other hand, human beings must make choices in the face of necessity: they must eat, drink, and rest or their health will fail within hours; and so they must spend their strength in the provision of nutrition and shelter. They must love and bear children in order to continue their species; and so they must find a mate. Human children are dependent upon their parents for an unusually long time; and so the parents must devote much of their lives, amidst all the other demands they face, to these children. And finally the battle of life gives way to age and then to death. Making choices in the face of these hard necessities requires virtue, virtue that must be taught and learned, instilled and practiced.
The seed of virtue is habit and discipline, taught with love and sacrifice to the young. The family exists to begin this process. It is bound together by the natural love that its members feel for one another; this love is sealed by the moral commandment that the husband and wife confine their sexual relations to one another.
This is, of course, a summary of "traditional" morality. But this morality is something more than "traditional." It is also reasonable, because it fits human nature as it actually exists. And it is also the morality common among all the great religions. This is the morality that the California legislature would banish from the schools with all the awesome and decisive force of law.
Indeed, a no-brainer.
If we engage our brains for a moment, however, we will see the true point. There is no more serious test facing us as a people than the question of whether we will sacrifice our children, in the face of what we know is best for them and for society, on the altar of this radical ideology.
We should protect two things, if we can. The first is the idea of nature as it is used in the Declaration of Independence, which is worthy of our admiration because it is true and because it is the one bulwark against despotic government. The second is the family in its natural meaning, as it exists in law and morality for these many generations. These days, whoever undertakes that task faces a firestorm. Hardly a no-brainer, but worth the trouble.