Patrick White, Guest Columnist
In a major departure from the Dark Ages, superstition no longer has authority in modern jurisprudence, at least in democracies. Fact-based evidence has replaced superstition as the supreme authority. At least that is what I thought until I read attorney Shirley Richards' August 2, 2014 column, 'Can you stop the bolting horse, Mr Boyne?'
The column begins with an ill-advised defence of what nearly everyone would agree to be a nonsensical assertion from an earlier column: "Repeal of the [buggery] law will also effectively remove the philosophy that protects true marriage, making the institution of marriage, although thankfully currently protected, much more susceptible to challenge."
What "philosophy" could Ms Richards be talking about that protects marriage? I know that my marriage, like most, is a personal contract, a long-term expression of love and commitment between my wife and me. There is no philosophy that I know of that protects this commitment. If buggery was decriminalised, as it should be, I see no reason this will change my view of my wife or her view of me. What possible logic could support Ms Richards' reasoning, which seems so bizarre?
Alternatively, perhaps Ms Richards may be fantasising that nations could use the decriminalisation of buggery as the pretext to renege on marriage contracts. If that is the case, let me set her mind at ease. Contract law, as she must know, is at the core of all economic activity. And marriage contracts have a significant economic basis as well, especially in inheritance. Since economics trumps most considerations, it is difficult to see why any democracy would jeopardise marriage contracts, threatening their financial viability.
As to Ms Richards' concern over whether buggery should be taught as normal, what if it is true? After all, normality is the scientific consensus; being gay is not considered an illness. It is merely a variation in sexual behaviour across the continuum, typical of our species. We also know that individuals in many animal species, in addition to us, show durably gay behaviours; it is not 'abnormal' there either.
NO VALID REASON
If being gay is normal, what could be the societal benefit of pretending it is not? Other than upsetting misguided religious sensibilities, my guess is neither Ms Richards nor any of her supporters can cite any valid reason.
At the same time, it is easy to show that when we mischaracterise, mistreat and sequester otherwise normal LGBT individuals, we are effectively relegating a percentage of every generation to living on the fringes. And when we substitute religious mythology for a frank, evidence-based discussion of human sexuality, we may also inflict lifelong psychological damage, especially to gay children as they approach puberty, and for the first time realise they are different from most of their peers.
And who pays for this insanity? We do. We pay for the criminality, which inevitably follows ostracism and sequestration. We also pay for the medical care, particularly the expensive HIV treatment, which often accompanies life in the sex trade, one of the few economic avenues available to LGBT outcasts.
But, more important, this insanity deprives our nation of the contribution LGBT individuals could be making to our economic development. In this regard, I am reminded of Alan Turing, one of the most important mathematicians of the 20th century, and who is also credited with laying the theoretical foundations of computer science. A mug with his likeness, a gift from the Association of Computing Machinery, sits proudly in my cupboard. Dr Turing was a leader in the breaking of the Nazi Enigma encryption that was so central to Allied victory in WWII. He was a gay man.
How many Dr Turings have we damaged psychologically as children, rendering them incapable of contributing to society?
Is there no limit to the economic price that we, as a nation, will pay to indulge the religious fantasies of people like Shirley Richards?
Patrick White holds a doctorate in engineering and led research groups at Bell Laboratories and Bellcore (Telcordia). Email feedback to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
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