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Case For Legal Recognition

6. Sexual orientation

Although it had roots in the French Revolution, the movement for more humane treatment of gays and lesbians really began in Central Europe in the 19th century, when the notion of homosexuality as an innate medical condition was proposed. The enduring notion had been that homosexual acts were the willful and immoral acts of persons who we today would call heterosexuals. Engaging in such acts resulted from an excessive or depraved sexual appetite, and were sinful acts. One need look no further than the reasons of Justice McClung in Vriend v. Alberta[12] to realize that this view still has its followers today. However, gradually, the prevailing scientific view came to be that some people have a homosexual or bisexual orientation that is not chosen. For homosexuals, it is heterosexual acts that are against their nature.

Just as Christians no longer view as heresy the notion that the earth revolves around the sun, so too do many believe that Christian thinking about the moral nature of homosexual acts must be revised in light of our modern understanding about sexuality. The only passage in the Bible where lesbian acts are condemned illustrates this issue well. It is in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans. Paul was clearly influenced by the associations between idol worship and cultural practices he abhorred, including the widely accepted practice of homosexual acts. He also refers to “burning lust” and “turning”, both reflective of the ancient ideas that homosexual acts resulted from a surfeit of lust, and that Roman pagans were so oversexed that they indulged in homosexual acts to satisfy their lusts[13]. Although there are still some fundamentalists who would share this view of homosexual acts as the deliberate choice of sinful heterosexuals, it has no respectable scientific support any longer. Given that fact, many liberal theologians argue that the Bible is silent on “homosexuality”, that is, a sexual orientation that is innate. Basic Christian teachings about love and respect for all would thus indicate that condemnation of homosexuals is morally wrong.

[12] [1996] A.J. No. 182 (C.A.)

[13] For further discussion, see Boswell, supra note 5, Christianity at 107-14.

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