Chad Thompson makes an interesting point about using social statistics to argue against homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Even if it is true that the average homosexual only lives to age 43, or that homosexuals are much more likely to be highly promiscuous than heterosexuals, this may not be true of the homosexual you are speaking to. They may be age 65 and engaged in long-term, monogamous same-sex relationships their whole life.
Additionally, such statistics do not necessarily show that homosexuality is bad or immoral. What if homosexuals argued against the validity of heterosexual relationships and opposite-sex marriage on the basis that 43% of marriages end in divorce, and 3/10 women killed in this country die at the hands of their husband or boyfriend? Would you be prepared to conclude that heterosexuality or marriage is immoral, or ought to be avoided? Surely not! So why think someone who believes homosexuality is morally and socially benign will be convinced by statistics showing the dark side of homosexuality? They could always argue, as heterosexuals do, that while these statistics are alarming and cause for concern, the solution is not to condemn homosex but to encourage homosexuals to behave better.
I have conflicting thoughts on this. On the one hand, statistics are generalizations. As such, they can be counter-productive when speaking to someone to whom the statistic does not apply. For example, if you were trying to convince a gay man that homosexuality is wrong by citing statistics about the prevalence of disease, promiscuity, and dissolution rates in the gay community, and he reveals that he is a healthy gay man in a long-term monogamous relationship, what would you do? Your argument against his behavior is immediately undermined because all of those ills do not apply to him. In such a situation one either has to retreat in silence and embarrassment, or admit that his homosexuality is ok.
On the other hand, we all recognize the value of statistics to make decisions regarding what ought or ought not to be allowed in society. For example, statistics show that a high number of car accidents are caused by people using their cell phones while driving. As a result, some states (like CA) have passed laws forbidding anyone from utilizing a cell phone while driving (unless you have a hand-free device). Did they do so because everyone who uses a cell phone while driving gets involved in an accident? No, not at all. But the number of accidents caused from this behavior is significant enough that society has deemed it appropriate to prohibit everyone from engaging in this behavior – even those who are more observant, and not likely to cause social ills from their use of a cell phone while driving. The same is true of the ills caused by homosexuality. While the social ills caused by homosex may not apply to everyone who engages in homosex, the social ills are great enough that society is justified in judging such behavior to be wrong (although I’m not saying society should make homosex illegal).
Perhaps the lesson to be learned here is not that statistics should be avoided in drawing conclusions about the propriety or morality of homosex, but rather that our use of statistical information should not be used as a primary argument against homosex. Perhaps its apologetic contribution should be that of a supporting argument.
I am also conflicted about the fact that social statistics could be used by both sides to show that there is something amiss about the other side’s sexual identity. If I do not see the staggering heterosexual divorce rate as evidence that there is something inherently amiss with heterosexual relationships, then why should homosexuals be convinced by negative social statistics regarding gays? While the social statistics may reveal a more negative picture of the gay relationships than heterosexual ones, when the rates are as high as they are for both communities, perhaps this is not a good argument to make. And yet, we would expect for unnatural and immoral behaviors to lead to social and health ills. So it is not inappropriate to use statistical information to inform our judgments about the propriety or morality of a certain behavior using statistical information.
Perhaps the lesson here is to focus on what is causing the problem. For example, while rates of sexually transmitted diseases may be too high among both heterosexuals and homosexuals, heterosexuals have high rates of disease because they are using their sexual organs in the right way but in the wrong context (promiscuous sex apart from a committed marital relationship), whereas homosexuals have high rates of disease because they are using their sexual organs in an inappropriate context and in an inappropriate manner. While both groups deserve moral disapproval for their immoral behavior, what needs to be recognized is that disease would not be an issue for the heterosexual community if heterosexuals stopped being promiscuous and limited their sexual expression for the context of a monogamous relationship. The same cannot be said of the homosexual community. Even if they limited their sexual expression to the context of monogamous homosexual relationships, disease would still be an issue in the gay community because homosex by its nature is unhealthy, regardless of the context in which it is practiced.
What are your thoughts on the matter?
Chad Thompson, “Banning Gay Marriage Is Not The Answer”; available from http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2004/augustweb-only/8-30-22.0.html?start=1&mid=551; Internet; accessed 14 December 2011.