A bridge too far?
Ian Rivers, winner of the Society’s Award for Promoting Equality of Opportunity 2001, considers the social inclusion of lesbians and gay men.
IN his series of exchanges with fellow author Laurence Thomas, the American philosopher Michael Levin described his opposition to the introduction of legislation that would seek to criminalise acts of violence perpetrated against lesbians and gay men as ‘a protest’ against the creation of ‘protections for homosexuals beyond those afforded Klansmen or Nazis’ (Thomas & Levin, 1999, p.169). The central tenet of his argument, a response to Thomas’s appeal for equality before the law, is that ‘homosexuals enjoy all the rights possessed by heterosexuals’. As he points out, robbing, assaulting or murdering a member of the Klu Klux Klan is as much a crime as robbing, assaulting or murdering a lesbian or gay man. Levin continues: ‘Homosexuals, like Nazis may marry members of the opposite sex – they differ only in that Nazis take advantage of this privilege, while homosexuals choose not to’ (p.169). The essays of Thomas and Levin attempt to demonstrate the binary nature of society’s views of sexual orientation. While many of us may be repulsed by the ironic comparison of the Klu Klux Klan or Nazism to homosexuality, Levin is in fact clarifying a sentiment that is often softened to make it more palatable: when it comes to sexual orientation, few of us are willing to compromise. So the first questions I want to ask are these: How do you as an individual view homosexuality? How willing would you be to stand up against those who condemn the very existence of lesbians and gay men?
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