Reporters have pointed out that the California Supreme Court's decision to redefine the state's marriage laws is premised on the idea that homosexuality should be treated no differently than race. Now Maura Dolan of The Los Angeles Times fills in details about this assertion. In her profile of state Chief Justice Ronald M. George, Dolan suggests that George's thinking was shaped by two factors. One factor was his personal experience with racism:
As he read the legal arguments, the 68-year-old moderate Republican was drawn by memory to a long ago trip he made with his European immigrant parents through the American South. There, the signs warning "No Negro" or "No colored" left "quite an indelible impression on me," he recalled in a wide-ranging interview Friday.
"I think," he concluded, "there are times when doing the right thing means not playing it safe."
The other factor, Dolan indicates, was George's reading of history:
He indicated he saw the fight for same-sex marriage as a civil rights case akin to the legal battle that ended laws banning interracial marriage. He noted that the California Supreme Court moved ahead of public sentiment 60 years ago when it became the first in the country to strike down the anti-miscegenation laws.
Give Dolan credit. She landed an intellectual scoop: George's decision was based on personal experience and outlook. Providing this information to her readers -- and, possibly, historians -- is invaluable.
Yet Dolan's explanation was largely uncritical. Not once did she question or raise doubts about George's central premise: that race and homosexuality should be treated the same legally.
This is a major claim. In the debate over whether homosexuality is caused by nature or nurture, George has come down on the side of nature. He brooks no doubt: a person cannot choose to be gay or choose to engage in homosexual acts; he or she is gay.
Is this claim true? In a previous post, Tmatt says -- we don't know:
There is a stack of evidence that suggests that many people cannot change their sexual orientation, which is not the same thing -- for traditional religious believers -- as changing their behavior. There is also a large body of evidence that people can change their behavior and, to an imperfect degree, their emotions and orientation.
Dolan should have raised questions about George's premise. Instead of simply validating his claim, she ought to have noted the lack of a consensus about it -- citing fierce debates in public opinion, science and doctrine. (Over at The New Republic, Jeff Rosen posits that no court has agreed with George.)
Certainly traditional religions dispute George's claim. To back up her story, Dolan should have noted that its operating idea is not yet the gospel truth.
(Photo of celebration in the Castro District in San Francisco is used under a Creative Commons license.)