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Next Step: How Much Approval?
As a civil rights issue, the argument of homosexual militants is persuasive: no one should be harassed by the law, evicted from his apartment, or prevented from earning a living because of the private sex acts he happens to perform with, as the famous phrase has it, consenting adults. (A case can be made against their employment in the armed forces, in education and perhaps certain other areas.) Moreover, it is one thing to remove legal discrimination against homosexuals. It is another to mandate approval. Homosexuals and their champions in effect admit this and even insist on it. Says Barbara Gittings, a Philadelphia librarian and lesbian: "What the homosexual wants, and here he is neither willing to compromise nor morally required to compromise—is acceptance of homosexuality as a way of life fully on a par with heterosexuality." It is this goal of full acceptance, which no known society past or present has granted to homosexuals, that makes many Americans apprehensive. So much so that it sometimes skews debates about basic American rights.
Many fear the demands that seem to flow logically from the assertion that "gay is good." For instance: the legal right to marry; homosexual instruction in school sex courses; affirmative action or quotas in hiring; and gay love stories to go with heterosexual puppy-love stories in libraries and schools. The Task Force on Gay Liberation of the American Library Association has already begun such a campaign.
Another concern is that homosexuality will spread, especially among the young, if social sanctions are removed. No one knows whether this is in fact happening in the U.S. Homosexuals point out that the countries that have relaxed strictures against homosexuals—such as England and Denmark—do not report any upsurge in the number of gays. Yet serious analysts are confused and divided on the question. And if some homosexuality, at least, comes from faulty child rearing, many think it makes less sense to celebrate the results than to try to strengthen the family.
Says Psychoanalyst Herbert Hendin: " 'Anything goes' is a legitimate attitude for consenting adults toward each other, but for a culture to declare it as a credo is to miss entirely the stake all of us have in the harmony between the sexes and in the family as the irreplaceable necessity of society. This is a society that is increasingly denying its impotence by calling it tolerance, preaching resignation and naming all this progress."
* The term preferred by most homosexual activists. Since the 15th century, the English word gay, which came from Old French, has repeatedly taken on—and lost—a connotation of immorality or racy living. Example: a gay woman was a 19th century euphemism for a prostitute. Underground usage of the word to mean homosexual may go back to the 1900s (Gertrude Stein seemed to be using it in that sense in a short story, Miss Furr and Miss Skeene).