“Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell” raises a more complex legal issue

The question of whether U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips’ overstep judicial boundaries by banning ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ raises a more important issue about how law and public policy treats sexuality. Legal decisions relating to sexuality are made all the time in our courts. There appears to be no end to the people being convicted and sentenced for illegal sexual conduct. At current rates of conviction, we’ll soon have a million registered sex offenders in America.

This is where it gets interesting because debate over sexual orientation usually focuses on whether it’s a matter of choice or a condition of birth. As the line goes, if it’s a condition of birth, Civil Rights law could possibly apply; if a chosen lifestyle, using Civil Rights categories would be misguided.

The dilemma:

It’s very difficult to resolve ethical or legal questions about sexual conduct outside of the context of human choosing. Arguments for sexual conduct based on some kind of genetic predisposition simply don’t help us determine what is right or wrong or what is best for society. It’s clearly possible to be biologically inclined toward many types of behavior, but using such impulses to define personhood or to justify behavioral choices is slippery legal terrain.

In judicial settings, sources behind behavior could be used to balance judgment with mercy, but such influences must not be used to validate any type of sexual behavior. People must be treated as individuals who choose to act in relation to the influences in their lives. Therefore, it is best for us to speak of sexual desires and behaviors only in the context of human choosing. A society that intends to condemn certain forms of sexual conduct as illegal must treat all sexuality in the context of human choosing, not as a predetermined condition. A departure from this approach to sexuality will open a legal and civil Pandora’s box.

Steve Cornell
Senior pastor
Millersville Bible Church

See also: Sexual behavior and human choosing:

About Wisdomforlife

Just another worker in God's field.
This entry was posted in Don't Ask; Don't Tell, Gay, Gay Marriage?, Homosexual lifestyle, Homosexuality, Sex, Sexual orientation, Sexual Preference, Sexuality. Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell” raises a more complex legal issue

  1. Dearly Beloved: To follow up the previous reply let me say that the word of God condemns Homosexualiy and Lesbianism; God does love the sinner! “If we repent of our ways, stand firm and say, we need God in America again” (Carman).

    Pastor Stephen W. Pyle

  2. rob says:

    This is unadulterated BS. What two consenting adults do can be legally distinguished from what an adult and a minor do (sexually as well as contractually). Injecting this type of moralistic crap into the legal system is the reason for the separation clause in the first amendment

    • thinkpoint says:

      You completely ignored my point. What you call “moralistic crap” is already involved in the legal system. It’s the selective involvement that raises the problem. And it has nothing to do with what you call “the separation clause.”

      See: https://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/2009/10/07/what-about-separation-of-church-and-state/

      • rob says:

        Sorry, but it most certainly does have to do with the separation clause. When moral justification for law based on so-called Christian principles are “established” and enforced on the secular population, you have a violation of the separation of church and state embodied in the separation clause of the first amendment.

      • rob says:

        sorry,meant “establishment clause”. Also, the words “right to privacy” do not appear in the constitution, but the constitution is a “living, breathing” document and if the argument that there is “no separation of church and state” because the words “no separation of church and state” appear in the document, you’d be on much better legal footing arguing there is “no right to privacy” because those words do not appear in the document.

  3. Becky says:

    Everyone is born with sexuality, or the potential for it at puberty, if you prefer. So no one chooses to be sexual or not. That would be obvious to anyone no matter how fundamentalist Christian they are. So it seems like you would have to see that they “type” of sexuality is in there, too at the same time. Someone appears appealing to you or not. So I don’t see how you can really believe what you said “it is best for us to speak of sexual desires and behaviors only in the context of human choosing”. If we only speak of it in the context of human choosing you leave out a whole lot of reality, which may be what you want to do. Most people don’t.

  4. A.J. says:

    I agree, it is a legal Pandora’s Box to consider behavior (sexual or otherwise) genetically predetermined. But, why is it necessary, as you suggest, to ground Civil Rights be ground in “conditions of birth” rather than choice? Many rights appear as a form of personal choice: freedom of speech/religion, the right to bear arms, and maybe most apropos, the right to freedom to peacefully assemble. Such substantive rights are legally protected and do not require genetic preconditioning.

    @Pastor Pyle, your willingness to speak, without trepidation, on behalf of God absolutely terrifying. Remember James 4:11-12

    • thinkpoint says:

      Claiming to be born a certain way and acting on it are two different matters. Laws regulating sexual conduct must deal with acts not claims of nature.

      • A.J. says:

        I agree, but it is entirely possible to suggest that one is free to act in a certain way (in this case choosing as sexual partner).

        So to be clear, you are not suggesting that it is or ought to be illegal for consenting adults to choose their sexual partners, just that from a legal standpoint “sexual conduct must deal with acts not claims of nature.”

      • rob says:

        “Laws regulating sexual conduct must deal with acts not claims of nature.”
        They do. What is your point? I don’t mean any disrespect. A minor having sex with an adult is illegal (thinking about it and having the desire are not). A consenting adult having sex with another consenting adult (usually without money exchanging hands, depending on jurisdiction) is legal. Should it be illegal in certain instances, and why ? Don’t ask, Don’t tell is being upheld on the basis that it services the best interest of the military, it is not a law regulating sexual conduct. Merely saying that you are gay, even if you don’t engage in gay sex gets you kicked out? Are you saying military personnel should only get kicked out if they engage in sex with the same sex? What if a gay person tells his commanding officer he is gay, but abstains? Your argument does not have firm legal foundation. I wonder if you could flesh out the legal basis?

      • thinkpoint says:

        Rob and AJ,

        The logic of “Don’t ask; Don’t tell” presupposes that we’re talking about a born condition of being gay. This is unsustainable and plays into an agenda to force homosexual lifestyles onto the rest of society as equal with measurable realities like race or gender. But my point is that even if one can prove some form of biological inclination toward homosexual orientation, laws should not be used to endorse as legitimate sexual preferences.

        In a civilized nation, people should be asked to treat respectfully those who (lawfully) choose different sexual lifestyles. But when these lifestyles are forced on others as is happening in States like Massachusetts, liberty is wrongly threatened. Forced affirmation and endorsement of lifestyles you disagree with is a threat to freedom. There is an important difference between required respect (which is necessary) and forced affirmation or indoctrination.

      • rob says:

        The logic of don’t ask don’t tell does not make that presupposition. And are you saying people don’t have gay orientation? You are conflating the argument of equal treatment under the law with special treatment under the law. And in states such as MA, where gay marriage is legal, there is no effect on straight marriages? How is that forced affirmation? And I’ll fall back on the old chestnut, did you choose to be straight? Did you choose to be right-handed? (or left as the case may be). If you are going to make biological, moral or religious arguments against homosexuality, that is fine, but if you are going to make legal arguments you need to base it on the constitution and legal precedent. So again, I ask you what laws should be enacted regulating sexual conduct? You can construct valid legal arguments against gay marriage and don’t ask don’t tell, but you seem to be implying that homosexual behavior between consenting adults should be illegal. Is that what you believe? I am just trying to get some clarification.

  5. thinkpoint says:

    Rob. Who said anything about Christian principles. I’m arguing from the demands of logic and consistency.

    • rob says:

      why should laws regulating the behavior of consenting adults (without payment) be established and why? See my post above.

  6. A.J. says:

    The logic of “Don’t ask; Don’t tell” does NOT presuppose that we’re talking about a born condition of being gay. It does not have to. It can be a choice; it is a choice; it ought to be treated as a choice. That doesn’t change, by your own admission, that “people should be asked to treat respectfully those who (lawfully) choose different sexual lifestyles.” Wanting to serve your country in the military.

    And as for your worries of forced affirmation and endorsement. I think you may be worrying a bit too much. But, I suppose then, considering your admirable “demands of logic and consistency,” that you are opposed to the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance.

    • A.J. says:

      Sorry, I submitted too soon. Wanting to serve you country in the military, is not forcing affirmation of that person’s choices on anybody. If I am an atheist and I want to serve my country (and you oblige), it does not entail that you affirm or endorse my position. (Notice: I need not be born an atheist for it to be legal for me to serve openly as an atheist).

  7. Matt says:

    “Don’t ask don’t tell” means that there are gay people in the military. I guess hetero and gay people should have a life outside the military.

  8. Dearly Beloved: Happy New Year! from Pastor Pyle

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