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.
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.
Millersville Bible Church
See also: Sexual behavior and human choosing: