The idea that gay marriage is wrong because gay couples are somehow unnatural is not often stated openly, but this premise influences other arguments and lies behind many people’s negative opinions about homosexuality in general. For most people, heterosexual relationships are the norm, both in society and in nature. Homosexual relationships are thus abnormal and unnatural; therefore, they shouldn’t be validated by the state nor recognized as a form of marriage.
Such arguments are superficially effective because they try to harness the power of apparently neutral and objective categories like “nature” and “natural” in support of one’s position. In this manner a person can try to slough off accusations of bigotry and intolerance because, after all, it’s just a matter of factual observation as to what is and is not a proper part of the natural order and/or what is mandated by natural law. It’s no more bigoted or intolerant than observing the dropped objects fall down rather than up, or that bears mate with other bears rather than with deer.
In reality, however, claims about the natural order or natural law only end up being masks for religious, political, or social prejudices — including those that rise to level of bigotry. The philosophical veneer might at times be impressive, but we must not fail to look beneath the surface in order to understand what the real ideas and arguments are. One means for doing that is to ask the not-so-easy question of just what is meant by “natural” and “unnatural.”
A common and simplistic meaning is that heterosexual relationships are “natural” because that is what we find in nature, whereas we don’t find homosexual relationships. The latter are therefore unnatural and should not be validated by society. A perfect example of this attitude towards the “unnaturalness” of homosexuality was expressed by Peter Akinola, Anglican Archbishop of Nigeria:
I cannot think of how a man in his senses would be having a sexual...
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