Bill and I had an amusing interchange (well, amusing to me, apparently very upsetting to Bill) on gay marriage. While I like Bill, have heaped effusive praise upon Bill, have donated to Bill's site, and still consider Bill an excellent journalist, sadly Bill's debating skills/decorum are a bit lacking.
Bill noted his support for gay marriage. I noted that as we are both center-right, it was interesting Bill supported gay marriage and I opposed it. I outlined my position, essentially based on two grounds:
1) Heterosexual couples face a special challenge: the consummation of their urges leads to pregnancy. Therefore, they deserve a special status.
2) There is no deterministic genetic basis for homosexuality (i.e., no set of genes that says someone will, with a probability > 50% be attracted to their own sex).
I was careful to note that I have gay family/friends, and that I cherish their friendship and would defend their right to have sex with whomever they want.
In support of the second argument, I noted virtually all studies of human sexuality find that deviant sexual behavior (in the strictly statistical sense of deviating from the norms of reproductive behavior) is much more influenced by environment than genetics (Bill said homosexuality is somehow "special" and not comparable to other sexual behaviors, but offered no real support for his claim). I noted several real-world examples in which allegedly heterosexual men become homosexual due to environment (prison, seagoing vessels). I further opined that people claiming a genetic basis do so either disingenuously for political reasons or out of ignorance. I cited links. I noted if such a genetic basis existed, the overwhelming likelihood was that it would have been found by now. Many posters in the thread agreed with my points.
I further noted my belief that all preferential behaviors are controllable because we have free will, and that to argue otherwise demeans us as humans by limiting our perceived freedom. No one should be considered "genetically straight" or "genetically gay" with no hope of ever changing to the other, both because it limits our perceived freedon AND because such a view is demonstrably wrong (spend ten years stranded on a desert island with only "genetically straight" men and see how genetically straight they all are by the time you leave). This is not to say homosexual preference is always a choice, or that homosexuals should in any way be pressured to "choose" not to be gay. My argument is just that environmental factors play a much larger part than genetics. Since it is NOT hardcoded in our genes, someone who is gay who decided to be straight could do so, and that straight people can also decide to be gay.
Bill challenged some of these points, mostly on the basis of "2-D!" (which seemed to mean there were other arguments he just couldn't be bothered to make right now) or "You're out of your depth!" He made a couple ridiculous points, like citing higher rates of homosexuality among 2nd and 3rd children, apparently not knowing there are no genetic differences dependent on siblings' order of birth. I effectively but politely demolished his arguments. Over the course of the discussion he made several ad hominem attacks, which I ignored without retaliating in kind, even saying such attacks were beneath him. Nevertheless, Bill still became more and more upset and eventually had a petulant fit of namecalling, and finally said "Screw you guys, I'm going home" by booting me. Sad. Ironically, while being generally abusive and dsimissive, he cited my
style of debate as the reason for booting me.
So what's the lesson in all this? I'm not sure. But I had a talk with a gay friend over some drinks later that night. I told him my arguments and asked what he thought. He said he wasn't 100% sure whether he'd been born that way, but a lot of his gay friends did think so and were VERY adamant on this issue. He said it didn't really matter that much to him personally, he and Jeff were in love and that was the important thing. I agreed that was the important thing, and told him about Bill's reaction, and he didn't seem surprised, saying "Yeah, a lot of us would get upset about that, you know there has been discrimination against by the Church and stuff." I agreed it was certainly true gays had been unfairly stigmatized, but noted Bill was not gay. My friend almost fell off his chair laughing (we were both a few sheets to the wind by then) and said in that case we were "both idiots" to take it that seriously when neither of is even gay.