According to those advising the UK government on its proposed ‘Sexual Orientation Regulations’, there are a variety of sexual orientations (Joint Committee on Human Rights, Legislative Scrutiny: Sexual Orientation Regulations, 2007, p15, para 44), which are an inherent characteristic of human beings, comparable to race or gender. This, moreover, must be regarded as the objective basis of moral teaching (contra the advice on religious education on p25).
What this advice overlooks, however, is that there is really only one sexual orientation as such, and that is the one which produces offspring via the process of sexual reproduction. This is as true for toadstools as it is for human beings, and is not a matter of personal or religious belief, but an objective fact.
Thus, no matter what schools may be required to teach in RE lessons about the tenets of religion being matters of opinion (p23, para 67), in the science lab they will only be able to teach that sex is a biological process which works according to its own principles.
It may, of course, be observed that sometimes the process goes wrong. Sometimes organisms do not develop reproductive organs. Sometimes reproductive behaviours are evoked at the wrong time or in the wrong circumstances. Not every act of mating produces a viable result. But the underlying biological process remains unalterable. When it goes wrong, the results may be tragic or intriguing. But the one thing they are not is alternative ‘sexualities’.
Hence, the legislation currently going through parliament, which draws heavily for its justification on the European Convention on Human Rights, is based on a flawed premise. This premise is that there is a range of phenomena, currently taken to include exclusive heterosexuality, exclusive gay and lesbian attraction, and bisexuality, all of which are forms of ‘sexual orientation’, and each of which, where adults are concerned, should be treated with equal acceptance and respect.
This, however, is a matter of opinion. The facts are that there is one sexual orientation, which consists of male and female attraction towards one another. Alongside this, there are a variety of disorientations which affect people in a number of ways.
That does not, of course, mean that people who experience sexual disorientation should be discriminated against. It does, however, suggest that to accord these people’s personal condition a protected status in law is of dubious justification. Perhaps more importantly, it also suggests that to criminalize those who regard the expression of sexual disorientation as potentially deleterious to human society may be a serious error.
The case is far from proven that we are right to treat sexual disorientation as a matter of social indifference. To enforce by law the acceptance of what can only be a matter of opinion as if it were an incontrovertible fact suggests, on the contrary, that the case is weaker than is being admitted.
Sexual orientation is a misnomer, if it is applied to conditions which, by their nature, cannot result in sexual reproduction. A social policy constructed on a refusal to recognize this rests ultimately on a contradiction of reality and can only result in unforeseeable troubles in the future.
Revd John P Richardson