Chris Matthew’s Hard Sell

Chris Matthews, the tough but affable host of MSNBC’s Hardball advanced an interesting argument in favor of same sex marriage. His theory is that the government has a kind of obligation to encourage bonding among homosexuals.

On a July 12 show with Utah Senator Orin Hatch, Mr. Matthews asked the following question of Senator Hatch: “Senator, how do you discourage promiscuity, sexual promiscuity, among gay people if you don‘t encourage bonding of some kind?” As I understand his question, Mr. Matthews makes two moral assumptions: One, promiscuity among homosexuals is bad and two, such behavior can be “discouraged” by government policy concerning marriage.

To me, that line of thinking could be insulting to those who identify as gay. The reasoning seems to go like this: These poor helpless gay people are at the mercy of their sexual drives and they cannot avoid jumping in and out of each other’s beds without the government providing some controls. This seems to demean the moral free agency of those who identify as gay. I think an additional unspoken assumption is that the reason straight people are not promiscuous is because legal marriage is between a man and a woman.

I may be stretching here a bit but I don’t think that is how it works for most straight people. Even unmarried straight people frown on cheating. I cannot imagine a guy surviving after this revelation to his girlfriend: “Honey, I slept with her but since you and I aren’t married, I didn’t think you would mind.” Or “You know, sweetie, without the civilizing impact of marriage, I just couldn’t help but jump into bed with your friend.” I know of no one who has resisted the urge to stray due to social security benefits.

Certainly not all gay people cheat, but a recent survey found that infidelity in about 62% gay couples leading the researchers in the Journal of Family Psychology to write: “the practice of sexual nonmonogamy among some gay couples is one variable that differentiates gay and heterosexual couples.”

From his question to Senator Hatch, one could assume Mr. Matthews agrees that homosexuals are generally promiscuous but that this behavior can be shaped via government policy concerning marriage.

However, Mr. Hardball then throws a curve. He asked Senator Hatch this question: “What do you think we should do as a country of ours where you have the right to pursue happiness with people who are of the same sex who find themselves born with an orientation towards homosexuality or the gay lifestyle? What should they do with their lives’”

So people are born gay?

Talk show host Matthews, doubling as a biological determinist, apes the flawed conventional wisdom that sexual behavior and attractions are inborn and irresistible. By his question, he suggests the “gay lifestyle” is involuntary. I wonder if he believes promiscuous straights are likewise destined for such shenanigans. If lifestyle and behavior are determined by genes then why in the world would legal recognition of same sex marriage solve the gay promiscuity problem? Won’t people just keep fornicating in tune with their genetic predilections’

You really can’t have it both ways. If such an orientation with the excesses assumed by Mr. Matthews is truly hard wired as a matter of genetic obligation, then how can any government policy shape the behavior?

Talk show hosts and others who traffic in sound bites are not often bothered by such conundrums. The truth is in a free society we are responsible for our behavior and the “genes made me do it” argument is a loser. If the “gay lifestyle” is as promiscuous as Mr. Matthews seems to assume, then surely the responsibility for this is with each individual who determines where and with whom to be passionate.

Gay, straight or in between, we are responsible for what we do. No matter how hard you pitch the idea, neither genes nor an absence of government-encouraged bonding are responsible for one’s lifestyle choices.