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DEFENDING DR. LAURA

For me to defend Dr. Laura is a little like Liechtenstein rushing to protect the U.S. from nuclear attack. With 20 million radio listeners and a new television show already syndicated in more than 160 markets, Dr. Laura needs no help from the likes of me to get her point of view across.

Many have been quick to defend Dr. Laura's right to her religious beliefs and to freedom of speech. There is little doubt that religious freedoms are under direct attack: On Staten Island, an African-American minister (Rev. Kristopher Okwedy) posts a billboard quoting the Bible's prohibition of homosexual sex. What happens next is appalling: not protests in front of the sign -- that would be freedom. Instead, the highest government official of the borough (Guy Molinari) denounces the billboard; the government's official anti-bias task force starts "investigating" whether or not it's legal to post certain biblical texts; the billboard company immediately backs down, papering over the scriptures with pictures of Smokey Bear; Pastor Okwedy gets death threats. Welcome to the brave new world where your newfangled right to sex without the slightest hint of disapproval trumps the right -- the one explicitly in the Constitution, mind you -- to religious freedom of expression.

This is an important point, but in defending Dr. Laura's right to be an Orthodox Jew in public, I wouldn't like to cede the equally important question on just what science has to say on this subject. Both orthodox Judaism and Christianity condemn homosexual conduct along with other standard-issue sexual sins -- say, adultery or divorcing the "wife of your youth," as the Old Testament puts it. I personally would have preferred it if Pastor Okwedy had put the sins of homosexual acts in this context of other sexual prohibitions, so as not to imply that homosexual sins are the only ones worthy of notice. Most of our gravest social problems (fatherless families) are primarily caused by heterosexual behavior, after all.

But what Dr. Laura said that really drives the activist gay community nuts is not the argument from God, but the argument from nature. According to GLAAD, Dr. Laura claimed on her radio show, "Heterosexuality is the biological norm for human beings." In other words, if you take God out of it, you are still left with a species that is intended for sexual, not asexual, reproduction. Men have penises that are made (or evolved) to fit into women's vaginas, leading to a) intense sexual pleasure and b) babies.

"Behavior that is away from that is outside the (biological) norm," she went on to say. "It is abnormal. That doesn't mean somebody who is homosexual, male or female, should be ostracized or hurt. On the contrary, they should be supported and helped."

Please note, this is different from saying that homosexuals are mentally ill. In a simple biological framework, abstracted from all religion and morality, homosexuality is like infertility. It is a sexual disability, preventing certain individuals from participating in the normal reproductive patterns of the human species. Does that mean we should oppress homosexuals, or force them to change? No more than we would say nasty things or impose infertility treatment on people who don't mind the fact that they can't have children. Humans are not mere creatures of biology after all, but children of God. We have free will that others are obliged to respect, including, certainly, the right to refuse help that is unwanted.

But the contrary argument, that homosexuality is just as normal as heterosexuality, is not fundamentally a scientific argument but a moral one, based on certain moral theories about the proper role of sex in human lives and human societies, i.e. if it feels good (and it's not rape), do it.

I know, I know. Increasingly, gay activists make exactly the opposite claim: that science has "proved" homosexuality is normal or that, say, gay parents are no different from other parents. More on that claim in a future column.

(Readers may reach Maggie Gallagher at GallagherIAV@Yahoo.com.)

COPYRIGHT 2000 MAGGIE GALLAGHER