Maine State Rep. Brian Duprey introduced an unusual piece of legislation this month. It's a pro-life bill designed to tighten protections for the unborn. That's not the unusual part. That happens all the time. The interesting part is that Duprey's bill is designed to protect gay fetuses.
Rep. Duprey told a local paper, The Magic City Morning Star, that he'd been listening to Rush Limbaugh's radio show when Limbaugh commented that if scientists ever located the genetic cause for homosexuality - the so-called "gay gene" - then homosexuals would become pro-life "overnight."
"Most people would agree that to kill someone just because that person might be gay would constitute a hate crime," Duprey said. "I have heard from women who told me that if they found out that they were carrying a child with the gay gene, then they would abort. I think this is wrong. Those unborn children should be protected." That's why he introduced LD 908, "An Act to Protect Homosexuals from Discrimination."
Now, I don't know if Duprey's on the up-and-up with all of this. I don't even know if he's against abortions for straight babies. I also doubt that we'll ever find anything like a "gay gene." Still, this little stunt ought to provoke some much-needed reflection about technology, ideology and human society.
Just imagine, for the sake of argument, that Rep. Duprey is right - that sometime in the near future women will be able to abort their pregnancies solely to avoid giving birth to a gay kid. Would this increase the number of pro-life gays and put pressure on the political alliance between gay groups and pro-abortion groups? Probably (although there are significant numbers of pro-life gays and lesbians already).
Nothing sharpens a man's mind as knowing he'll be hanged in the morning, as the saying goes. Likewise, one may assume without fear of much contradiction that homosexuals would greet the prospect of the quiet annihilation of their culture with a special revulsion they do not (for the most part) reserve for the consequences of abortion generally. (This desire to protect an identity group culture is not unique to gays. For example, some radical members of the deaf community oppose cochlear implants and other remedies for deafness because they see it as destructive to their unique culture.)
There is little chance that a law like Duprey's would be nationalized, much less enforced ruthlessly. But what if it were? How could supporters deny that gays weren't being granted "special rights" since non-homosexual children would not have the same right to life? Faced with this massive contradiction between banning the termination of gay children but permitting women to abort all other children for any motive under the sun - gender selection, disease, etc. - would pro-choicers split apart? Would some on the right commit the horrid heresy of endorsing abortion only for "undesirables" but not for others?
Heck, I don't know.
But let's leave aside abortion and imagine what I think is the more possible - though not necessarily probable - scenario. Let's suppose that homosexuality is derived not solely from genetic dispensation but also from specific hormonal processes during gestation (as well as cultural factors). Let's also suppose that a way was found to "remedy" homosexuality in utero with a pill or an injection. The procedure might be no more intrusive than taking prenatal vitamins.
Well, then, in the American context is it so outlandish to imagine that the entire debate about the role of homosexuals in society would disappear along with substantial numbers of homosexuals in successive generations? The turbulent period from the Stonewall riots to gay marriage would be just one fascinating but brief parentheses in the history of the republic. And the "silent spring" of homosexuality would open a completely unprecedented chapter in human history, since homosexuality has always been with us. What would happen to the ideological feuds that are currently fueled implicitly or explicitly by homosexuality? What would happen to the culture and the economy? Again: I dunno.
Now, please keep in mind I'm not advocating, or even remotely enthusiastic about, these or any other similar prospects. The point is not to wish for some abracadabra that would make homosexuals disappear. Rather, it is to point out how profoundly transformative and corrosive technology can be to our established concepts and institutions.
We have a tendency to assume that existing ideological categories are permanent. History is the study of the repeated debunking of such assumptions. The saddle, the stirrup, the moat, the locomotive, the telephone, the atomic bomb, the car, the computer, the birth control pill: All of these caused tectonic changes in ideological arrangements, and all of them, save the last, were primarily innovations in transportation, communication or war. The new earthquakes to come from biotechnology - "cures" for homosexuality, unimaginable longevity, real "happy pills" - could level all of the landmarks of our ideological landscape, even redefining the first ideology, conservatism.
It's been said that conservatism can be defined as the idea that human nature has no history. As we look around right now, that idea is on the brink of oblivion.