Last week marked 50 years since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his seminal "I Have a Dream" speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Fifty years ago, if someone had told the audience assembled at the National Mall that they would see a black man elected President in their lifetime, few would have believed it. It is truly remarkable how much America's cultural landscape has evolved in the last half century. There are people alive today who can remember segregation and anti-miscegenation laws. They can remember a time when African Americans weren't allowed to vote. But the laws changed, and slowly but surely, hearts and minds changed too. America still has a long way to go to heal the racial divide that for so long defined us, but the strides we've made are nothing short of remarkable.
Today there is a new civil rights movement underway, so we are told. This time, it's not racial equality at issue, but marriage equality. And it's not African Americans carrying the banner of protest, but homosexuals.
It's been said by some that "gay is the new black." In the same way that African Americans were once dehumanized, marginalized, and denied basic civil rights based on something they cannot control, i.e. the color of their skin, so today homosexuals claim that they are disenfranchised based on something equally outside their control – their sexual orientation. So successful has the LGBT community been in advancing this narrative, both the culture and the courts have gotten on board.
Organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center are leading the charge in this area. In California, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld a ban on "conversion therapy" for minors, asserting that "California has authority to prohibit licensed mental health providers from administering therapies that the legislature has deemed harmful."
Underlying this position is the belief that sexual orientation is fixed and immutable. Like race, a person's sexual orientation is something they are born with and something that cannot be changed. Proponents of this view maintain that to suggest otherwise is not only wrong, it is bigoted and harmful. For parents to guide their children away from the homosexual identity is not only misdirected, it is a form of abuse. There is one small problem with this theory. Turns out, sexual orientation is not the same as race. As more research is done, more evidence emerges to indicate that human sexual orientation is "fluid." According to the recent studies reported by the American Psychological Association, sexual orientation is not fixed from birth, but influenced by a variety of both biological and environmental factors.