One thing that always strikes me when discussing gay rights with conservatives, is their underlying wish (sometimes expressed explicitly) that the whole issue will just "go away."
I understand that impulse to some degree. We humans like ordered systems, and we tire of dealing with issues which defy clear classification. It would be easier if everything were black and white, if women were women and men were men, etc. Nevertheless, gay (and intersexed, and bisexual, and transgendered) people do exist, as a small but consistent subpopulation. To have any kind of adult conversation addressing that reality, we must force conservatives to start with that reality.
It seems to me that conservatives, and straights in general, have only four options from which to choose in dealing with "the gays" (if you can think of others please let me know).
1) Try to round us up and kill us off (this has been tried before, never very successfully)
2) Try to force us, by various coercive means, to pretend that we are straight (has also been tried, quite successfully)
3) Ignore us/leave us alone (the current state of things, with some remnant of No. 2)
4) Acknowledge that we’re here to stay, grant us equality (never been tried)
It seems clear that, in practice, continuing with Option No. 2 is the preferred path for social conservatives. That is why they’ve taken up the ex-gay movement as a pet cause in recent years (it wasn’t always so: in the early days of the ex-gay movement, the far right groups wanted nothing to do with them).
The conservative response to the fact that American culture has quickly moved past Option 3 and is well on its way to Option 4 seems to be to stick their collective fingers in their ears, "This isn’t happening…la la La LA LA!"
But it is happening. As a culture, we have come too far in our understanding of the human condition to believe that the deliberately imposed suffering of a minority is justified, especially when the only purpose for that imposed suffering is to preserve an illusion for the majority of "the way the world is" or "the way the world ought to be."
When conservatives launch into an irrelevant non-argument ("God made Adam and Eve!" "Male and Female bodies are complementary!") we should not take the bait. Look them calmly in the eye and point out that while they are describing the way they think the world ought to be, we’re more concerned with the how the world actually is.
**crossposted at the Purple America blog