restricted access 3. Sexual Orientation

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T H R E E Sexual Orientation In a 1981 decision, the South Dakota Supreme Court thought it reasonable to ask Sandra Jacobson t o forego a sexual relation ship with a person o f th e sam e sex . "Concerne d parents, " th e Court wrote, "in many, many instances have made sacrifices of varying degrees for their children."1 The law of sexual orientation routinely gives bisexuals the "choice" of avoiding the negative consequence s o f th e lega l syste m (i.e. , loss o f custod y o f children, discharg e fro m th e military, imprisonment fo r sexua l conduct) i f the y wil l disavo w thei r attractio n t o peopl e o f th e same se x an d flaunt thei r attractio n t o peopl e o f th e opposit e sex. But as one Ninth Circui t judge asked: "Woul d heterosexu als living in a city that passed an ordinance banning those who engaged i n o r desire d t o engag e i n se x wit h person s o f th e opposite se x find it easy not only to abstain fro m heterosexua l activity bu t als o t o shif t th e objec t o f thei r sexua l desire s t o persons of the same sex?"2 Because bisexuals find some people of both biological sexes attractive, society considers it especially appropriate to visit upon them coercion that would be unthinkable for heterosexuals. The blatantl y coerciv e histor y o f sexual-orientatio n policie s 39 40 Sexual Orientation should make us wary of developing any sexual-orientation categories unde r th e law . Yet , som e categorie s ar e necessar y t o develop ameliorativ e policies . Shoul d th e definition s tha t ar e used for ameliorative purposes parallel the definitions that have been used for subordinatin g purposes? I s it possible for societ y to create privileges and benefits for the gay, lesbian and bisexual communities withou t perpetuatin g negativ e stereotype s abou t these communities ? W e need t o conside r carefull y whic h poli cies we are trying to promote as we construct these new categories in order to avoi d importing destructive values and policie s into the gay, lesbian, and bisexual communities. I. Homosexual Policie s That Cause Harm A. Cincinnati: "Homosexuals Are Not Identifiable" Many grass-root s attempt s t o restric t th e right s o f ga y an d lesbian people through voter referenda hav e occurred in the last decade.3 Orego n an d Colorad o receive d considerabl e nationa l publicity overshadowing a lesser-known attemp t in Cincinnati , Ohio, which ha s produced th e most peculiar cas e law relatin g to the definition o f "homosexual. " In November 1992 , the cit y o f Cincinnat i passe d a Huma n Rights Ordinanc e prohibitin g discriminatio n base d o n race , gender, age, color, religion, disability status, sexual orientation, marital status, or ethnic, national, or Appalachian regional origin in employment, housing, and public accommodations.4 The passage o f thi s ordinanc e cause d a n immediat e backlash . A n organization calle d Equa l Right s Not Specia l Right s (ERNSR ) was forme d t o eliminat e specia l lega l protectio n tha t wa s ac corded t o individual s becaus e the y wer e ga y men , lesbian , o r bisexual. Sexual Orientation 41 ERNSR's strateg y wa s t o ge t th e voter s t o pas s a ballo t initiative which would invalidate the Human Right s Ordinanc e as i t applie d t o individual s wh o ar e "homosexual , lesbian , o r bisexual."5 (Presumably , i t di d no t invalidat e th e Huma n Rights Ordinanc e insofa r a s i t protecte d heterosexuals fro m sexual-orientation nondiscrimination. ) Th e initiative passed b y a popula r vot e o f approximatel y 6 2 percen t i n favo r an d 3 8 percent opposed and became Amendment XII to the Cincinnati City Charter. Six days later, a lawsuit was filed challenging the implementation of the initiative. Plaintiffs prevaile...


Subject Headings

  • Discrimination -- Law and legislation -- United States.
  • Minorities -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- United States.
  • United States -- Race relations.
  • Sexual orientation -- United States.
  • Law -- Social aspects -- United States.
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