TIn London's borough of Brent, a move is afoot to eliminate "heterosexism." This new front in the battle for social perfection was opened in response to a poster for an afternoon tea dance. The offending poster showed men and women dancing together. Well.
Some local improvers said there was no reason that posters should not show men dancing with men and women with women. Guidelines for elimination of "heterosexism in publicity" have been submitted.
The Greater London Council has focused its moral microscope on another social defect. Blue plaques are placed as historical markers on London homes where famous people have lived. The council thinks the plaques are inadequate. They tell who lived there, and the nature of his or her claim to fame, but do not announce the person's sexual "preference." The proposal is to right this wrong by having certain plaques proclaim that certain persons -- say, John Maynard Keynes or Oscar Wilde -- were homosexuals. Plaques will remain reticent about heterosexuality. Oh, yes, the council also has decided to offer children free membership in the new center it funds for lesbians and homosexual men.
Many Americans, too, believe that thoroughness in the pursuit of equal treatment of everything is no vice. However, in Syracuse, some Episcopalians have been roiled because one of their churches is allowing its facilities to be used by a church that performs homosexual "marriages."
In San Francisco, a man whose male lover committed suicide took some time off work. The company says it extends bereavement leave in cases of the deaths of spouses but not lovers. A court test may decide whether the lover counted as a "spouse."
Controversies like the one in San Francisco are the predictable next step in the accelerating campaign to establish in law and social mores the doctrine that sexual "preference" is as much a matter of moral indifference as a preference for oysters rather than clams.
Many employers thought ending discrimination against homosexuals in hiring would be the end of the controversy. But the modern corporation, like the modern state, offers many entitlements to employees and their "spouses" and "families." Those categories are targeted for radical redefinition by some "homosexual rights" groups. They say nondiscrimination requires elimination of "heterosexism" in the definition of "family" and "spouse."
The Supreme Court's recent brush with the subject of homosexuality must be understood in the light of such indiscriminate assaults on discrimination.
The court voted against reviewing an appeals court decision concerning a bisexual woman who lost her job as guidance counselor in an Ohio high school. A jury had ruled against the school district, holding that she had suffered impermissible injury. But the appeals court overruled the jury, holding that no constitutional principle prohibits the school district from making her sexuality a ground for dismissal.
Now, the question is not whether the school district acted wisely or justly. The question is whether the Constitution, which guarantees neither perfect wisdom nor perfect justice, protects the woman's right to hold her job, or whether the community has a right to act as it did in expression of its convictions.
In a steaming dissent, the court's two liberals, Justices Brennan and Marshall, say the court should have taken the case. Clearly they think the woman's First Amendment rights of free "expression" and a free-floating "privacy" right were violated, as well as her Fourteenth Amendment right to "equal protection."
Her sexuality became known through her casual remarks. The two dissenters call them "nondisruptive" remarks, although it is unclear how they know the effect of the remarks on the community. Anyway, because her remarks revealed her sexual "preference," the dissenters present this as primarily a "free speech" case.
Furthermore, the dissenters, although emphasizing that the remarks were private and casual, insist the remarks "necessarily and ineluctably involved her" in a "public debate" about an "explosive issue." Therefore, they seem to think, her remarks were especially deserving of protection as political speech.
This argument is absurd because it is absurd to say that the issue was her words describing her sexual behavior. The issue was her behavior, which the community considers deeply offensive and potentially harmful to others. Brennan and Marshall dismiss the community's values as "prejudices."
Brennan and Marshall must think that any moral and psychological disruption of the community by the "nondisruptive" words does not count. Their position is not "neutrality" regarding homosexual behavior. Their evident aim is to force communities to adopt policies that express the notion that homosexuality is a matter of indifference. In the name of free expression, Brennan and Marshall would stigmatize as immoral the community's expression of its values.