Letters To The Editor


December 14, 2003

Accepting gays is moral choice, not scientific one

In the article "Sexual orientation: nature vs. nurture?" (Dec. 8), reporter Judy Foreman looks erroneously to genetics for moral guidance about homosexuality.

Genetics, hormones and brain structure certainly affect the degree to which one is attracted to the same sex, although concrete evidence remains scant and contradictory. All we can say for sure is this: As in all complex behaviors, nature and nurture are tightly entwined, and the balance is different for different people. This is true regardless of whether sexual orientation is a conscious choice.

Yet even if we do someday find gay genes or brains, biology can never address the question of whether homosexuality is right or wrong. That is a moral decision, based in tolerance and belief in individual autonomy.

Science can, sometimes, explain how we act. But it can never tell us how we ought to act. The history of science and medicine is riddled with efforts to use science as a moral compass. The results have been uniformly disastrous.

We should look to science for answers to questions about nature -- and to our consciences for moral guidance.

Nathaniel Comfort


The writer is a professor of the history of medicine at Johns Hopkins University.

What does the innateness of sexual orientation have to do with legal and ethics arguments for same-sex marriage? Judy Foreman seems to think there is a connection, but her "Medical Matters" column failed to articulate one.

Whether people love members of the same sex because of genetic factors, environmental factors, choices or some complex combination of these things, they deserve the same rights and protections under the law in general and in family law in particular.

Edward Stein

New York

The writer is co-director of the Program in Family Law, Policy and Bioethics at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.

All Academy alumni welcome in chapters

The Sun's article "Academy alumni reject gay group" (Dec. 6) creates a false impression of the reason for the rejection of a gay and lesbian chapter of the Naval Academy Alumni Association.

The principal reason for the rejection is that all alumni are welcome to join and participate in the activities of all chapters. The alumni association, of which I am a proud life member, does not and should not classify alumni according to irrelevant categories such as race, religion or sexual preference.

Its trustees have made it clear that chapters are only created to serve geographic areas and to maintain easy access to alumni activities. The recreation vehicle chapter was created for the convenience of those alumni who spend most of their time traveling.

Alumni are, of course, free to form groups outside of the alumni association for whatever reasons they choose.

However, the alumni association was created to bring together all of us who take pride in and support our great alma mater.

Paul B. Lang


Wasting city money on council legal fees

The news of former Maryland State Police Superintendent's Edward T. Norris' indictment for alleged misuse of an expense account has somewhat overshadowed another news event that deserves scrutiny: the hiring of outside attorneys to represent the City Council members who are under investigation for possible ethics violations ("City hires 2 attorneys to represent council members being investigated," Dec. 11).

This will cost the taxpayers some $230,000 in legal fees. Despite teacher layoffs, crime, streets in terrible condition and budget problems, the city spends money like there is no tomorrow.

Maybe the city government should be investigated for misuse of taxpayers' monies.

George Pruchniewski


Will city also pay for Norris' defense?

Using the same logic that the city's Board of Estimates used recently in authorizing city payment to defend council members, shouldn't the city pay for former Maryland State Police Superintendent Edward T. Norris' defense ("City hires 2 attorneys to represent council members being investigated," Dec. 11)? After all, he's been indicted for things he did while a city employee. As a Johns Hopkins professor was quoted as saying about City Council members: "You can't expect them to hire personal counsel to defend themselves for something they did while doing their jobs that may or may not turn out to be illegal."

Maybe it's just me, but legal, ethical or not, it's lunacy for a cash-strapped city to spend money this way at a time of school layoffs and while worthy projects go unfunded.

Jeff Sattler


Bush's war on terror hurts civil liberties

The Sun reported the "mistaken" shredding of the search warrant in the case of Sami Al-Arian, a former professor currently in prison on charges of funneling money and support to Islamic Jihad ("Key documents in terrorism case destroyed," Dec. 9). But buried in that story was a far more significant item that deserves more prominent coverage.

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