Though we most often write together, this post is authored by Dean alone.
During the acrimonious debate over marriage equality in Hawai'i over the past week, the question of whether being gay is a choice or immutable has played a key role. I did not originally plan to testify about my many years of scientific research on this topic, because I believe that the pursuit of happiness -- of which love and marriage are an important part -- is a fundamental right, not a question of biology.
But I changed my mind when I heard one opposing representative and testifier after another rail against the "homosexual lifestyle," explaining their prejudice on the basis of arguments such as "you donʻt see two elephants going at it."
It was the same sort of nonsense that I heard 20 years ago when I first testified against the anti-gay Amendment 2 in Colorado. Although scientists, and the professional societies that represent them, long ago came to a consensus on this topic, it seemed that certain legislators in Hawai'i could benefit from an update on the science of sexual orientation:
The scientific evidence had a tangible impact on some legislators. Rep. Kaniela Ing, a young native Hawaiian from a conservative Christian background, gave a moving speech in which he explained that he was voting in support of equality because "being gay is not a choice." And Rep. Bertrand Kobayashi cited some of the specific statistics on odds ratios and concordance rates during his speech on the House floor.
Others, like Rep. Bob McDermott, continued to prefer their own version of reality, making the curiously disjointed argument that "homosexuality is not an immutable, benign genetic characteristic; it's a private behavior." He also attacked the science based on decades-old criticisms of our research, not realizing that the results have been replicated and verified by recent twin and molecular genetic mapping studies using large, population-based samples from around the world.
Then there was Rep. Richard Fale, who asked me several questions but refused to listen to the answers. Apparently the only voice heʻll listen to is his own; he was later caught leaving the House chamber during a pro-equality speech in order to go out to the rotunda and whip up the opposing demonstrators, urging them to drown out his colleagues by chanting and shouting.
Fortunately they did not succeed, and in the end Hawai'i lived up to its reputation as the Aloha State by voting for marriage equality by large margins in both the House and Senate.
I know that I did not choose my sexual orientation; I was blessed with it. But I did choose to have a committed relationship and build a life together with the man whom I have the fortune and the right to love, Joe Wilson. I am so happy that we can soon marry in the place we call home.