Steele Presented Simplistic Case
Editor, Times-Dispatch: We read with apprehension Shelby Steele’s Commentary column, “Gay Marriage Steals Imagery From Blacks.” As it was published on the day of our sixth wedding anniversary, the topic of marriage seemed salient. We would like to bring a couple of concerns to the attention of Steele and his readership.
Our most visceral reaction pertained to Steele’s viewpoint that “marriage is simply an arrangement by which humans perpetuate the species, whether or not they find fulfillment in it.” He declares that it is inappropriate for homosexuals to be united in marriage because marriage is grounded in procreation. Because homosexual couples cannot procreate, he implies, they should not get married.
We wanted, and were able, to have children. In contrast, many heterosexual couples are infertile. They cannot “perpetuate the species.” Many other couples choose not to have children, whether because of career decisions, marriage late in life, second marriages, or for other reasons. Does Steele mean to imply that these marriages are fundamentally inappropriate? That perhaps these couples should never have been allowed to marry in the first place, especially if they knew they would not be able to fulfill this apparent marital duty?
Steele also states that gay marriage cannot be considered a civil rights issue because race is a social construct. In contrast, differences in sexual orientation represent a “profound difference.” Indeed, racial categories are social constructs; but they are human constructs imposed (in large part) on physical characteristics. For better or worse, many societies have chosen to group individuals based on some physical characteristics and may go further by attaching meaning to these differences.
This is exactly what Steele does with human sexuality. He states that differences in sexual orientation are “profound” (although beyond stating this he gives no justification for this argument). Steele fails to see that judgment of what constitutes a profound difference is, itself, socially (or perhaps personally) constructed. Furthermore, given this country’s history, to claim that the influence of genetics is what makes individual differences “profound” is overly simplistic and dangerous. John & Julie Quillin. mechanicsville.