Homosexuality and same-sex marriage have been perpetual features on the global political forefront for a long time. A number of countries have legalized same-sex marriage and nine states in the United States have already done so. President Barack Obama has even shown public support for same-sex marriage. In terms of employment, discrimination based on sexuality is only prohibited on the state level in less than half of the states around the country. Although some local city laws mandate such prohibition of discrimination, there is still a definite lack of legislation prohibiting it across the country.
Recently, a high school physical education teacher, Ms. Carla Hale, was fired from her job at a local Catholic high school in Columbus, Ohio after being identified as being involved in a homosexual partnership. The discovery was made from her mother’s recent obituary, in which the name of Hale’s female partner was disclosed. The teacher, after working at the high school for 19 years, was deeply distraught after losing her job. There has been heavy protest regarding Hale’s dismissal, and an online petition pushing for the reinstatement of Hale now has around 65,000 signatures, hosted by change.org. With the support of many students, parents and others, many of whom identify as Catholics themselves, it seems that the degree to which many Catholics agree with the Church’s stance on homosexuality is called into question. Are some who identify with the Catholic faith beginning to disregard the Church’s position on homosexuality? Hale stated in a recent interview with NBC Nightly News, “In today’s times, there are very few individuals living the Old Catholic doctrine.”
If you have ever watched the TV series “The West Wing,” you may remember a scene in which President Bartlet is addressing a radio talk show host who believes “homosexuality is an abomination,” as written in Leviticus 18:22 (season two, episode three). She claims that she does not personally say it is an abomination, but the Bible does. The fictional president responds with a series of questions pertaining to the validity of seemingly absurd, although legitimate scripture verses regarding the endorsement of slavery (Exodus 21:7), death due to working on the Sabbath (Exodus 35:2) and other acts either condoned or forbidden as transcribed in the books of Exodus and Leviticus in the Bible. The juxtaposition of these Bible verses with those denouncing homosexuality makes the point that there is an element of context and adaptation that must be associated with the interpretation of the Bible itself.
Although there are multiple references made in the Bible that can be interpreted as denouncing homosexuality, it is arguably hard to embrace these assertions due to the genetic associations with homosexuality discussed in scientific literature. Due to the recently described epigenetic relationships involved with the development of homosexuality (Rice et al., 2012), it seems that a certain level of discourse, particularly involving those who identify with various religious or political groups, has been latently developing for quite some time. Now, as we begin to face challenging issues such as discrimination due to sexuality in private sector jobs, as in the case of Catholic high school teacher Carla Hale, people are starting to face important decisions regarding their beliefs.
It seems that the context of understanding in today’s society is the most important factor at play in this conversation. As evidenced from the aforementioned scene from “The West Wing,” there has been a certain level of adaptation that religious institutions have had to undergo throughout their existence. So, is there now an indication that such adaptations in regards to homosexuality may take place in the near future? We have certainly begun to see them politically across the world, and they are ever-present on a personal level across society today. It seems quite feasible, if not inevitable, that debates regarding such adaptations will become more and more prominent in the near future.