Article

Homosexuality

Out of the Closet, Into the Mainstream

A look at how public acceptance of “alternative lifestyles” has dramatically changed—and what the future may hold.

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Stonewall, 1969. What began as a routine police raid of the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York’s Greenwich Village, resulted in violent resistance from bar patrons, and riots in the streets.

Thirty-five years later, many consider the Stonewall riots to be the launch of the modern gay rights movement, and a symbol of “coming out of the closet”—of homosexuals no longer hiding or denying their sexual “orientation.”

There was a time, 40, 30, even 25 years ago, when most people seldom heard about or knew of homosexuals (except for the “eccentric” uncle, cousin or family friend, who remained a perpetual bachelor). If a homosexual did reveal himself to family, friends or co-workers, he would have most likely faced rejection—or even worse.

Today, gays, lesbians and bisexuals are coming out of the proverbial closet like never before. And they are largely met by polite tolerance, shrugs of indifference, or even applause, from the mainstream. For many heterosexuals, “coming out” is no longer a “big deal.” In fact, the Village Voice recently did a report on “hetero holdouts”—heterosexual couples who refuse to get married until homosexuals are granted the legal right to marry, too.

Times have certainly changed.

Even the word “queer” has changed. Once used as a slur against them, it is now widely embraced by gays, lesbians and bisexuals alike—many of whom have taken the word and proudly turned it into a personal anthem: “We’re queer, and we’re here!”

Growing Public Acceptance

To better understand how public acceptance of homosexuality has dramatically changed, consider the following:

• Oregon, Idaho, Ohio, North Dakota, California and other states have either long since repealed sodomy laws or decriminalized all sexual acts between consenting adults.

San Francisco, Berkeley and other cities across America have passed domestic partnership bills granting equal benefits to same-sex and unmarried heterosexual couples.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Texas sodomy ban, ruling that, regardless of sexual orientation, couples have a right to privacy.

• Violence against homosexuals is considered a “hate crime,” punishable under U.S. federal law. Policies that once restricted homosexuals from immigrating to the U.S. have been canceled. And, by a presidential executive order, people can no longer be denied security clearances on the basis of one’s sexual orientation.

• An editor for the Detroit News started a gay and lesbian issues column, the first of its kind for a major U.S. newspaper.

Following the example of other newspapers, The New York Times and the Washington Post now publish homosexual wedding and commitment announcements.

• A few years ago, the widely popular family comic strip “For Better or For Worse” introduced a gay character.

Last September, as part of a week-long test run, “Jane’s World” appeared in the daily pages of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution—the first time a mainstream newspaper has published a syndicated comic strip having a lesbian as its lead character.

The newspaper’s Comics Editor said, “We’re trying to find new readers. I deliberately went out of the way to find strips that appeal to younger readers and Atlanta’s gay population” (www.gfn.com).

• Homosexuals in the U.S. have been publicly celebrating national “Coming Out Day” for the last 15 years.

• The American Psychiatric Association no longer lists homosexuality as a mental disorder. It also condemns reparative therapy (treatment attempts to change a person from being homosexual to heterosexual).

• Gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender studies are offered at various prominent institutions of higher learning, such as the University of Chicago, UC Berkeley, UCLA, Penn State, the University of Pennsylvania, William and Mary, Smith, Duke, Cornell, George Mason, Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Swarthmore—the list goes on.

Canada has universities that offer these programs, too (the University of Montreal, the University of Toronto, the University of Windsor, etc.), as does Australia (the University of Queensland) and the Netherlands (the University of Amsterdam).

• The Stonewall Inn has been officially placed on the National Register of Historic Places, the first time a gay site has been listed.

• The 2000 U.S. Census was the first time that the government asked every American household about unmarried partner relationships. It revealed that there are nearly 600,000 same-sex couple households nationwide. Of these, 33 percent of female households and 22 percent of male households have children. (This is partly the result of the “Gay Baby Boom” of the 1980s and 90s, in which the rapid advancements of science and technology enabled same-sex couples to give birth to children.)

In Connecticut, same-sex partner households increased by 254 percent during the 1990s. Of 24 Connecticut towns, one in five unmarried partner households are same-sex couples. In Massachusetts, such households increased by 229 percent, while in Vermont, 422 percent. And both Nebraska and Montana increased more than 300 percent.

Tearing Down Legal Barriers

Equal employment and housing; property ownership; inheritance rights; adoption and custody rights—homosexuals have broken through many of the legal barriers and obstacles that once blocked their path.

In 1986, California was the first state to allow same-sex couples to adopt children. Today, only Florida totally denies adoption to homosexual partners.

Even the barrier to legalized marriage appears to be giving way. Last November, the highest court of Massachusetts ruled that it was unconstitutional for the state to bar same-sex couples from marrying. Massachusetts lawmakers were given 180 days to amend state laws to permit homosexuals to wed. This decision has paved the way for the future breakdown of other legal barriers.

For years, other westernized nations (Denmark, Norway and Sweden, to name just a few) have offered some form of legal partnership status to same-sex couples. And a few countries, such as the Netherlands and Canada, allow homosexuals to legally marry.

Competing for an Alternative Market

According to a recent Fox News report, “...gays comprise a $350 billion market fiercely loyal to brands that advertise directly to them. Gays are twice as likely to have graduated from college, twice as likely to have an individual income over $60,000 and twice as likely to have a household income of $250,000 or more. They are essentially an untapped consumer market that corporate America can no longer ignore.”

This has led marketing strategists to discover DINKS—“dual incomes, no kids”—homosexual couples who bring home dual salaries, without the worry of having to feed, clothe and otherwise financially provide for children. As a result, “Today, nearly every major corporation offers services specially tailored to homosexuals—corporations like AT&T, Hyatt House, Seagrams, Apple Computer, Time-Warner, and American Express” (www.narth.com).

At one time, Fort Lauderdale and Key West were among the handful of cities that competed for the gay and lesbian travel market. No longer! Estimated to be worth $54 billion per year—about ten percent of the overall travel market—cities such as Miami, Minneapolis, San Diego, Portland, and Palm Springs are competing for this lucrative alternative market.

Bloomington, Indiana has capitalized on its already existing slogan, “Come Out and Play,” adding rainbow colors (which symbolize gay pride).

The city of New Haven, Connecticut markets its “Your Alternative Getaway” brochure to promote the state’s Gay Men’s Chorus.

And Philadelphia has launched an annual $300,000 marketing campaign to showcase its Center City “gayborhood,” producing ads that depict Benjamin Franklin flying a rainbow kite. This spring, Philadelphia will be the first to air gay-specific television commercials.

Several countries, such as the Netherlands, Britain and France, have also marketed themselves as “gay-friendly” destinations.

With the emergence of the “Gay Baby Boom,” advertisers are aiming their campaigns toward same-sex couples with children. For example, Volvo published a print ad showing two men and a baby, and a woman hugging her pregnant partner. The headline read, “Whether you’re starting a family or creating one as you go.”

Even traditionally conservative institutions such as banks are targeting their services to homosexual families. One newspaper ad showed a man wearing an earring, while posing with a boy and girl. The text read, “It may be a son or daughter, niece or nephew, even a partner, but someone you love may want to go to college.”

In 1994, there were 19 gay- and lesbian-themed advertising campaigns worldwide. The year 2000 saw 81 campaigns, including a John Hancock Financial Services commercial about a lesbian couple adopting.

In the Media

Throughout the 1990s, several popular television programs have featured minor roles or guest appearances of homosexuals.

But it was the year 1997 that marked a major turning point in television history: The lead character of the sitcom Ellen “outed” herself, revealing that she was a lesbian. It just so happened that the comedienne who portrayed her had also “come out” in real life. Immediately, advertisers pulled out from sponsoring the show, leading to the sitcom’s cancellation.

However, since Ellen, several gay- and lesbian-themed television shows have been born—with many thriving in good ratings.

Will & Grace is a popular Emmy-winning sitcom about the close friendship of a homosexual and his heterosexual female sidekick.

In Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, heterosexual men get fashion make-over tips from five homosexuals. This show has broad appeal among families, teenagers and young urban professionals.

The success of reality TV has brought Boy Meets Boy, the first gay dating series. During each episode, several men—including heterosexuals posing as homosexuals—compete for the affections of the same man.

Consider the premise of the new sitcom It’s All Relative: “Bobby,” who comes from a traditional, close-knit, religious family, gets engaged to “Liz,” whose parents happen to be two gay men.

The cable TV show Queer as Folk chronicles the lives of a group of homosexual men, in addition to a lesbian couple raising a child.

The producers of The L Word, which is set to debut on cable TV in early 2004, described the show as being “about a group of young women in Los Angeles, their lives, careers, and romantic relationships—both gay and straight.”

Clearly, the modern gay rights movement has come a long way. So have the views and attitudes of Western mainstream society toward accepting the homosexual lifestyle. And, according to the head of San Francisco State University’s National Sexuality Resource Center, “There is no turning back. You can’t do that in a democracy. Once [equal] rights have been bestowed [on homosexuals] and there’s a recognition that they’re just, you reverse that at grave peril to the democratic process” (The Christian Science Monitor, “Out of the Margins, Into the Mainstream,” Dec. 10, 2003).

Trouble in the Churches

Even among traditionally conservative churches and denominations of mainstream Christianity, homosexuals are gaining measures of acceptance.

The year 1972 was the first time an openly gay man was ordained in a mainstream Christian religion. Later that year, the Evangelical Lutheran Church (in the Netherlands) also allowed for homosexuals to become pastors. This paved the way for a dozen other European Protestant churches to do the same. Certain European Catholic churches, which had split from mother Rome back in the 19th century, also permit homosexuals into their clergy. And last summer, Australia’s third largest church became that country’s first mainstream denomination to accept homosexual priests.

Yet, the hot-button issues over homosexual clergymen, blessing ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples, and homosexual marriage have caused a widening rift between liberals and conservatives in the Episcopal and Anglican churches. Last year’s appointment of a homosexual bishop in America’s Episcopal Church has led some to call for a separate North American Anglican church. This appointment even prompted a leading minister of Australia’s Anglican Church to leave and become a Catholic priest. Reportedly, other clergymen there are considering doing the same.

Why do religionists disagree? Because, according to one university religion professor, “It’s not ultimately about civil rights or peace or gender or gay rights—it’s about biblical authority” (Insight Magazine, “Mainline Churches Face Great Divide,” Dec. 23, 2003).

The apostle Paul wrote that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (II Tim. 3:16). Remarkably, only a tiny few who call themselves Christian truly recognize the divine authority of the Holy Bible!

True Christians also recognize that the Bible interprets itself. They understand that “no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation” (II Pet. 1:20), and that “the holy scriptures...are able to make you wise unto salvation” (II Tim. 3:15).

Yet, the religionists and theologians of this world would rather cling to the traditions and ideas of men (Mark 7:7-9). Therefore, they cannot fully agree nor peaceably walk together in total purpose and direction (Amos 3:3). No wonder there are so many differing churches and denominations!

Sodom and Gomorrah

The word “sodomite” appears in the Bible several times (Deut. 23:17-18; I Kgs. 14:21-24; 15:9-12; II Kgs. 23:4-7, etc.). To understand who God considered sodomites, we must turn to the biblical account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

In Genesis 19, God sent two angels, appearing as men, to personally investigate the wickedness and depravity of Sodom. Perceiving them as ordinary men, Lot, Abraham’s nephew, invited the angels to spend the night in the safety of his home (vs. 1-3).

That night, “the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to you this night? Bring them out unto us, that we may know them” (Gen. 19:4-5). The New King James Version reads, “know them carnally,” while the New International Version, which is a more liberal translation, plainly reads, “have sex with them.”

Some theologians say this account is about homosexual sex, while others say it is about homosexual rape. Who is right?

Do not assume. Simply let the Bible interpret the Bible, and apply Isaiah 28:13: “precept upon precept... line upon line...here a little, and there a little.” Like assembling a spiritual jigsaw puzzle, we must gather ALL the scriptures that pertain to any particular subject—only then can we truly get a fuller, clearer picture.

With this in mind, notice the following scriptures:

“You shall not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination... For whosoever shall commit any of these abominations, even the souls that commit them shall be cut off from among their people” (Lev. 18:22, 29).

“If a man also lie with mankind, as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them” (Lev. 20:13).

These verses are clear. They do not need interpretation from men.

Yet some, after reading the above verses, will quickly say, “Well, that’s the Old Testament, and that was done away with. Today, Christians follow the New Testament.”

Let’s see what the New Testament says about homosexuality:

“Know you not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind...shall inherit the kingdom of God” (I Cor. 6:9-11).

“But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind [NKJV: “sodomites”]...” (I Tim. 1:8-10).

After rejecting God, and deciding to judge for themselves right from wrong, good from evil (Gen. 3:1-7; Rom. 1:18-20), men “became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things” (Rom. 1:21-23).

Because of their rebellion, “God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves...For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly” (vs. 24-27).

Again, these scriptures do not need “private interpretation”—they plainly speak for themselves.

What Does the Future Hold?

A recent New York Times/CBS News poll revealed that most people age 30 and above favor a constitutional amendment allowing marriage between a man and a woman only. However, of those ages 18 to 29, 52 percent oppose this; 58 percent believe that homosexual relations between adults should be legal; and 56 percent favor laws that allow same-sex marriage.

Understand what this means. In a few short years, this younger, more liberal generation will take its place as the leaders and decision-makers of mainstream society. And once in power, it is possible that, instead of being viewed as an alternative lifestyle, homosexuality will become just another part of the mainstream.

This has a greater chance of reality if you consider that homosexuals are gaining political strength year after year—not only among Democrats, but also among the traditionally conservative Republican Party.

If the above scenario does come to pass, what does the future hold for Christians who believe and teach Romans 1 and similar scriptures? They may be expected to live by the same “Don’t ask, don’t tell” rule that homosexuals abide by in the U.S. military today. In other words, Christians will be allowed to believe whatever they want—as long as they keep it to themselves.

In Canada, parts of the Bible may already be in danger of being deemed as “hate literature,” and thus a civil or even criminal offense. Last fall, the House of Commons passed a bill that many say will criminalize public expression against the homosexual lifestyle—including preaching what the Bible teaches. One Canadian was fined for placing a newspaper advertisement that had biblical references to homosexuality.

In Britain, a bishop of the Church of England suggested that gays and lesbians should seek psychiatric help to “reorientate” themselves. Responding to complaints that his comments might incite people to turn against homosexuals, police investigated the man to determine if what he said was a criminal offense. (They concluded that it was not.)

Are these shadows of things to come? And what will happen to those who refuse to keep quiet, who “Cry aloud, spare not” and “show My people their transgression and the house of Jacob their sins” (Isa. 58:1)? They had better prepare themselves for rough times ahead.

Until then, realize this. Just like today, many will claim to represent Christ, and will outright condemn homosexuals, fornicators, etc. in His name. But the true ministers and servants of Jesus Christ do not CONDEMN people themselves—that is not their responsibility. Their duty is two-fold: (1) To “warn” (Ezek. 33:1-19) the modern-day nations descended from ancient Israel of what is coming and why; and (2) to preach—and condemn anything contrary to—God’s Law and the gospel (Matt. 24:14; 28:19-20)—which means the GOOD NEWS—of the soon-coming kingdom of God and the permanent peace and prosperity that it will bring to all humanity!


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