It is always interesting to see what we can learn from lower animals. This month's issue of Scientific American Mind contains a particularly interesting article about the phenomenon of animal homosexuality. Animal homosexuality has been documented in as many as 1,500 species, including insects. While I have long been peripherally aware of the evidence documenting homosexual behavior between other species, I was not aware that it existed to this extent.
The article details two male chinstrap penguins, Silo and Roy, who met in Manhattan's Central Park Zoo, coupled and proceeded to mate. When they found they were unable to bear offspring, they nudged a rock into their nests and treated it as if it were an egg. One of the zookeepers observed this and took an egg from another pair of penguins who were unable to care for it and placed it in Silo and Roy's nest, who hatched and raised the baby penguin.
This week, Massachusetts voted to allow out-of-state couples marriage rights. Earlier this summer, California legalized gay marriage for state residents and out-of-state partners alike. Examples from biology, like the penguins, and studies in pre-natal conditions should confirm what anyone who has ever thought about the issue already knows: Human homosexuality is not a simple life choice.
Yet the states of Massachusetts and California may have gone too far. A state should allow its own citizens to marry in whatever manner it sees fit, but by marrying non-residents, they create legal complications that other states will be forced to deal with. It's a rude prospect, if nothing else.
Exporting these marriages may only succeed in drawing attention to the flawed policies of other states. Suing the state they reside in may allow newly married gay couples to fight the good fight. Unfortunately, they will almost certainly achieve nothing, and should they, it will only be a pyrrhic victory. For example, when the city of San Francisco broke state law and decided to marry homosexuals in 2004, the state Supreme Court had to intervene, and many felt as if their laws and their values were under attack.
Gays and lesbians should not be fighting losing battles with opponents of same-sex marriages, thus provoking defensive posturing, but should rather be in the business of convincing their opponents of the validity of their cause.
Meanwhile, some in Texas are upholding the sanctity of marriage by making it harder to get divorced. State Rep. Warren Chisum is sponsoring a bill (for the second time) in which it will take couples two years to divorce unless they attend state-sponsored marriage counseling. It is difficult to see how the state's interest is better served keeping people married against their will rather than allowing gays and lesbians to adopt from the state's crowded foster care system. Perhaps legislators should spend more time at the zoo and less time tampering with people's freedom to contract.