To throw another wrinkle in my recent posts about same-sex relationships (those were in the context of the rise of Polygamy in cultural awareness), there’s a good post by Beau on whether the notion of the genetic origin of sexual orientation (or “gay essentialism”) will withstand the present anti-foundationalism and deconstructionism in liberal thought. He takes his cue from Don Browning and Elizabeth Marquardt’s The Meaning of Marriage:
In the discussion of sex, it is normal now for liberals to automatically translate that term into “gender.” The prevailing liberal theory is that no feature of masculinity or femininity is rooted in the biology of men and women. Everything is a social construction.
Everything, that is, except sexual orientation. When it comes to sexual orientation, liberals become essentialists again. Advocates of homosexuality are increasingly drawn to the idea that sexual orientation is a biological fact, not a social construction (and certainly not a choice). Therefore, society must accommodate to all sexual orientations and “get used to it.”
Browning and Marquardt point out that the logic of modernization is dissolving all claims of fixed relations and innate or essential qualities. Even the deepest and most ancient of essential differences, those between fathers and mothers in marriage, are subject to the acids of social
constructivism. It may be premature to fix the flag of same-sex marriage to homosexual essentialism today; the same modernizing theory that all identities are just social constructions may sweep it away tomorrow.
I remarked in his comment section that while there is a trend towards a radical denuding of all constructs from biological or other non-subjective roots, there are also liberal (and conservative) attempts to resist that. I myself hold a form of ‘hermeneutical realism,’ and see that while our treatment of gender is a social construct there are some non-subjective roots upon which they are built. It is part of what has me pause and not buy completely into the current postmodern movement.
Anyway, another interesting angle. Sullivan might argue that homosexuality is somehow innate where polygamy is not, but here’s another version of the attempt to challange that view.