Republican Ken Buck Says Being Gay Is A Choice, And Also Like Alcoholism

Colorado Senate Candidate Ken Buck decided to delve into the bizarre world of social conservatism’s obsession with homosexuality during a debate on Meet The Press this morning:

GREGORY: In a debate last month, you expressed your support for don’t ask, don’t tell, which we talked about with Mr. Gibbs. And you alluded to lifestyle choices. Do you that believe being gay is a choice?

BUCK: I do.

GREGORY: Based on what?

BUCK: Based on what?

GREGORY: Yeah, do you believe that?

BUCK: Well, I guess you can choose who your partner is.

GREGORY: You don’t think it’s something that’s determined at birth?

BUCK: I think that birth has an influence over it, like alcoholism and some other things, but I think that basically you have a choice.

Politically, I’m not sure which is worse, Buck saying that being gay is a choice, or Buck saying that it’s essentially a disease like alcoholism.


FILED UNDER: Campaign 2010, Quick Takes, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Tano says:

    Well, he has a point in one sense. If you don’t experience birth, then it is hard to be gay….

  2. James Joyner says:

    This wasn’t artfully expressed but is a pretty mainstream view. That is, you can’t choose your sexual orientations but you can choose your actions. And that, to the extent homosexuality is hard wired, it’s an undesirable trait — you wouldn’t want your kids to be gay any more than you’d want them to be nearsighted. Although, presumably, you’d rather your kids be gay than alcoholic.

  3. Following on from James said–this is the typically Evangelical view: that homosexuality is a sin and even if one is genetically predisposed to it, it is still a sin. It is frequently likened to alcoholism in Evangelical circles.

    As such, this statement will play quite well with the base.

  4. While Buck may be will within the Evangelical Christian mainstream, the question is how well it plays in a state like Colorado which, at the very least, is no South Carolina

  5. @Doug: true. Of course, I think is going to lose in any event.

  6. grampagravy says:

    Down with big government!!! Their only business should be gay bashing and interfering in women’s health decisions!

  7. And that, to the extent homosexuality is hard wired, it’s an undesirable trait — you wouldn’t want your kids to be gay any more than you’d want them to be nearsighted. Although, presumably, you’d rather your kids be gay than alcoholic.

    A decent parent wouldn’t care either way if his or her kid was gay.

  8. Brummagem Joe says:

    “Politically, I’m not sure which is worse, Buck saying that being gay is a choice, or Buck saying that it’s essentially a disease like alcoholism.”

    Doug alchoholism is not a disease, it’s an addiction and therefore something of a moral failing. That innate conservatism again I’m afraid. Either way it’s not remotely similar to homosexuality. But it hard to make people like Buck up isn’t it. Another poster boy for today’s Republicanism. I hope a lot of people in CO were watching.

  9. Joe,

    It s fairly universally accepted in the medical community that alcoholism is a disease.

  10. Brummagem Joe says:

    James Joyner says:
    Sunday, October 17, 2010 at 12:21
    “This wasn’t artfully expressed but is a pretty mainstream”

    Really. Today? Your link didn’t go to anything addressing this. It may be a mainstream view in religious circles but across the entire population?

  11. Brummagem Joe says:

    “It s fairly universally accepted in the medical community that alcoholism is a disease.”

    Not by me it isn’t. By that measure nicotine or drug addictions are diseases. They are not.

  12. Well, since I don’t consult you for medical advice, I’ll just let you have that opinion.

  13. Brummagem Joe says:

    “Well, since I don’t consult you for medical advice, I’ll just let you have that opinion.”

    Well I’m just about to mix my martini so I think I know the difference between enjoyment and addiction.

  14. Joe,

    I don’t want to turn this into a debate over the nature of addiction, but the fact that you and I can control our drinking doesn’t mean that those who can’t are in that state by choice.

  15. Brummagem Joe says:

    “but the fact that you and I can control our drinking doesn’t mean that those who can’t are in that state by choice.”

    Except that it is choice just like all those people in houses they can’t afford are there by choice. I could choose to have five martinis but don’t . I’m becoming somewhat addicted to having little arm wrestles with you so will have to resist. You can’t completely absolve people from all personal responsibility for their actions. There lies hell I’m afraid. Once you start saying alcholism is genetic or exists for some other pre-dispositional reason then you’re essentially agreeing Buck that it’s no different than homosexuality.

  16. Robert in SF says:

    As a gay man, I can contribute my interpretation of what he said through the experience of someone who has been living with this experience for some time….

    I had interpreted his statement in the vein of: people are born with a genetic pre-disposition to conditions that grow out of their experience and exposure in life. That is, a person is born with a predisposition that should they be exposed to alcohol early enough and often enough, they will fall into addiction to its use. There are different degrees of alcoholism behavior, such as fall down drunks, social drinkers, non-drinking alcoholics, etc. Just as the sexual orientation has a lot of spread in its spectrum, based on the experience/exposure and predisposition.

    This reminds me of the knee-jerk reaction whenever someone brings up Hitler or WWII Germany when using an analogy for influence, or rising power, or the slippery slope aspect of politics. People hear Hitler and they close their minds to any sort of nuance to the analogy and immediately focus on the outrageousness of the insult.

    The guy didn’t say anything *in this interview* about what his natural conclusions are about the government treatment of gay persons are, although I can only imagine. So let’s not jump off the cliff in reading into his statement, casual as it was, about his beliefs in whether being gay is a choice.

    Of course, I disagree with him about what he did say clearly, in that I believe being gay is not a choice, just as your height is not a choice, or your eye color, or nose size. [Although Sure you can have surgery as an adult to alter the external presentation of those, but your innate reality is what it is…].

    Being gay is not a choice, although your actions as a gay person, as a straight person, as a person, are choices. And people confuse the two. I think too much of the conversation is focused on what I *do* and with *whom*, and not how I feel about them and why. [it’s called love, and that’s something we can only keep ourselves from doing, but not force ourselves to do…you can always move away from someone to make sure you don’t fall in love, but your can’t force yourself to have feelings for someone….]

  17. I’ve never understood the emphasis the mainstream gay groups put on whether or not homosexuality is a choice or not. By doing so they are essentially accepting the main point of the anti-gay groups: that there’s something inherently wrong with homosexuality that would justify being against it if it were voluntarily, but that homosexuality should be granted leeway owing to the fact they can’t help themselves.

    They should be arguing that homosexuality is a consensual act that harms none of those involved and as such should be within the limits of acceptable personal autonomy. Once you make that argument, the reason WHY particular homosexuals choose to engage in homosexual behavior is completely irrelevant. Whether it’s choice or innate nature, it’s none of your damn business.

  18. Brummagem Joe says:

    “non-drinking alcoholics”

    How exactly is this condition achieved? My own personal belief is that homosexuality is pre-dispositional at whatever level of intensity. You only need to read Alan Bennet’s memoir of wandering the streets of Leeds as a 13 year old to realise that. The same imho is not true of alchoholism which is largely a matter of choice like drug taking which can often start off as “recreational” and then turn into something worse. Once you start buying Buck’s thesis that homosexuality is a disease “like” alchoholism then you’ve bought the corollary that homosexuality can be “cured” because as everyone knows you can recover from the disease of alchoholism with treatment and support groups.

  19. Brummagem Joe says:

    Stormy Dragon says:
    Sunday, October 17, 2010 at 17:36

    ‘I’ve never understood the emphasis the mainstream gay groups put on whether or not homosexuality is a choice or not.”

    Mainstream gay groups are arguing that homosexuality is a choice? Really?

  20. Robert in SF says:

    ““non-drinking alcoholics”

    How exactly is this condition achieved? ”

    I was using my layman’s understanding that alcoholism (or any other addiction of that nature) is a condition, meaning that a person is addicted to alcohol, whether they drink or not. In other words, a person can have the physiological condition of being an addict whether they continue drinking or not, even after they take their last drink, until they die. They are are an addict. So a gay person can be gay, even if they are a virgin and long after their last sexual encounter. Your statement “… alchoholism which is largely a matter of choice like drug taking which can often start off as “recreational” and then turn into something worse,” does not jibe with my understanding of alcoholism treatment such as AA… Although take my understanding with a salt lick, since I have limited exposure to their beliefs.

    The above perspective is only an explanation through the paradigm established in the argument put forth that being gay is akin to other conditions that have a genetic aspect and actions willfully engaged in by the person.

    My fullest perspective is that being is gay isn’t so much about who you sleep with, as the gender of who you are emotionally intimate with (a la love)…the physical manifestation of that aspect (even lust without intimacy) is just a natural extension of that aspect of yourself and relationships to others….not as eloquent as I would like to summarize, but this off the top of my head.

    Being gay is not a choice, and is influenced by both genetics and environment, and is similar in nature to height and eye color. Each has a range determined by the physiological make up which is controlled by the genes, but relies on environment to maximize the placement within the range.

  21. Robert in SF says:

    Stormy Dragon: I don’t think I accept your premise re: the emphasis the mainstream gay groups put on whether or not homosexuality is a choice or not.

    I don’t think the mainstream gay groups emphasize that on their own, but defend the idea when it’s proposed by the groups opposed to equal rights that it is a choice….we don’t make it our point, it’s our counter-point. Facts should be the counter point.

  22. Brummagem Joe says:

    “Being gay is not a choice,”

    Of course it’s not. The problem with your belief that you can have alchoholic teatotallers because they have a predispostion to become alchoholics (which I find bizarre to be honest) means you’re buying Buck’s equivalence. You can’t have it both ways.

  23. G.A.Phillips says:

    Thousands of people have left the gay lifestyle. Just saying……….

  24. Brummagem Joe says:

    “Thousands of people have left the gay lifestyle. Just saying……….”

    Cured were they? You wouldn’t have any stats to support that statement? Since by definition there can’t be any such stats your search should be an interesting one.

  25. Sirkowski says:

    What a maroon.

  26. Brummagem Joe:

    Mainstream gay groups are arguing that homosexuality is a choice? Really

    No, they argue that the fact it should be tolerated is linked primarily to its non-choicedness, rather than arguing it should be tolerated on a personal liberty basis. It’s a weak argument that defends the rights of homosexuals only due to circumstances rather than defending homosexuality in itself.

    Robert in SF:

    I don’t think the mainstream gay groups emphasize that on their own, but defend the idea when it’s proposed by the groups opposed to equal rights that it is a choice….we don’t make it our point, it’s our counter-point.

    But it’s the wrong counterpoint. The counterpoint should be that even if it were a choice, it would STILL be okay, because people have the natural liberty to love whomever they love. As it is, they only help feed the reparative therapy scan as well as encouraging the hostility toward bisexuals that’s present in much of the gay community.

  27. An Interested Party says:

    “And that, to the extent homosexuality is hard wired, it’s an undesirable trait…”

    Yes, I suppose it is undersireable in places where homophobics will practice discrimination and bullying at the minimum and extreme violence and murder at the maximum against gay people…

  28. Brummagem Joe says:

    “And that, to the extent homosexuality is hard wired, it’s an undesirable trait…”

    Well I guess we know what Mr Joyner’s real opinions are.

  29. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    There is no discussing anything with BJ Brummagem Joe. He admitted he is in his cups. Denial allows him to tell us he is having one Martini when the fact is, it is one at a time and the current one is number 7. BJ spends his Sundays swilling gin and spewing BS. What he knows about gays is from his college exsperience and early experimentation when he was in his early 30’s. Joe, since pediphiles are predisposed to find children sexually attractive, will you advocate for them too? I know you favor communism but you would be one of the first liquidated by them.

  30. Brummagem Joe says:

    Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:
    Sunday, October 17, 2010 at 21:22

    I’ve got a number for AA if you need it.

  31. Franklin says:

    “And that, to the extent homosexuality is hard wired, it’s an undesirable trait…”

    Well I guess we know what Mr Joyner’s real opinions are.

    Joe- I believe James was accurately describing the mainstream view. Even among my liberal friends who would love and support a gay child, most would prefer heterosexual children who wouldn’t get taunted/bullied, who might produce grandchildren “naturally,” etc. It just seems easier. There’s also the fact that we (or at least I) don’t understand the purpose of homosexuality from a natural selection point-of-view.

    ZR- still under the impression that victims of pedophilia are consenting adults?

  32. James Joyner says:

    @Michael Demmons: “A decent parent wouldn’t care either way if his or her kid was gay.”

    Oh, nonsense. Am I going to love Katie less if she turns out to be a lesbian? No. Am I totally ambivalent on the matter? No.

    As another commenter has already mentioned, there’s no downside to your kids being straight and some downsides to them being gay. While it’s easier to be gay now than it was a generation ago, the kid is still going to be swimming upstream in terms of social acceptance and coming to grips with their own orientation. And, while IVF and other techniques make having biologically-related children possible for gays, it’s a hell of a lot more likely to occur via the natural method of human reproduction.

    @ B Joe “It may be a mainstream view in religious circles but across the entire population?”

    “Religious circles” describes the vast bulk of the American population. And I say that as an anti-theist.

  33. G.A.Phillips says:

    ***Cured were they? You wouldn’t have any stats to support that statement? Since by definition there can’t be any such stats your search should be an interesting one.***
    lol, look it up dude, you would not believe me anyway I’m just saying that people leave that lifestyle, crap loads of them.

    If this lifestyle is the only thing that makes you happy and is the only thing you care about so be it and more power to you. I support your right to be happy, I support your right to have opinions, I believe it is a sin and also believe you have the right to live your life the way you see fit.

    There is more to this than what you have been taught, or what you want others to only believe…..

  34. Brummagem Joe says:

    “Joe- I believe James was accurately describing the mainstream view.”

    Actually I don’t think most people think about it. They probably think much more about having a child with downs syndrome or some terrible ailment.

    ” Religious circles” describes the vast bulk of the American population.”

    Technically I suppose it does, perhaps I should have prefaced it with “strongly” religious circles. Most people want healthy, happy children and don’t spend much time dwelling on their possible sexuality. If it becomes apparent that the child is gay they don’t suspend affection.

  35. Brummagem Joe says:

    G.A.Phillips says:
    Monday, October 18, 2010 at 12:52
    “lol, look it up dude, you would not believe me anyway I’m just saying that people leave that lifestyle, crap loads of them.”

    Er…you mean you have zero evidence to support this claim? Why am I not surprised.

  36. James Joyner says:

    Most people want healthy, happy children and don’t spend much time dwelling on their possible sexuality. If it becomes apparent that the child is gay they don’t suspend affection.

    Sure. But the number of Americans who would strongly prefer that their children by straight simply dwarfs the number who have no preference once way or the other. The latter view is a decided minority.

    Now, we’ve rapidly moved, over less than two decades, from a society that almost universally scorned homosexuality to one that’s reasonably accepting of it. It’s the fastest huge social change of that sort that I can think of. Our attitudes on race and gender, for example, evolved much more slowly. But let’s not pretend that most Americans look at “gay” and “straight” with no more ambivalence than, say, “left-handed” and “right-handed.”

  37. mantis says:

    Joe,

    You seem to have very little experience with alcoholism, and even less knowledge.

    Once you start saying alcholism is genetic or exists for some other pre-dispositional reason then you’re essentially agreeing Buck that it’s no different than homosexuality.

    The concept of genetic pre-disposition to alcoholism has a lot of medical research to back it up, though it is not entirely conclusive and certainly doesn’t explain all cases of alcoholism. Recognizing this does not mean you think it’s no different from homosexuality.

    The same imho is not true of alchoholism which is largely a matter of choice like drug taking which can often start off as “recreational” and then turn into something worse.

    You’re talking about alcohol abuse, not alcoholism. You don’t need to be an alcoholic to abuse alcohol.

    “non-drinking alcoholics”

    How exactly is this condition achieved?

    You quit drinking.

    My own personal belief is that homosexuality is pre-dispositional at whatever level of intensity. You only need to read Alan Bennet’s memoir of wandering the streets of Leeds as a 13 year old to realise that.

    Actually, though I agree that at least some or most homosexuality is genetic, I don’t agree that one person’s story is enough to convince me of, well, anything beyond that one person’s condition. The plural of anecdote is not data.

    Once you start buying Buck’s thesis that homosexuality is a disease “like” alchoholism then you’ve bought the corollary that homosexuality can be “cured” because as everyone knows you can recover from the disease of alchoholism with treatment and support groups.

    Actually, most treatment for alcoholics and alcoholic support groups consider sufferers to never be “cured.” Alcoholics are considered to be “in recovery” for the rest of their lives. Gay “cures” are sold as just that. Once you’re cured, you’re not gay anymore! It’s BS, of course, but even if true it wouldn’t be the same as alcoholism.

    I haven’t taken a drink in almost ten years, and I guarantee you that if I did, it would be a very short road back to full-time drunk. You’re never cured of alcoholism. It’s a chemical addiction that your brain does not eliminate through abstinence. So, in fact, in a very limited way, it is probably a lot like homosexuality. Gays aren’t “cured” either, though they may abstain from sex. The big difference, of course, is that there’s really nothing wrong with being gay and sexually active, but being alcoholic and drinking will have serious detrimental effects to your health.

  38. Brummagem Joe says:

    “Actually, most treatment for alcoholics and alcoholic support groups consider sufferers to never be “cured.” Alcoholics are considered to be “in recovery”

    Ok so maybe buying into the Buck world view which is what you are essentially doing then Homosexuals can’t be cured but will go “into recovery.” This is the worm in the bud of saying that alchoholism and homosexuality aren’t substantively different.

    ” Actually, though I agree that at least some or most homosexuality is genetic, I don’t agree that one person’s story is enough to convince me of, well, anything beyond that one person’s condition. The plural of anecdote is not data.”

    I’m not sure what this means. You believe homosexuality is pre-dispositional except when you don’t?

  39. Brummagem Joe says:

    mantis says:
    Monday, October 18, 2010 at 14:18

    btw mantis I’m not trying to be confrontational and I’ve never had your experiences but I’m relentlessly logical. If you buy that both homosexuality and alchoholism are both pre dispositional conditions then Buck wasn’t wrong conceptually although of course they wouldn’t be diseases. Regardless of my personal opinions I can’t see gays welcoming a scenario where they essentially classified with drunks.

  40. Brummagem Joe says:

    “Now, we’ve rapidly moved, over less than two decades, from a society that almost universally scorned homosexuality to one that’s reasonably accepting of it.”

    I agree with this entirely but I just don’t think most people think about it. They are just thankful for what they have and don’t want some disabling condition, and homosexuality is no longer perceived as such by any outside perhaps the strongly religious community. And they usually change when brought into contact with reality.

  41. mantis says:

    This is the worm in the bud of saying that alchoholism and homosexuality aren’t substantively different.

    On a very narrow point, they aren’t. That point is that there is a predisposition towards certain activity, but not that those predisposed must engage in that activity. Someone with a predisposition towards alcoholism need not ever drink, just as a homosexual need not ever have a homosexual relationship (though I wouldn’t advise it).

    But the larger point is that they are different. Sex, homosexual or heterosexual, is a natural, biological function and we are all disposed towards sexual attraction to some group. Alcohol consumption is a man-made activity and predisposition towards chemical addiction to alcohol, while biological and probably genetic in at least some cases, is a development that’s not really possible without society. Add to that that sexual activity, homosexual or heterosexual, does not need to be harmful in any way even if engaged in frequently. Drinking alcohol if you’re an alcoholic is almost always a bad thing which leads to serious health problems, not to mention poor judgement, automobile accidents, fights, etc.

    Just because they both have to do with biology does not mean they are the same thing. I’m an alcoholic and I’m ambidextrous. Both are genetic. One is bad for me, and the other is good (or at least neutral). Same thing.

    I’m not sure what this means. You believe homosexuality is pre-dispositional except when you don’t?

    No, I’m just saying that I need more than one person’s memoir to come to such broad conclusions. We are still in agreement on the conclusion.

    btw mantis I’m not trying to be confrontational

    Why not? This is the internet!

    Regardless of my personal opinions I can’t see gays welcoming a scenario where they essentially classified with drunks.

    Oh, I agree. My desire was to clear up any confusion about alcoholism (which I don’t really consider a “disease,” either, but I’m not a doctor so what do I know?). And hopefully my point comes across that genetics can create beneficial, detrimental, and neutral attributes, and so while such things all share something in common, they don’t share everything in common and should not be thought of in the same light.

    FWIW, I think Buck’s an idiot for equating homosexuality with what is pretty universally seen as a negative attribute (alcoholism), but then I thought he was an idiot before that.

  42. Brummagem Joe says:

    mantis says:
    Monday, October 18, 2010 at 15:08

    “Why not? This is the internet!”

    Well I try hard to avoid confrontation with people who are reasonably sensible. The obviously sensible but wilfully obtuse on a narrow point are the most frustrating. And for the loons humor or silence are the only remedies.