Huckabee is wrong on gay rights

BY LARRY LEVIN

Former Arkansas Governor-turned-talk show host Mike Huckabee received widespread attention last week for statements about gay couples and parenting in an interview with a college publication.

In his comments to a student journalist from the College of New Jersey, Huckabee echoed some of his previously expressed views on homosexuality, but in a more pointed fashion than usual.

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In a published transcript of the interview, he dismissed the notion that gay couples should be able to marry, referencing conduct the public considers anathema:

“(Allowing gay marriage) would be like saying, well there are a lot of people who like to use drugs so let’s go ahead and accommodate those who want to use drugs. There are some people who believe in incest, so we should accommodate them. There are people who believe in polygamy, should we accommodate them?”

In the recent interview, Huckabee went on to explain why gay couples should not be able to adopt: “Children are not puppies…This is not a time to see if we can experiment and find out, how does this work?”

No one’s doubting that Huckabee is entitled to his own opinions (no matter how much I or anyone may disagree with them), and in fact, there is a wide variety of perspectives in the Jewish world about homosexuality. Orthodox Judaism generally condemns homosexual conduct, citing Torah passages such as Leviticus 18:22 (“And you shall not cohabit with a male as one cohabits with a woman; it is an abomination.”), while the Reform movement not only embraces the LGBT community, but allows its rabbis to conduct same-sex marriages.

The most interesting thing to me about Huckabee’s opinion, however, is that his viewpoints stand in stark contrast to the state of things in the State of Israel, beloved to Huckabee due in part to his fundamentalist Christian views.

It’s not that Israelis as a whole accept the propriety of homosexual behavior. In fact, in a 2009 poll by Dialog published in Haaretz, 46 percent of respondents indicated that homosexuality is an aberration, with 42 percent disagreeing and 12 percent unsure.

But when asked about what rights gays should have, the responses of Israelis were startlingly different. Three quarters of respondents believed gays should be allowed to serve as members of Knesset and as ministers, 61 percent accepted civil marriages and 60 percent the right of gay couples to adopt children.

These findings comport largely to the state of Israeli law. While civil marriages are not performed in Israel, the country recognizes same-sex marriages performed in other nations. In 2009, former Mk Uzi Even and life partner Amit karma were granted adoption rights over their foster son. This follows a 2005 Supreme Court ruling allowing gay couples to adopt each other’s children. And since 1993, gays have been able to serve openly and without consequence in the military.

Why Huckabee is so eager to lambast progressivism in America but not Israel, I have no clue. But I do think that the Huckabee situation, in combination with the recent Israeli polls on the subject, point to a major distinction between Israel and the United States on matters of personal sexual preference. It’s a rather simple distinction, and it goes something like this:

You don’t have to like someone else’s behavior to find it socially and legally acceptable.

I certainly appreciate that a nation’s social structure and code of laws reflect its highest aspirations, and those who don’t accept homosexuality as proper may find hypocrisy in validating behavior they find morally inappropriate. Yet while I understand this viewpoint, I don’t agree with it.

Rather, I see it more like the Israeli public, Knesset and highest court in Israel do. Our personal and religious viewpoints on private behavior that doesn’t demonstrate an overt harm to others are really something best left off the community standards and legislative table.

The “overt harm” standard is hardly a subjective one. Incest, one of Huckabee’s outrageous comparatives, has been shown repeatedly to inflict emotional and psychological trauma. Polygamy, though less thoroughly vetted by reearch, is at least in the U.S. shrouded in issues of domination, secrecy and religious cultism, and therefore has the potential to substantially harm the women involved. To compare these to homosexual individuals and consensual adult behavior is silly at best and grossly insulting at worst.

To Huckabee and others who subscribe to his views, I would advocate respect and consideration for those who have varying lifestyles and who are as concerned as anyone else about making the world a better place. Impugning people for their lifestyle by comparing it to matters considered illicit by practically everyone, doesn’t advance the cause of harmony. Rather, it detracts from it and threatens our collective efforts to address societal goals that can make a positive difference for everyone.

Larry Levin is Publisher/CEO of the St. Louis Jewish Light.