SoluProb™: Sex Offender Registry


Guest Author: John Sloan, University of Alabama (Birmingham)

In establishing this project, it has been my intention to encourage others to identify and expose Solutions without Problems. This report by Professor John Sloan is the first such response to that intention, and I am delighted to share it with you. Dr. Sloan has been willing to open up a topic marked by profound emotions and identify an aspect of that topic that truly qualifies as a soluprob.      –Earl Babbie

Presumed Problem

Convicted sex offenders pose a major threat to communities of reoffending once released from prison.


Pass laws that require states (and the federal government) to monitor sex offenders via registration and community notification, and involuntarily commit sex offenders to psychiatric hospitals after end of sentence.


“Public opinion reinforced by portrayals in the media and in popular culture, suggests that sex offenders will almost always repeat their predatory acts in the future and that all treatments for perpetrators are ineffective. The truth is not so cut and dried.” – Scientific American

FindOffendersFew crimes cause greater public outrage and concern than do so-called “sex crimes,” especially the rape or molestation of children. Many women – and more than a few men – have, themselves, been victims or have friends or relatives who have experienced sexual victimization at the hands of people they knew: priests, teachers, public officials, colleagues and supervisors at work, and family members. Women and girls experience extraordinarily high levels of sexual victimization at the hands of men and boys, many (if not most) who are known to them. Because sexual victimization has touched so many people and generated so much attention and emotion, public attitudes toward sex crime offenders tends to boil down to fear of them and extreme punitiveness toward them.

In 2015, over 740,000 people in the United States were registered “sex offenders” (see Table 1) –more people than live in the Cities of San Francisco, Baltimore, or Boston. What this means is that all of these people had, since the 1990s when registration first began occurring, either served time in jail or prison or been placed on probation for a dizzying array of sex-related offenses ranging from urinating in public to violent rape of children and were, as a result, required to register with the local authorities as a sex offender.

jaredRecent cases involving sexual misconduct by Jared Fogel (former Subway spokesperson), Jerry Sandusky (former football coach at Penn State), and actor Bill Cosby have generated a great deal of attention. At the same time, legislators have been busy proposing ever more enhanced punishments for sex offenders. Headlines such as “Alabama legislator wants to castrate sex offenders who abuse kids” or “Guam passes legislation to chemically castrate sex offenders” grab our attention and show a widely held orientation toward dealing with sex offenders. Other headlines such as “When predators are women” and “MANHUNT: Convicted sex offender allegedly lured 14-year-old girl from home” both titillate and terrify readers.


Table 1. Sex Offender Statistics (September, 2015)
Total number of registered sex offenders nationwide in the U.S. 747,408
Percent of sentence actually served (on average) by sex offenders 44
Percent of boys sexually molested by someone they knew 93
Percent of girls sexually molested by someone they knew 80
Percent of children sexually abused who become abusers later in life 30
Percent of sexual assaults that occur between 6:00 pm and 12:00 am 43
Source: Statistics Brain


Clearly, the sexual abuse of another person – adult or child – is a serious crime warranting serious punishment. However, when it comes to these types of offenses, the public and policy makers have worked hard to create a solution for a problem that does not exist.

The Mythology of Sex Offenders in America

Consider the following:

Women and children are in great danger in American society because serious sex crimes are very prevalent and are increasing more rapidly than any other type of crime.

Practically all serious sex crimes are committed by “degenerates,” “sex fiends,” or “sexual psychopaths.”

Sexual psychopaths continue to commit serious sex crimes throughout life because they have no control over their impulses.

Sexual psychopaths can be identified with a high degree of precision even before they have committed any sex crimes.

A society which punishes sex criminals, even with severe penalties, and then releases them to prey again upon women and children is failing in its duty.

Laws should be enacted to segregate such persons, preferably before but at least after their sex crimes, and to keep them confined as irresponsible patients until their malady has been completely and permanently cured.

Since sexual psychopathy is a mental malady, the professional advice as to the diagnosis, the treatment, and the release of patients as cured should come exclusively from psychiatrists.

Do these sentiments sound familiar? That the words were written by the great American criminologist Edwin Sutherland in 1950 in a famous article titled “The Sexual Psychopath Laws” should give all of us pause. What should also give us pause is what Sutherland writes next: “All of these propositions, which are implicit in the laws and explicit in the popular literature, are either false or questionable (emphasis added)” (Sutherland, 1950, p. 543). When it comes to sex offenders, indeed, “everything old is new again.” A number of scholars, including Marcus Galeste and his colleagues, have examined – and debunked – various myths about sex offenders that are often presented, repeated, and perpetuated by media, law enforcement, and state legislators. These myths, in turn, have strongly influenced policy responses to sex offenders.

One of the biggest myths about sex offenders that led directly to policies like offender registration lists and community notification requirements is that sex offenders have very high rates of recidivism. The empirical evidence, however, says otherwise. For example, Matthew R. Durose, Patrick A. Langan, Erica L. Schmitt of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics published a report in 2003 that tracked patterns of rearrest, reconviction, and reimprisonment of 9,691 male sex offenders, or two-thirds of all male sex offenders released from prisons in 15 states in 1994, including 3,115 rapists, 6,576 sexual assaulters, 4,295 child molesters, and 443 statutory rapists tracked for 3 years after their release. Compared to non-sex offenders, sex offenders had a lower overall re-arrest rate. When rearrests for any type of crime (not just sex crimes) were counted, the study found that 43% (4,163 of 9,691) of the 9,691 released sex offenders were rearrested but 68% of the remaining offenders (179,391 of 262,420) were rearrested. Among sex offenders, just 3.5% were reconvicted of a sex crime within three years of being released from prison. R. Carl Hanson and Kelly E. Morton-Bourgon (2009) conducted a meta-analysis of the results of 110 published and unpublished studies of sex offender recidivism covering the period 1972 through 2008, that included 118 unique samples containing 45,398 offenders from 16 countries. Their study included three outcome measures: (a) any sexual recidivism vs. no recidivism or only nonsexual recidivism; (b) any sexual or violent recidivism vs. no recidivism or only nonviolent recidivism; and (c) any recidivism vs. no recidivism. They found that the sexual recidivism rate was 11.5%, the sexual or violent recidivism rate was 19.5%, and the general (any) recidivism rate was 33.2% over an average follow-up period of 70 months

A second myth about sex offenders is that treatment – however defined – doesn’t work (or, more strongly, “nothing works” with these offenders). Mass media, including police procedurals on TV like Law & Order SVU and news outlets, commonly portray sex offenders as being incapable of benefitting from any form of rehabilitation and therefore solutions such as chemical or actual castration, or locking offenders away for life in prison or a psychiatric hospital are the only viable solutions. Evidence however, shows a different story. Several studies have demonstrated that cognitive-behavioral therapy and multisystemic treatment can be successful in reducing recidivism by sex offenders.

A third commonly believed myth about sex offenders is that most victims fall prey to strangers, thus the popular mantra “Stranger Danger.” Again, the empirical evidence shows otherwise: most victims of rape, sexual assault, child molestation and many other sex offenses know their offenders. In one study, 3 out of 4 molested children were victimized by people they knew. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2012 among female rape victims, perpetrators were reported to be intimate partners (51.1%), family members (12.5%), or acquaintances (40.8%) (these figure exceed 100% because respondents may have experienced more than one victimization by offenders falling into two or more categories).

Homogeneity is a fourth commonly held belief about sex offenders. That is, “all sex offenders are the same” and as a result many of the responses to them take a “one size fits all” approach. The reality is that sex offenders vary greatly in the causes of their behavior, in the types of crimes they commit, in the length of their careers, and whom they victimize. One size fits all may work for items like gloves, but not sex offender programs.

Sex Offenders Across Historical Eras

History can often prove useful for understanding how solutions to non-existent problems develop. Derek Logue (2012) has identified four historical eras that shaped government responses to sex offenders. The first era is what he calls the Construction/ Progressive Era (1880-1935), during which advances in sociology and psychology created the first stereotypes of sex offenders. The Sexual Psychopath Era (1930-1955) was important because during this period early national media sensationalized child abduction and murder cases, including the Lindbergh baby case and the Leopold and Loeb child murder case, which created public perception of an “epidemic” of these kind of cases occurring and gave rise to new laws including castration of sex offenders, involuntary civil commitment, and the first attempts at creating registries for offenders. This period also saw the FBI, under J. Edgar Hoover, make sex crimes a national focus and spread the “Stranger Danger” refrain that remains popular today. This period also saw J. Paul DeRiver establish the nation’s first “Sex Offender Bureau” in 1937 and create casebooks used to train law enforcement that emphasized sex offenders as “monsters.” Finally, this second era, marked by waves of predator panic, saw the rise of psychiatric influences on policy-making concerning sex offenders. The Rehabilitative/ Liberal Era (1950-1980) was marked by experimentation with sex offender policies, by dialogue outside the dominant “monster” view of sex offenders, distrust of law enforcement and psychiatry, and a growing social acceptance of certain “deviant” sexual behaviors. The final era, what Logue calls the Containment Era (1980-Present) has been marked by unparalleled punitive responses to sex crimes, the rebirth of old ideas about sex offenders while implementing newer, more novel ideas.

Despite differences within the four eras, Logue (2012) argues that depictions of sex offenders as “monsters” is a consistent theme and that various stereotypes of them – rather than empirical evidence – shaped legislative responses to them across the four eras.

Policies Targeting Sex Offenders

Faced with public pressure to “do something” about the perceived epidemic of sex offenders molesting innocent children, policy makers responded by creating laws requiring (1) sex offenders to register their addresses with local authorities, (2) local authorities to notify the community that a sex offender had taken up residence, and (3) commitment to psychiatric  hospitals for sex offenders deemed “too dangerous” to be released back into the community. Table 2 presents a state-by-state list of policies relating to sex offenders.

Table 2. State Sex Offender Laws


Source: The Council of State Governments

Registration and notification. Registries of sex offenders exist at the federal and state level. Their purpose is to assemble information about people deemed “sex offenders” who are required to register by law based pubnoticeon their conviction offense. This information is then made available for consumption by both the public and law enforcement. Currently, all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the federal government maintain registries that are open to the public and can be searched via web portals; in some states, certain information about offenders is only available to  law enforcement. In these cases, a trial judge is typically barred from considering mitigating factors with respect to registration requirements. Importantly, requirements for who must register as a “sex offender” vary greatly from one jurisdiction to another. The length of time which the offender is required to maintain his or her registration also varies by offense and jurisdiction. In some instances, offenders may be required to maintain their registration for life.

Registration typically involves the offender sharing with law enforcement their full name and any aliases, their current address, place of employment, telephone number(s), and email address(es). Offenders are typically photographed and fingerprinted by law enforcement, and in some cases DNA information is collected and stored. Additionally, thirty states subject registrants to restrictions that prohibit them from living or working within a defined distance of a school, public parks, and other “common areas” of the community where children may gather.

Mandatory registration of sex offenders came about because of three laws. The Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act of 1994 was enacted as a part of the Omnibus Crime Bill of 1994 and established guidelines for states to track sex offenders by confirming their residence annually for 10 years after release into the community or quarterly for the rest of their lives if the offender had been convicted of a violent crime like rape.

“Megan’s Law” refers to the requirement that all states and the federal government notify communities that sex offenders are living in them. The law is named after 7-year-old Megan Kanka, a New Jersey native who was brutally raped and murdered in 1994 by a convicted sex offender who was a neighbor. Since few states required registration prior to her death, the law refers to an amendment to the Jacob Wetterling Act that requires both registration and community notification of sex offenders.

The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006  is a federal statute that organized sex offenders into three tiers according to the crime committed. The law mandates that certain offenders (Tier 3 offenders) update their whereabouts every three months with lifetime registration requirements. Tier 2 offenders must update their whereabouts every six months for 25 years, and Tier 1 offenders must update their whereabouts every year for 15 years. The law makes failing to register a federal offense. States are required to publicly disclose information of Tier 2 and Tier 3 offenders, at minimum. It also contains civil commitment provisions for sexually dangerous people. The Act created a standard for sex offender registries whereby each state and territory applies identical criteria for posting offender data to their registries. Empirical evaluations of sex offender registration, such as that completed by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in 2013, indicate that registration creates more work for law enforcement, may lead to retaliation against offenders by members of the larger community, and negatively affects housing and employment opportunities. There is also no evidence that registration has a significant effect on recidivism.

Rachel Bandy (2011) evaluated the claim that sex offender notification is positively correlated with the public’s adoption of protective behavior; this study found no statistically significant relationship between receiving watchdognotification about a high-risk sex offender and the adoption of self-protective behaviors, controlling for differences in sociodemographics and neighborhood type. Her results undermine basic assumptions on which registration and notification have been built.  Her results also indicate that notification does not support the claim the public is safer from sex offenders as a result of notification laws.

Civil commitment after end of sentence (EOS). Twenty-one states and the federal government currently allow civil commitment for sex offenders after they have completed their term of sentence. What these schemes allow is for the state to petition the court to commit the offender to a psychiatric hospital for an indefinite term because the offender poses a significant threat of reoffending. In 2010, in the landmark case United States v Comstock (560 U.S. 126), the U.S. Supreme Court upheld these schemes as constitutional.

These schemes have generally survived constitutional scrutiny on the grounds they are not a second prison sentence, but rather serve the non-criminal ends of protecting society and helping rehabilitate violent sex offenders. Legislation underlying these schemes often confirms the treatment objective by explicating statutory guidelines for sex offender treatment programs.

However, Jeslyn Miller has argued that while treatment is guaranteed by various statutes, legislation, case law, and the Constitution, the guarantee of treatment is an empty promise. Offender participation in post-incarceration treatment, in fact, harms him or her because he or she must discuss his or her fantasies and past behavior as part of the treatment plan. Prosecutors in turn can then use this information to secure further confinement. This “treatment paradox” may result in offenders electing not to seek treatment and effectively denies them “the opportunity to heal and obtain release from commitment through treatment.” Christina Mancini and Daniel Mears have likewise observed that various appeals courts have repeatedly upheld policies relating to sex offenders, despite scientific evidence calling them into question.


Is the Problem Real?

Recall that sex offender registration and notification and civil commitment after EOS are intended to prevent “monsters” from further victimizing members of the community. The question is whether the problem of sex offenders recidivating warrants the policies that have been put into place by both the federal government and the states.

Clearly, most people would agree that some sex offenders – recidivist pedophiles or rapists come to mind – are dangerous, deserve significant punishment, and probably should be monitored closely. However, among the 700,000+ registered sex offenders, how many of them fit into those particular categories? Likely very few since career pedophiles and rapists typically end up incarcerated for life.

The problem is that over the past 30 years or so, we’ve literally lumped dangerALL sex offenders together and our policies treat them the same. For example, we more or less treat the 17-year-old high school student who “sexts” a nude picture of himself or an erotic message to his 16-year-old girlfriend (or vice-versa) or the young woman who urinates in public after a “night on the town” the same as someone who exposed himself to a group of school children while masturbating or sexually assaulted a woman while at a party. In the case of sexting, some overzealous prosecutors have even pursued child pornography charges against the person sending the nude image(s). In most states, all of these folks would end up on a sex offender registry and the community would receive notification these people are living there.

Who’s On Sex Offender Registries?

While one may think this would be an easy question to answer, the truth is it’s not. According to Arlissa Ackerman and her colleagues (2011), “. . . limited research has been done to shed light on the characteristics of registered sex offenders, such as their demographics, the types of offenses they have committed, their victim preferences, and the risk they may pose for future criminal behavior.” They continue by arguing that “Such analyses have been complicated by the decentralized nature of publicly available registry data and the general lack of availability of these data to researchers” despite the recent creation of a national sex offender registry. In fact, according to Ackerman and colleagues (2011) “no national database exists by which researchers can draw data from multiple states. Therefore, the few studies that have included descriptive data of samples from registered sex offenders have been conducted in individual states, and there is no standardization or uniformity to the types of characteristics described in various studies.”


One large-scale attempt to answer the above question was undertaken by Alissa Ackerman and her colleagues (2011) when they created a national profile of the registered sex offender (RSO) population, drawn from an analysis of data on 445,127 RSOs obtained from the public registries of 49 states (Michigan was not included for various technical reasons), Washington, DC, Puerto Rico and Guam between July and December of 2010. While these data are somewhat dated and there are many limitations with them (acknowledged by Ackerman and her colleagues), we have not found any similar published studies using national-level RSO data.

Below, is a summary table of their results:

Table 3. National Snapshot of Registered Sex Offenders (RSOs) (2010)

Age (mean) 45
Age (median) 44
Age Range 12-99
% white 66
% male 98
% with victims < 14 70
% designated as high risk or Sexually Violent Predators (SVPs) (number of states reporting)a 13


% designated specifically as absconded 5
% specifically designated as homeless/transient (number of states reporting) 6


% specifically designated as living in community (not reported as deceased, deported, or institutionalized) 88%

a Percentage does not include those listed as sexually violent or sexually dangerous. When those individuals are accounted for, the summary of those designated as SVP changed slightly to 14%.

Ackerman and her colleagues discussed their results as follows (emphasis added):

  1. Substantial differences in state registry variables produced challenges in developing standardized measures by which to conduct data analyses. These limitations are instructive to understanding the significant operational and definitional challenges facing the nation’s Sex Offender Registry Notification (SORN) systems, which are particularly germane to current policy deliberations occurring at national, state, and tribal jurisdictional levels concerning the future of registration and notification policy and practice.
  2. The sample of sex offenders in this study comprised only those contained on publicly accessible state registries; offenders not subject to public disclosure (approximately 37% of the nation’s registered sex offenders) are ostensibly rated as lower risk and therefore the current sample reflects a higher risk group (emphasis added)
  3. Registered sex offenders are overwhelmingly male and white although African Americans are overrepresented (22%) based on their share of the population (~13%) and are especially overrepresented in several states.
  4. Individuals of all ages are found on the nation’s registries, but the average RSO is in his mid-forties. This is noteworthy, because as more people are placed on registries for long durations (or life) with little attrition, the mean age will continue to grow older and include a growing proportion of aging or elderly individuals who probably pose lower risk for reoffending (emphasis added)
  5. Considerable numbers of RSOs do not reside in the community (emphasis added). Public Internet-based registries were designed to alert citizens to the presence of sex offenders living nearby so that action can be taken to potentially prevent victimization. It is unclear why deported or deceased offenders remain on public registries, as the public safety value of this information seems dubious
  6. Despite reports that over 100,000 sex offenders are missing or noncompliant, the public registries analyzed in this study provide little direct evidence to support this assertion
  7. Approximately 37% of RSOs are not on public registries which means over one-third of the nation’s sex offenders have been assessed by their state’s sex offender management procedure as posing a low risk for future offending. Even among those found on public registries, a wide distribution of risk exists, with a minority designated in most states as high risk, predator, or sexually violent

Among their conclusions (emphasis added):

  • Painting a national picture of RSOs remains elusive and is confounded by the fragmented nature of the nation’s sex offender registry system
  • The rules seeking to impose jurisdictional uniformity are far more likely to obscure important differences among registered offenders than to shed more light on them
  • The considerable obstacles encountered reflect fundamental structural issues that potentially may be exacerbated rather than ameliorated by the rules
  • We found considerable heterogeneity in the RSO population across multiple dimensions, contrasting the stereotypical views of sex offenders that permeate public perception. Offense titles as defined by the Adam Walsh Act are insufficient to determine an individual’s relative threat to a community or to adequately inform law enforcement officers responsible for supervision and monitoring.



Where does all this leave us? Rejecting out-of-hand the emotional and physical scars left by sex offenders on their victims cannot – nor should it – be ignored, shrugged off, or lessened. Clearly, children and adults who experience sexual victimizations are scarred, sometimes for life. At the same time, the issue is whether current solutions address real problems associated with sex offenders, specifically with their recidivism. Does registering sex offenders reduce future offending and make communities safer? Does community notification affect steps taken by prospective victims to reduce the likelihood of victimization? Does civil commitment post EOS really incapacitate those most deserving?

When one gets past the stereotypes and the emotion, policies relating to sex offenders have created solutions for a problem that does not exist. First, there are a host of problems with registries created to track sex offenders. About one-third of offenders are not even included in publicly available registries. Registries fail to adequately differentiate among offenders’ risk for reoffending. Rules put into place in an effort to standardize registry information have seemingly made the situation worse.

Second, there is little empirical evidence indicating that sex offenders recidivate at a rate that warrants the kind of monitoring they receive. While consensus does not exist among researchers, there is reasonable evidence showing that sex offenders reoffend at levels that are often lower than non-sex offenders and do not necessarily commit another sex crime. A related aspect here is wide variability in the accuracy of predictive tools to assess sex offenders risk for recidivism. For example, a recent national-level study of high risk offenders found systematic variability in the rate of sexual recidivism based on structured risk assessment instruments. By itself, being classified as “high risk” for recidivism could not generate with any confidence the particular probability of repeat sexual offending by any one offender.

Third, and people rarely want to discuss this, are the problems created from being labeled a “sex offender” including difficulties in finding housing or employment, difficulties in developing and keeping relationships with other people, barriers to parenting (e.g., attending school-sponsored events), and backlash from neighbors. According to Frenzel and colleagues (2012) “Sex offenders, unlike other offenders, are not only punished by the sentencing sanction, but also by the stigmatization of the public registration process and community members’ knowledge of them being on the registry. As previous research has found, community notification and registration efforts have created collateral consequences for registrants as well as their families.”

Finally, there’s also an issue of fairness as well. Is it fair that our 17-year-old “sexter” should be forced to register annually for upwards of 10 years while career burglars who likely pose a much greater danger to the community once released from prison are “free” to live out their lives with far less interference from the state?


Sex offenders are stereotypically viewed as “monsters” from whom the state is obligated to protect its citizens. As a result, policies deemed a solution to the problem of sex offenders have been freely adopted by all levels of government despite scientific evidence indicating that the theories upon which they are based are flawed and specific policies like registration, notification, and civil commitment have unintended and gravely negative consequences for offenders that may actually cause them to engage in further criminality.

© Earl Babbie 2016, all rights reserved  Terms of Service/Privacy

Further Reading

Garland, D. (2002). The culture of control. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Jenkins, P. (1998). Moral panic: Changing concepts of the child molester in modern America. New Haven, Ct: Yale University Press.

Leon, C. (2011). Sex fiends, perverts, and pedophiles: Understanding sex crime policy in America. New York: New York University Press.

Zilney, L. & Zilney, L. (2009). Perverts and predators. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group.


SoluProb™: Conversion Therapy


Presumed Problem

People are choosing to become homosexual when they should choose heterosexuality.


Religious and secular programs of Conversion Therapy (aka Reparative Therapy) aim to turn homosexuals into heterosexuals.


Homosexuality has been viewed variously in different societies and at different times in history, but it has been viewed negatively through most of American history. That negative view has been accompanied by a variety of punishments. In colonial Virginia, death was a possible punishment for being gay. Thomas Jefferson sought to replace that punishment with castration, but he was unsuccessful.


By comparison, Conversion Therapy or Reparative Therapy might seem a gentler solution: help gays switch to being straight. A variety of religioussad-gay-guys and secular programs were popular during the second half of the 20th century and into the beginning of the 21st. In some cases. individuals voluntarily sought conversion as an escape from the stigma of being gay. And in other cases the impetus came from the parents of gays.

The methods used in the attempt to change sexual orientations included “pray away the gay,” the use of prostitutes, electric shocks, hormones, and a long list of psychotherapeutic and psychoanalytic techniques. During much of this period, homosexuality was officially regarded as a mental illness by many medical and psychological associations.



Was the Problem Real?

In 2001, the U. S. Surgeon General reported that there was no evidence supporting the possibility that sexual orientation can be changed, but that conclusion was contradicted by a psychoanalytic study by Dr. Robert Spitzer. The latter study was based on interviews with some 200 participants in conversion therapy programs, and Spitzer took their comments as evidence that sexual conversion was, in fact, possible. Ten years later, however, Dr. Spitzer retracted his conclusions and apologized to any gay people who had been hurt by his earlier, widely publicized, study. He acknowledged problems in his methodology and rejected his earlier findings.

It is now almost universally agreed within the medical and psychological communities that sexual orientation is no more a matter of choice than being right-handed or left-handed.( Interestingly, some lefties recall their parents trying to force them to switch to being right-handed. And that was about as successful as converting gays to straights.)

The Human Rights Campaign has compiled a list of some of the professional associations who have denied the efficacy of conversion therapy.

  • American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry
  • American Academy of Pediatrics
  • American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
  • American College of Physicians
  • American Counseling Association
  • American Medical Association
  • American Psychiatric Association
  • American Psychoanalytic Association
  • American Psychological Association
  • American School Counselor Association
  • American School Health Association
  • National Association of Social Workers
  • Pan American Health Organization (PAHO): Regional Office of the World Health Organization
  • Just the Facts Coalition


At the same time, former leaders of conversion therapy programs have publicly renounced such attempts to get the gay out. Nine such ex-leaders prepared a formal apology to the gay community. Time Magazine described the experience of one of the former leaders.

Yvette Schneider spent a little over a decade as an active participant and a leader in the gay conversion therapy movement. In other words, she spent years working to convince men and women that they could stop being gay, lesbian, or bisexual through suppression and therapy.

But in 2010 she began to see things differently. At the time, Schneider did not share her feelings with her colleagues, but that same year, she was let go from her position as the director of the women’s ministry at Exodus International— a leading sexual orientation conversion organization that closed in 2013.

“I realized that no one was actually saying, ‘I’m straight,” she explains, referring to the post-treatment disposition of the Exodus clients she saw. “You can go through years of therapy and what are you left with—shame?”

Here’s the bottom line. If you are secular in such matters, biology makes some people heterosexual and others homosexual. If you are religious, then God made that choice. Conversion therapy is a solution without a problem.


Negative Consequences

In their letter apology, the nine former conversion therapy leaders nicely summed up the kind of damage done by this unnecessary “solution.”

Conversion therapy reinforces internalized homophobia, anxiety, guilt and depression. It leads to self-loathing and emotional and psychological harm when change doesn’t happen,” the letter reads. “We now stand united in our conviction that conversion therapy is not “therapy,” but is instead both ineffective and harmful.

Not only has conversion therapy damage those who were subjected to it, but it perpetuates the view that homosexuality is wrong, evil, sinful, and unnatural. That is the view supports actions like those of the thugs who murdered Matthew Shephard, the Orlando 49, or countless others who have been shamed, beaten, or killed for the sexual orientation they were dealt at birth.

© Earl Babbie 2016, all rights reserved  Terms of Service/Privacy


Wikipedia on Conversion Therapy

Human Rights Campaign

Time Magazine

SoluProb™: Restrict Transgender Use of Bathrooms

 Let me know what you think 


Presumed Problem

Transgender people will use public restrooms inconsistent with their biological sex, making others uncomfortable or fearful. Specifically, biologically-male trans women may molest little girls.


Laws, such as North Carolina’s HB2, requiring people to use public restrooms consistent with the sex originally recorded on their birth certificates.


While this issue is in flux, anything I write now may be out of date by the time you read it. However, this is such a perfect example of a soluprob that I can’t let it go by unheralded.

I’ll admit it: things were simpler when I was growing up. Every school I attended had a “Boys Room” and a “Girls Room,” and nobody had any confusion over which to use, even though boys, girls, men, and women all used the same bathroom at home. Similarly, boys liked girls, and girls liked boys, except when the girls had cooties or the boys were doodoo heads. In recent decades, many of these old certainties have dissolved. It’s not so much that people have changed, but that we’ve begun acknowledging  and even accepting variations that were there all along.

Other posts on this website deal with homosexuality and same-sex marriage, but the issue of transgender individuals is different. When Igirl-tree was young, some girls were labeled “tomboys,” meaning they engaged in the rough and tumble behavior more associated with boys. While parents might sometimes be concerned, it was generally felt that such girls would eventually “grown out of it,” that they were just “going through a phase.” That was often true.

Today we realize matters are more complex than earlier assumed. Some
boys feel in their bones that they should have been girls. They share the female-machineinterests and desires more associated with girls, even though they are likely to suffer ridicule or worse if they play with dolls and wear dresses and make-up. And there are individuals born biologically female, who are certain they were meant to be male. And they are clear it is not a phase they are going through. It lasts well into adulthood.

In 2015, this issue was brought front and center when former athlete Bruce Jenner announced to the world that he/she was now Caitlyn. She was not gay, saying she still was sexually attracted to women rather than men, but she just felt more natural dressing and acting like a woman. Some transgender individuals carry their gender modification to the extent of surgery that converts them from one biological sex to another. These are transsexuals, but not all transgender individuals go that far.

As American society has grown generally more tolerant of human diversity in recent decades, the possibility of living a transgendered life without fuss has increased. It has become more feasible to operate in society with no one being the wiser. There is probably an analogy to be drawn to light-skinned African-Americans “passing” as white earlier in our history.

None of this means that everyone is comfortable with people choosing to change genders. The existing discomfort has focussed primarily on the use of gym facilities and public restrooms. We’ll examine the latter in this post. I think it’s fair to say that the issue is specifically one of concern over trans women using Women’s Rooms. Some women say the thought makes them uncomfortable or even fearful, and some men express concern that their daughters may be molested.

As I am writing this, the most notorious representation of this “problem”nc-capitol and its “solution” is North Carolina’s HB2 (Session Law 2016-3):


The meat of the law specifies:

Public Agencies shall require every multiple occupancy bathroom or changing facility to be designated for and only used by persons based on their biological sex.

The law also specifies that no one may bring suit against the law on the basis of discrimination, nor are municipalities permitted to institute non-discriminatory laws permitting transgender use of public toilets. At the same time the law reminds us that the State of North Carolina is wholly opposed to discrimination on the basis of biological sex.

The law was subsequently declared in violation of federal civil rights legislation, but the drama is not over. Before leaving the Republican presidential primary, Senator Ted Cruz expressed his whole-hearted opposition to transgender bathroom privileges, while Donald Trump initially seemed sympathetic to transgenders’ full bladders, but he quickly changed positions when attacked from the Right.

As I write these words, North Carolina and the Federal government are suing and counter-suing each other, respectively, and students are being advised to take pepper spray, looking for a problem to solve. It’s clear that this post will be revised more than once in the future, just as it’s clear that HB2 was a soluprob: A “Solution” without a “Problem.”

Was the Problem Real?

Specification of the presumed problem has pretty much lingered as a matter of “you know.” In comments online, some women have said they would feel uncomfortable if a “man” came into a Women’s Room while they were using it, but it’s difficult to pin the discomfort down further than that.

I am told that all public restrooms for women consist of enclosed stalls. Thus it seems unlikely that a trans woman using a young-manWomen’s Room would result in the display or viewing of opposite-sex genitalia. Apparently there’s something about just knowing that a biological man just entered the facility, but it seems unlikely that you would know. No woman is likely to call the police if her public facility is visited by the person to the right of this paragraph.

girl-with-cigarOn the other hand, I could understand that reaction if this guy came breezing in. As you undoubtedly figured out, the person above is a trans woman, while the one to the left is a trans man. More to the point, I imagine that those women who say they would feel uncomfortable if a trans woman entered their Women’s Restroom, have already had that happen, more than once, but they didn’t know it. Hence, they weren’t uncomfortable after all.

Going a step beyond mere discomfort, as I’ve mentioned, there are some women, who are genuinely fearful. There’s no denying the very real problem of men abusing women, sexually and otherwise. However, I can find no record of a trans woman molesting women or girls in a public restroom.

A recent web poster points out that more Republican ministers have been arrested for sexual offenses in public restrooms. Without denying that the fears some women have are real for them, those fears are apparently groundless, like the fear of zombies or vampires. This is  clearly a “solution” without a “problem.” In fact, it could be argued that transgender use of public restrooms was not even seen as a problem until laws like HB2 drew attention to the matter and made it a political issue.

Negative Consequences

While a law discriminating against any particular group of people has negative consequences for members of that group, substantial public damage has been done to the Great State of North Carolina and its economy. Seeing the law as blatantly anti-LGBT, numerous individuals and organizations have retaliated against the state.

Bruce Springsteen, Mumford & Sons, Ringo Starr, and other performers cancelled concerts scheduled in North Carolina. Others, like Jimmy Buffett and Greg Allman said they would keep scheduled concert dates, but they were very vocal in condemning the law. Cyndi Lauper said she would perform as scheduled but would donate all profits to efforts to repeal the law.

Prior to the law’s passage PayPal was planning to build a $3.6 million dollar operations center in Charlotte. Those planned were cancelled in protest of the law. Deutsche Bank had planned an expansion that would have provide 250 new jobs to the state. Plan cancelled.

The Center for Social Responsibility reported that nearly 1,700 companies were withdrawing from North Carolina in protest to the law.

On May 4, 2016, the U. S. Justice Department ruled HB2 in violation of the U. S. Civil Rights Act and Title IX. That circumstance would result in North Carolina losing all federal grants, totaling billions of dollars. As noted above, this issue is still in flux.

The issue may ultimately be resolved as suggested by comedian and social critic, Bill Maher: “If you look like a woman, use the women’s room, if you look like a man, use the men’s room. If you’re a bearded dude in a dress, just hold it until you get home.” When you think about it, Maher’s prescription is simply for a continuation of past practices.


© Earl Babbie 2016, all rights reserved  Terms of Service/Privacy



Hector Cruz, “Bill Maher slams self-loathing white liberals on Real Time” –


SoluProb™: Outlaw IUDs

Let me know what you think 


Presumed Problem

Some fear that an Intra-uterine Devise (IUD) is an abortifacient, that it induces abortions.


Those opposed to abortion have argued that IUDs should be outlawed.


imageLike many states–perhaps all–Colorado had a serious problem with unintended teen pregnancies. But unlike other states, Colorado had found a powerful solution.

Going into the 2014 elections, Colorado had made remarkable progress in lowering teen pregnancies: down 40% between 2009 and 2013. Caitlin Schmidt (2014) explained how they accomplished this feat:

Colorado’s Family Planning Initiative provided funding for 68 family clinics across the state to offer around 30,000 intrauterine devices and implants to young women at low or no cost. An IUD is a small T-shaped device that is inserted into the uterus by a doctor. They’re either wrapped in copper or contain hormones, which kill sperm Mirena_IntraUterine_Systemand make the uterine lining too thin for egg implantation. Because IUDs stay in place for five to 10 years, they’re easier to comply with than taking daily birth control pills.

An anonymous donor funded the $23 million initiative, which also provided training, outreach and technical assistance to clinics statewide.

The reduction in teen pregnancies, of course, also meant a reduction in abortions. It seemed like a win-win situation. However, as the donor-funding was due to run out, Colorado politicians began debating whether the state should appropriate money to continue the remarkably successful program.

This is an appropriate time to mention a class of problems/solutions that do not qualify as soluprobs. There are any number of cases where the problem is real but the solution is a imagefailure.Consider abstinence-only “sex education” programs in the nation’s schools. Despite the millions still being spent on programs that simply urge teens not to have sex, there is no peer-reviewed research indicating such programs have any positive effect. However, the problem of teen pregnancy was and is a real one, and the Colorado program of education and IUDs was a huge success.

Opposition to continuing the program did not seem primarily financial. Some anti-abortion groups objected to the use of IUDs in the program, linking the devices to abortion. As the debate heated up, the (unsuccessful) GOP candidate for governor, Bob Beauprez, famously said, IUDs imagewere abortifacients, which raised the image of women as “walking abortion factories.” Since he and his supporters were dead set against abortion, it was clear that IUDs had to go. Ultimately, the anti-abortion faction was successful in blocking public funding for the program, though private funds were found to continue it. IUDs, per se, were not outlawed.

Kaiser Health News explained the last minute salvation of the program this way:

The rescue of the highly-touted program comes after Republican lawmakers earlier this year killed a bill that would have provided $5 million in public funding for IUDs and other long-acting reversible contraceptives for low-income teens and young women. Colorado health officials estimate that the IUDs and other devices have saved at least $79 million in Medicaid costs for unintended births, but some opponents claimed that IUDs are abortifacients and refused to approve funding in the Republican-controlled Senate.

imageThis was the same logic used by Hobby Lobby in their refusal to let employees receive IUDs and some other contraceptives under the Affordable Care Act. Being complicit in their employees using IUDs allegedly violated their corporate religious values. The U. S. Supreme Court majority agreed with that reasoning.

Was the Problem Real?

Thus the most effective contraceptive short of sterilization, first used in the 1900s and popularized from the 1950s on in the United States, is now under widespread attack. The medical community has been quick to respond, pointing out that IUDs prevent fertilization and implantation, so there is nothing to abort. In sum, the IUD is no more an abortion procedure Tension-headachethan masturbation, a priest’s vow of celibacy, or “Not tonight, dear. I have a headache.”

For the time being, the proposed “solution” to the imagined problem represented by IUDs has been averted in Colorado, but there is no telling what will happen when the private donations run out.

Negative Consequences

Since IUDs were not actually outlawed in this instance, the major, potential damage was avoided. Young women in Colorado are still allowed to avoid unintended pregnancies and the unprepared motherhood, end of school, or abortions that are common consequences of unsafe sex.

However, the campaign of misinformation about IUDs may well cause some young women to avoid this most effective contraceptive method. And an upsurge of anti-IUD actions somewhere down the road, based on the same misinformation, is always a haunting possibility. And if private funding eventually runs out, this award-winning program, which has prevented a great many abortions, may fall by the wayside.

© Earl Babbie 2016, all rights reserved  Terms of Service/Privacy


SIECUS, “Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs” — — accessed October 3, 2015

Katie Kerwin McCrimmon, “Medicaid Drives Historic Coverage Gains In Colorado,” Kaiser Health News Colorado September 1, 2015 — — accessed October 3, 2015


SoluProb™: Banning Same-Sex Marriage

Let me know what you think 


Presumed Problem

If gays are allowed to marry, that will destroy the whole institution of marriage.

Conservative writer Phyllis Scholarly saw the threat of same-sex marriage as a threat to Western Civilization.

Knowing how at odds same-sex marriage is with our legal and cultural traditions, we should not be surprised that some homosexual activists are trying to get rid of marriage all together. Same-sex marriage isn’t about granting equality of human rights. Gays are not denied any human rights. Same-sex marriage is about getting rid of the traditional values and institutions that have guided the Western world, including America.

In the same vein, Kansas Representative Tim Huelskamp said the ultimate goal of same-sex marriage was  to “destroy the institution of marriage altogether by diminishing it to whatever type of contract people sign on to. . .”


Limit marriage to heterosexual couples.



I’ve been unable to find state laws limiting marriage to monogamous heterosexual couples; it would seem that gays knew better than to ask. However, in the mid-1990s, there was a flurry of state Constitutional Amendments that limited marriage to opposite-sex couples.

Then, in 1996, the U. S. Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as a federal prohibition of same-sex marriage. There was more than a little irony in the naming of the law. Certainly the institution of marriage has threats it might be defended against–divorce, adultery,capitol
incest, desertion, and spousal abuse to name a few–but DOMA was not intended to address any of those marital problems. Representative Bob Barr (R-GA) was the author and primary manager of DOMA in the Congress. At the time, Barr was on his third marriage, and Washington insiders joked about which marriage the Congressman was defending.

DOMA, like the state amendments that preceded and followed it, had one intention: to guard against the specter of same-sex marriage.

The wide-spread prohibition of gay marriage began to unravel in 2000. Vermont broke the ice by instituting a new institution: the “civil union,” which would grant gay couples many of the same rights as heterosexual couples; it just wouldn’t be called marriage. In 2004, Massachusetts broke the ice further by legalizing same-sex marriage. Period. Other states followed suit. There were limits to how much individual state laws could achieve, however, since a marriage performed in one jurisdiction might very well not be recognized in others.

lesbians-petalsThe federal restriction, DOMA, was increasingly challenged in court. In 2011, the Obama administration announced that they regarded DOMA as unconstitutional and said they would not defend it in court.

This all came to a head in 2013, when the U. S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of United States v. Windsor. Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer had married in Canada in 2007 and subsequently lived in New York state. When Spyer died in 2009, her estate went to Windsor, her spouse. Had they been a heterosexual, married couple, Windsor would have enjoyed the federal tax exemption libertygranted to a surviving spouse. Since they were not of different sexes and thus were not regarded as “married” by the U. S. federal government, Windsor was charged hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal tax. Two federal courts ruled in Windsor’s favor, and the Supremes finally agreed as well. More specifically, five of the justices favored Windsor’s case and that was enough to overthrow the Defense of Marriage Act.

By the time of the Supreme Court’s DOMA decision in 2013, more and more states had legalized same-sex marriages, as legally no different from opposite-sex marriages.  Eventually, 37 states, the District of Columbia, and an assortment of counties welcomed same-sex marriages. It was difficult to calculate how many same-sex marriages have been formed, due to differences in the way the fifty states compile and report marriage statistics. However, in June 2013, the Pew Research Center gave a conservative estimate of over 70,000. It is certainly well beyond that number today.

SCOTUSThis pattern of gradual change was dramatically altered on June 26, 2015, when the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that states could not ban same-sex marriage, and gay marriage became legal +, letting the USA join 20 other nations in that respect. To be precise, again, five of the nine justices ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, while the other four dissented with varying degrees of outrage.

Was the Problem Real?

We began with the expressed fear that legalizing same-sex marriage would destroy the institution of marriage altogether. gay-guys-loveBy now, there have so many legal, gay marriages that we are in a position to assess the damages wrought by this dramatic social experiment with equality.

The most direct threat to the institution of marriage, ironically, has come from politicians and county clerks who were so deeply opposed to same sex marriage that they attempted to bring a halt to the issuance of any marriage licenses, regardless of the applicants’ sexual orientation. Thus far, those attempts have failed, and couples, both straight and gay, are still tying the knots.

My research allows me to provide the following list of heterosexual marriages that have been tragically destroyed by the legalization of same-sex marriage:

1. ______________________?
gay-wedding-cakeI should acknowledge the rumor about a baker who had to work so many late nights to meet the expanded demand for wedding cakes that his wife left him. I cannot confirm that story, however.

I think the best diagnosis of the perceived threat appeared on a web poster: “If your marriage is threatened by marriage equality, then one of you is gay.”


Negative Consequences

I’ve already touched on some of the negative consequences of the ban on gay marriage above. Loving couples committed to each other were denied the many benefits of marriage. Once they began requesting permission to formalize their relationships in marriage, the refusal was often served up with insults, hatred, and humiliation.

Even when gay identity became more common and marginally more acceptable, the citadel of marriage remained unavailable. Gay couples sad-lesbianslived together and sometimes formed life-long commitments, but they were “significant others,” “partners,” “longtime companions,” or “special friends”—not spouses. Some degree of embarrassment over second-class citizenship was inevitable.

While same-sex couples could have public “commitment ceremonies” in front of family and friends to declare their lifelong devotion to each other,
they typically were denied benefits accruing to “married” couples. Such benefits included inheritance, coverage on a spouse’s health plan,
receiving death benefits, and other economic entitlements. In a medical emergency, they might be denied the right to visit an ailing partner in the hospital.

Although same-sex marriage is now the law of the land in America and many other countries, legality does not necessarily imply acceptance. Anti-homosexual prejudice is not susceptible to a Supreme Court ruling, but the Court’s action helps to erode the remaining disapproval and hate. Those couples first seeking same-sex marriages, ironically, were reminiscent of couples in earlier times who sought approval for mixed-religion or mixed-race marriages. One can only guess at what the exclusionary urge will forbid next.


© Earl Babbie 2016, all rights reserved  Terms of Service/Privacy



Artwork from

“Schlafly: Gay Marriage Will Ruin Western Civilization,” Right Wing Watch, October 15, 2014 — — accessed July 31, 2015
Lauretta Brown, “Huelskamp: Final Goal of Gay ‘Marriage’ is to Destroy the Institution of Marriage,”, June 20, 2014 — — accessed July 31, 2015




SoluProb™: Anti-Sodomy Laws

Let me know what you think 


(Revised September 20, 2016)

Presumed Problem

Some believe that the acceptance of homosexuals as worthy members of society will spell the downfall of Western Civilization, Culture and Values.


Anti-sodomy laws, outlawing oral and anal sex, have been intended as an indirect method of outlawing homosexuality.


Technically, sodomy refers to oral sex, anal sex, and bestiality–all of which are outlawed by anti-sodomy laws. The first of the trio would apply to gays, lesbians, and heterosexual couples. The second pretty much exempts lesbians, and the third doesn’t usually figure into the attempt to prohibit homosexuality.

Some have feared that the open acceptance of homosexuality will lead to its spread, especially through the indoctrination of youth, and will destroy “everything we hold dear.” However, the problem has often been expressed in terms of sexual practices rather than sexual orientation. Those defending Louisiana’s anti-sodomy law called sodomy “dangerous, unhealthy, and immoral,” illustrating the mixture of concerns.

While many opponents of same-sex relations often claim a Christian basis for their actions and concerns, the specific justifications are elusive. Jesus had nothing to say about homosexuality as far as we know, and the few Old Testament condemnations of homosexuality are outnumbered by the justifications of slavery, polygamy, and the gay-guysmistreatment of women. In the New Testament, we find the Apostle Paul speaking against homosexuality at times, but he was equally concerned with wives surrendering to the authority of their husbands. In other words, while it is possible to find Biblical injunctions against homosexuality, it’s not a major theme. It didn’t make the Ten Commandments, for example, though adultery did.

In pursuing this issue, it is useful to distinguish between having homosexual sex and identification as being a homosexual. The former has been reasonably common throughout history. In both Greek and Roman societies, for example, wealthy men could claim the right to have sex with young boys to augment the sex they had with their wives and their concubines. No one called them names or questioned their masculinity.

In some societies, same-sex sexual encounters have been ritualized as lesbian-couplerites of passage. Some societies mark passage to male adulthood with a ritual deflowering of boys by older men. When I was a university professor, one of my female students introduced me to the term, LUG: Lesbian Until Graduation. The number of people having same-sex sexual encounters has always exceeded the number being identified or self-identifying as solely homosexual or even bisexual.

All states in the United States have had anti-sodomy laws in the past, but
in 2003, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled such laws unconstitutional. Today, 12 states still have anti-sodomy laws on the books, but they are rarely, if ever, enforced. As of this writing, Louisiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Kansas have anti-sodomy laws prohibiting oral sex, but necrophilia—sex with a corpse—is legal. (Between consenting adults, presumably.)

Was the Problem Real?     

Let’s examine some of the “problems” that led to the “solution” of anti-sodomy laws. First, let’s consider oral sex.

In December 2013 the National Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyle (NATSAL) gay-men-champagne
survey announced that in all age groups except the over-65s, the majority of people now say that they have oral sex sometimes.

For instance, 71 per cent of young adults (age 16 to 24) reported that they’d had oral sex in the last year. And 80 per cent of 25 to 34 year olds said the same thing.

So this is hardly the behavior of a tiny, perverted minority. It’s certainly
not limited to gays. As to being “unhealthy,” experts do not completely agree, but the general conclusion is that oral sex is safer than vaginal or anal sex when it comes to the transmission of disease. Moreover, the risk of pregnancy is, well, pretty slim.

lesbians-petalsMost would regard vaginal and anal sex as more disease-risky, particularly when tissue lesions occur. (The same would be true of oral sex, but it’s much less likely.) And in all cases, the risks of disease are radically reduced by the use of condoms. There is no agreement that anal sex is more dangerous than vaginal sex.

Since morality is in the eye of the condemner, I’ll leave the question of whether oral and anal sex are “immoral” to the moralists. However, I think we can gauge the danger of homosexuality taking over in America. Not really. If it seems as though there are more gays than there used to be, that is probably because it is safer for them to “come out.”

But has the growing acceptance of homosexuality in America produced the feared breakdown of Western Civilization, Culture, and Values? To answer, we need to specify what is meant by that august phrase. Here’s one statement:

The great ideas of the West—rationalism, self-criticism, the disinterested search for truth, the separation of church and state, the rule of law, equality before the law, freedom of conscience and expression, human rights, liberal democracy—together constitute quite an achievement, surely, for any civilization. This set of principles remains the best and perhaps the only means for all people, no matter what race or creed, to live in freedom and reach their full potential.

The above quotation is from Ibn Warraq, a self-described “Muslim Apostate,” challenged in a London debate to describe Western Values in no more than eight minutes. This excerpt is how he began. It is worth noting that his full presentation largely contrasted Western Values with those of other societies around the world, including those operating under Sharia Law.

Warraq’s description would fit well with the American Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights in the U. S. Constitution. Whether we reflect on the development of “Western Civilization” broadly or limit our view to the United States, I would suggest the civilizing process rests fundamentally on (1) replacing brutality with civility in social relations and (2) broadening the definition of who is a worthy member of society.

When the American Founders declared that “all men were created equal,” they actually meant men. It was too obvious. perhaps, for them to specify that they meant all white men. Over time, however, we have seen the definition of equal Americans to include people of color and women. The process has often been slow and sometimes violent, but the direction of change has been steadily toward inclusiveness.

Ironically, the exclusion of homosexuals from full membership in American society is a reflection of the older exclusivity that once barred women and racial minorities. The anti-sodomy laws were actually a challenge to our fundamental values rather than a protection. The greater acceptance of homosexuals represents a further realization of those fundamental values.


Negative Consequences

Gays and lesbians have suffered everything from humiliation and discrimination to arrest and imprisonment and even violence and death. The early Commonwealth of Virginia prescribed death as the maximum penalty for homosexuality. Thomas Jefferson, evidently thinking that too harsh, proposed in 1779 that the maximum punishment be changed to castration. However, the state legislature refused that bleeding-heart, liberal proposal, preferring to keep death on the table.

While the official sanctioning of death for homosexuality is a thing of the past in the USA, things are grimmer for gays elsewhere in the world. Homosexual acts can be punished by death in:

Saudi Arabia
United Arab Emirates

You may notice a pattern in this list of countries: they are all African or Middle Eastern and predominantly Muslim. In several cases, outlawing homosexual relations is a part of that country’s version of sharia law. There is a special irony in this, since I would assert (without hard data) that those Americans most opposed to homosexuality are also the most worried about the prospects for sharia law in the USA, a topic addressed elsewhere in this website.

As we’ve seen, there are still places in the world where people can be executed simply because they are gay. They have not stolen from or assaulted anyone. They haven’t revealed state secrets or yelled “fire” in a crowded theater. They can be officially executed for no ‘crime’ but their sexual orientation.

Matthew_ShepardEven where homosexuals are not being executed by the government, even today, they may be killed by extra-legal actions. Matthew Shephard is a name that should never be forgotten. On October 6, 1998, the young University of Wyoming student was at the Fireside Lounge in Laramie, when two other young men pretended to be gay and lured him outside with the intention of robbing him. Once outside, their greed turned to rage and they began beating and torturing Shephard. Eventually, they tied their comatose victim crucifixion-style to a fence and left him there to die. He was discovered 18 hours after his beating and was taken to a hospital where he died six days later.

Matthew Shephard’s brutal murder was so ugly that it attracted wide attention from the media and the public. Almost everyone who learned of the murder was horrified, though some celebrated it as God’s will. And Matthew Shepard was not the first nor the last gay to be killed by homophobic thugs in America.

On June 11, 2016, the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, was the filled with merriment as a gathering of over 300 predominantly Hispanic gays and lesbians enjoyed each others’ company. Then, in the early morning hours of the 12th, a lone gunman, armed with a semi-automatic rifle and semi-automatic pistol, entered the club and opened fire. By the time he finished, 49 were dead and another 53 wounded. Wikipedia summed it up thusly:

It was the deadliest mass shooting by a single shooter, the deadliest incident of violence against LGBT people in United States history, and the deadliest terrorist attack in the United States since the September 11 attacks in 2001.

Death is perhaps the most dramatic negative consequence of the sad-gay-guys“solution” of stamping out homosexuality. Gays have been and still are discriminated against in a variety of ways: in employment, commercial service, and just about anywhere people interact with one another in society. The persisting reflection of the anti-sodomy mentality still treats gays as second-class citizens, somewhat similar to the treatment of racial and ethnic minorities.

© Earl Babbie 2016, all rights reserved  Terms of Service/Privacy



Leviticus 18:22 says it’s an abomination for a man to lie with another man, as with a woman. He is silent with regard to lesbians, though women are not to have sex with animals.

For example, Romans 1:26-28. Paul prescribes death for such acts, but he prescribes the same for slanderers, gossips, and many other miscreants.   I Corinthians 7:2-16.

Terri Ruper, “Here are the 10 countries where homosexuality may be punished by death,” Washington Post, February 24, 2014 — — accessed August 1, 2015.

Wikipedia, “Sodomy laws in the United States,” — — accessed August 1, 2015

Adam Weinstein, “Here Are the States Where Blowjobs Are Illegal But Necrophilia’s Cool,” Gawker, April 16, 2014 — — Accessed August 5, 2015.

Ibn Warraq, The Superiority of Western Values in Eight Minutes