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January 25, 2007

On Gay Sheep

The New York Times has an interesting article today concerning Dr. Charles Roselli's research on "what makes some sheep gay."  Roselli is looking at the physiological mechanisms that might be involved in this phenomenon.  This appears to be pretty routine stuff.  But when news of the research hit the 24-hour news circuit, it led to an explosion in protest against Roselli's presumed desire to identify the biological causes of "gayness" with the apparent intention of someday applying this knowledge to humans.  Many figured that the research might eventually be used to either make gay people straight or permit parents the ability to avoid having gay children in the first place.  In a somewhat odd take on the story, Dr. Paul Wolpe, from Penn., suggested that "If the mechanisms underlying sexual orientation can be discovered and manipulated ..., then the argument that sexual orientation is based in biology and is immutable 'evaporates.'"  In the law, of course, if sexual orientation is biologically based, this gives it an added boost to being considered an "immutable characteristic," and thus potentially worthy of heightened judicial protection under the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.  This logic suggests that if such biological characteristics became manipulable through technology they might lose their "immutability" status is a new one, and not one that the law is likely to contenance any time soon.  After all, gender itself is not immutable under this definition, and it receives heightened scrutiny.  Interesting stuff. See the Story Here.
--- DLF

January 25, 2007 | Permalink

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