Once again, Republicans have made a lame attempt to amend the Constitution to ban gay marriage.
Once again, referenda will appear on the ballot in various states not only to ban gay marriage but also to forbid gay adoption. Clearly, Republican Party strategists figure that this dying horse can be beaten for at least one more set of election victories.
They may be right.
There is a singular terror shadowing this issue that defies rational argument and defeats any appeal either to civil rights principles or to basic human empathy. It allows otherwise reasonable people to leap an intellectual abyss and convince themselves that gay rights encourages incest, bestiality and even teen pregnancy and that gay marriage somehow destabilizes heterosexual marriage.
So intense is this homo-terror that groups such as Focus on the Family, headed by anti-gay zealot James Dobson, conduct conferences around the country promoting the idea that gays can be changed into straight people, if only they are willing to get with the program.
One such conference recently was held in Silver Spring, where protesters waved signs pleading for tolerance and gays disputed the notion that they can be "converted."
But why is it even necessary to argue the point? Why is it necessary to accept the premise that heterosexuality is somehow ideal for everybody? (It's astonishing how many people who are gay and proud are adamant that they would "never choose to be gay.")
If one could choose, would it be wrong to take a same-sex partner, and, if so, why?
The paradox is that implicit in the effort to "convert" gays into straights is the suggestion that human sexual response has a fluidity to it that nobody seems to want to acknowledge.
OK, so we don't choose our sexual impulses the way we choose a pint of ice cream. But most gay people have had at least one or two relationships with partners of the opposite sex, experiences that are not necessarily fraught with the misery, angst and melodrama with which they are often portrayed.
It is also fairly common for prison inmates to form sexual and/or romantic liaisons with each other and then re-establish heterosexual relationships when they are released.
The question is not whether an individual can move between same-sex and opposite-sex attachments - we already know that people can and do, and this in no way need undercut the gay rights argument.
The real question should be: Why does it matter?
Because we also know this: Human beings can't be forced to fall in love with the "right" person, or, for that matter, to fall out of love with the "wrong" person. Even if Shakespeare had not taught us this, we would learn it from our own personal experience, sooner or later.
Could it be that the real fear is that human beings might escape a once-and-for-all definition in this regard and that that fear plagues folks on both sides of this issue?
If people in homosexual relationships are not necessarily inducted and initiated members of the "tribe," but simply individuals who have primary relationships with members of the same sex, much of the gay movement might see it as a loss.
That would be a shame, because it is the homophobes' case that would, under those circumstances, fall apart. They would lose their target. The "gay agenda" would evaporate into a sea of human beings of all stripes (it might even include some Republicans) who cannot be defined, categorized, separated from the rest of humanity and thereby disempowered.
Homosexuality is common in the animal kingdom, bisexuality even more so. Obviously, biology plays a heavy role in sexual destiny, but so do conditions and experiences (some species show increased homosexual behavior as their population becomes overcrowded relative to the food supply). Further, there is little evidence that other species banish and shame individual members of their kind for deviant sexual behavior.
There is another lesson about difference and its relative importance to human life that we might learn from the animal world. Not infrequently, an adult female of one species will end up nursing, nurturing and rearing orphaned offspring of another species - even when they are different creatures.
Dogs have nursed abandoned kittens, cats have raised squirrels, and wildlife and farm animals have been known to nurse and care for babies of another species. Kind of puts the efforts to ban gay people from adopting children in a different light, doesn't it?
Jill Raymond writes about gay and other issues. She lives in Silver Spring. Her e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.