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Stereotypes challenged

Coming Out Week at MU ends with a speech on morality and homosexuality
Monday, October 18, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:59 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

A nationally known speaker on homosexuality and morality told an MU audience last week that how people think and talk about gays and lesbians leads to false assumptions about homosexual relationships.

“Heterosexual people have relationships while homosexual people have sex. Heterosexual people have lives while homosexual people have lifestyles,” said John Corvino, a professor of philosophy and ethics at Wayne State University in Detroit. Corvino’s speech Thursday night in Allen Auditorium ended Coming Out Week activities on campus.

Corvino, who has lectured throughout the country on the subject for a dozen years, said he tries to challenge misconceptions held within the gay and lesbian community throughout his lecture.

“I want people to make sure that they have good reasons for the moral judgments they make surrounding the issue,” said Corvino, editor of “Same Sex: Debating the Ethics, Science, and Culture of Homosexuality” and regular contributor to “Between the Lines,” a weekly publication in Michigan dedicated to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues.

Corvino addressed four commonly held beliefs that lead to homosexuality being viewed as immoral: that the Bible condemns homosexuality; that it doesn’t apply to everybody; that it is unnatural, and that it is harmful.

Corvino said homosexuality has been blamed for many problems in the world, from disease and suicide to the breakdown of families and the terrorist attacks of Sept.11. He said that when a crime is committed by a gay person, the action is generalized to the entire gay population. But that isn’t the case for heterosexuals.

“Why does straight crime not reflect on heterosexuality, but homosexual crime reflects on homosexuality?” he said.

Corvino also said that homosexuality can be seen as immoral because it is not common.

“However, most people don’t write with their left hand, play the mandolin or read Sanskrit,” he said. “A big part of the reason people object to homosexuality is because it’s unfamiliar. A big part of the solution is getting to know real-life gay and lesbian people.”

Corvino said morality isn’t exclusive to homosexuality but applies to how people treat each other overall.

“I’m asking you to judge people not on whom they love, but whether they love,” he said. “That’s what a moral life is all about.”

Corvino said in an interview before the lecture that although he enjoys speaking to college audiences, he likes it when his message reaches beyond the campus.

“It’s actually nice when it goes beyond local college people to people of the community who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity for such discussion of philosophical issues,” he said.

One community member was Clayton Hayes, who attended with his wife, Linda. He said he was interested in the lecture because of Corvino’s renowned speaking reputation.

There was a more personal reason as well: His son is gay.

“I’m here to learn,” said Hayes. “I think education is probably the key to getting success.”


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