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Back to the closet?

Will it ever be possible to force gays back into the closet? That rhetorical question is considered a crushing rejoinder when someone objects to the attempt to normalize homosexuality. Whoever is making the objection, it implies, is a typical reactionary—either he hasn’t thought things through, and is living in the past, or else he’s planning something really brutal and oppressive.

The answer, of course, is that it’s not a matter of force but of accepted public principle. On liberal principles the closeting of homosexuality is oppressive because it doesn’t belong in the closet—it’s as respectable as any other form of sexual expression. On traditional principles that make the sexual affiliation of men and women fundamental to social order, however, homosexuality is at odds with the kinds of connections that ought to exist among people. It’s treason against the social constitution. From that point of view it’s as bad as liberals think racism is. So if traditional views of sex come once again to prevail the closeting of homosexuality will be as natural as the closeting of hard core racism is today. Force, on the whole, will be aside the point.

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