Scrutinizing Immutability: Research on Sexual Orientation and U.S. Legal Advocacy for Sexual Minorities

52 Pages Posted: 11 May 2017 Last revised: 8 Jun 2017

See all articles by Clifford Rosky

Clifford Rosky

University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law

Lisa Diamond

University of Utah

Date Written: January 1, 2016

Abstract

We review scientific research and legal authorities to argue that the immutability of sexual orientation should no longer be invoked as a foundation for the rights of individuals with same-sex attractions and relationships (i.e., sexual minorities). On the basis of scientific research as well as U.S. legal rulings regarding lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) rights, we make three claims: First, arguments based on the immutability of sexual orientation are unscientific, given what we now know from longitudinal, population-based studies of naturally occurring changes in the same-sex attractions of some individuals over time. Second, arguments based on the immutability of sexual orientation are unnecessary, in light of U.S. legal decisions in which courts have used grounds other than immutability to protect the rights of sexual minorities. Third, arguments about the immutability of sexual orientation are unjust, because they imply that same-sex attractions are inferior to other-sex attractions, and because they privilege sexual minorities who experience their sexuality as fixed over those who experience their sexuality as fluid. We conclude that the legal rights of individuals with same-sex attractions and relationships should not be framed as if they depend on a certain pattern of scientific findings regarding sexual orientation.

Suggested Citation

Rosky, Clifford and Diamond, Lisa, Scrutinizing Immutability: Research on Sexual Orientation and U.S. Legal Advocacy for Sexual Minorities (January 1, 2016). 53 J. Sex Research 363 (2016); University of Utah College of Law Research Paper No. 212. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2965179

Clifford Rosky (Contact Author)

University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law ( email )

383 S. University Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0730
United States
(801) 581-7352 (Phone)

Lisa Diamond

University of Utah ( email )

1645 E. Campus Center
Salt Lake City, UT 84112
United States

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