how to spot the gay ones

You’ve probably already seen it by now, but James Dobson’s group, Focus on the Family, has just come out with a new, helpful parenting guide entitled, “Is My Child Becoming a Homosexual?” Among other things, it contains an indespensible list of warning signs that I’m going to print out right now and stick on my refrigerator door with one of our “Passion of the Christ” collectible magnets. Here are two of my favorites:

– A tendency to cry easily, be less athletic, and dislike the roughhousing that other boys enjoy.

– A susceptibility to be bullied by other boys, who may tease them unmercifully and call them “queer,” “fag” and “gay.”

That’s right, if bullies call your son gay, well, he probably is. And, the same’s probably true if he doesn’t excel at sports. (Can someone please call Linette and let her know that I’m apparently a flaming queen?)

So, I was just sitting here wondering if we could come up with a similar list of warning signs for an “Is My Child Becoming a Small-Minded Bigot?” brochure, or, better yet, a pamphlet entitled “Is My Child Becoming an Evangelical Extremist Nut?”

Here, to get us started, are the first few to pop into my head:

– Did he demand to be fed through a tube during the Terri Schiavo standoff?

– Does she have coloring books that show men and dinosaurs coexisting? (Flintstones products don’t count.)

– Does his tricycle have a bumper sticker that starts with “In Case of Rapture…”?

– Is he perhaps a bit too cozy with the mules?

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  1. anonymatt
    Posted August 11, 2005 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    This is getting into Jeff Foxworthy territory.

  2. Teddy Glass
    Posted August 11, 2005 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    Does she sleep with a picture of James Dobson under her pillow and fill her notebooks with his name, written in large balloon letters, inside of hearts?

  3. Posted August 11, 2005 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    Bullies are always the first to know. Or is it that they have special powers? Like Johnny Appleseed, they go about the land spreading gay seeds, handpicking whom they will turn into homosexuals with their taunts and bullying.

    Do these religious nuts even believe in genes?

  4. Shanster
    Posted August 11, 2005 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    I’m not convinced that homosexuality is inherited. I believe it is a choice. That said, I believe it is a protected choice, just like my right to choose my religion.

    If you want to claim that genes produce homosexuals, then I will conversely claim that my genes have determined my religious choice, so when you call evangelicals extremist nuts you are not engaging in debate, but hate speech.

    In general, is my dissent welcome on this site, or would you rather have this site be a Right-Bashing Rah-rah Leftist site? Seriously.

  5. Posted August 11, 2005 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    “Does he bully other boys, or tease them unmercifully and call them

  6. Shanster
    Posted August 11, 2005 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    Does he respect authority, even when he disagrees with it?

    Does she treat others kindly even when they mistreat her?

    Does he try to avoid profanity?

    Too serious?

    Does she shout “UNDER GOD” during the pledge and mock the others that don’t?

  7. be OH be
    Posted August 11, 2005 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    So why would anyone choose to be gay? What are the perks?

    I’m considering coming out on my next birthday but I want to make sure it’s the right descision.

    As far as the gene issue goes, I know there is ample documentation of homosexuality outside of the human species but I’m not aware of any naturally occuring evangelical lab rats being observed anywhere.

    And an obvious one for the brochure, “Does your child glean most of his or her information about the world from Fox News?”

  8. Shanster
    Posted August 11, 2005 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    People would choose to be gay for the same reason they choose anything.

    Why do men choose to cheat on their wives, even though they know it will bring ruin on them and their family? What are the perks?

    Why do people choose to use drugs?

    Why don’t some people use seat belts?

    People do what they want to do, then justify it.

  9. Posted August 11, 2005 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    Your genes determine your religious choice? Hahahahaahahahahaha. Sorry. When I see a bushman discovered in the deep outback who has never heard of Christianity preaching the teachings of Christ to the other “unenlightened” bushmen I’ll believe genetics can determine your religious choice.

  10. Teddy Glass
    Posted August 11, 2005 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    That’s hillarious, Collin.

    And good points Be-Oh-Be.

  11. Posted August 11, 2005 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    Shanster: Some possible perks…


    Try something new with someone new. To be “understood”. To feel “loved” again. Leave one relationship and get into another without that whole “dating” pain. Discover that you are in fact gay and your marriage is a sham.*


    To escape the horribleness of reality. To no longer be in pain. To get through the day. To speak with God. Because the shakes can be fun. Dying really, really skinny is the American dream.

    “seat belts?”

    Freedom to move around the car at will. Can moon someone if the mood strikes you. Far easier to position for oral sex while driving. Have a greater chance of being thrown clear of the flaming wreckage.

    “be gay”

    Have people insult you. Fear being alone with you. Beat the crap out of you. Possibly kill you. Wear fabulous clothing. Get your own parade. Have sex with someone built essentially like you.

    *Actually, thinking about it, the best people to ask about the perks of cheating on your spouse might be evangelists.

  12. Shanster
    Posted August 11, 2005 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    As pithy, hilarious, and adroit as your comments may be, you’re avoiding the issue. If genes determine religious choice, they would affect whether and to what extent one would believe in a deity. No one voted for Al Gore in the Presidential election of 1972, but that’s only because that choice was not available. People whose genes make them liberal would have chosen him over Nixon, given that choice. Fine, you don’t accept the idea that a gene produces a religious choice. We can’t go any further.

    Some people can certainly act gay without having the gene that you believe in. Someone could even claim to be gay, yet lack the gene. If someone shot him because he was gay, yet it was proven that he lacked the gene, would the killer still be guilty of a hate crime?

  13. Kristin
    Posted August 11, 2005 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    I can’t believe Mark doesn’t think Linette has noticed!

  14. be OH be
    Posted August 11, 2005 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    “People do what they want to do, then justify it.”

    Like hating homosexuals and then citing a passage from a religious text to justify it?

  15. dorothy
    Posted August 11, 2005 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    being gay is NOT a choice. i have a close relative who is gay and has fought it all his life—even to the extent of getting married and fathering children. he confides in me, telling me he has never acted on his desires but just supresses them.he is an emotional basket case. his wife is one of the saddest people i have ever known. she has no idea why the marriage was such a failure and i’m sure she blames herself.

  16. dorothy
    Posted August 11, 2005 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    i almost forgot. being married to a veterinarian and living in the country, i can attest to the fact that there is a lot of homosexuality among animals—especially cows. surprised? i was. also, some fish have the ability to change sex if need be. there is some thought in the scientific community that pollution is responsible for gender problems in birds. some birds form all male groups and avoid contact with females. certain types of pollutants (esp. pesticides)can mimic the effects of estrogen.

  17. Jim
    Posted August 11, 2005 at 1:23 pm | Permalink


    Sexual identity and behavior are matters of choice; sexual orientation is not. Even Dobson admits that:
    If you know any gay people, ask them and they’ll tell you that you don’t know what you are talking about. You can also take my word for it.

    It is not the case that human characteristics are either freely chosen or genetically determined; environmental factors are also crucially important. We don’t know what determines sexual orientation, but factors such as conditions during pregnancy and early childhood experiences may play important roles.

    Also–this is Mark’s personal blog, and he sets the tone of discussion. I think that your ideas get a fair hearing here, but I’m afraid that you are not going to be able to raise the level of discourse. Some of us have been trying to reform Mark for years, and he’s just incorrigible.

  18. anonymatt
    Posted August 11, 2005 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    I believe there have been some studies of twins that have suggested a genetic component to being gay. I do not know of any study that suggests being gay is determined *solely* by genes.

    My guess is that it is determined by a number of different factors (some genetic), but none of which are solely responsible.

  19. Posted August 11, 2005 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    Shanster: Thanks. I’m glad you find me pithy and adroit. But hilarious? You honor me.

    Interesting that you would accuse me of avoiding issues when you sidestepped my questions in the evolution post. Still, I will clarify my opinion on all of the “issues” that seem to be around this post.

    I never claimed to believe in a “gay gene”. I was just laughing at the idea of a “religious preference” gene and then pointing out potential perks to the actions that you listed as being “not so perky”.

    I do believe that it is ultimately stupid to hate someone because of who they may desire to share their private parts with. As long as that “someone” is willing, of sound mind and legal age

  20. Shanster
    Posted August 11, 2005 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    Yes, you are adroit. The length of the last post might preclude pithy, but maybe. Always hilarious.

    I don’t hate people who practice homosexual behaviour and lifestyle (orientation point taken, Jim), and don’t encourage others to hate them either (beOHbe). I just disagree with them. I can disagree with you without hating.

  21. chris
    Posted August 11, 2005 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    OK, this soooo sad that I almost want to cry. And bullies who call other’s derogatory terms regarding sexuality have been the one’s who seem they have something to hide.

    BTW, I think my son is gay per the definition. Though, his attraction to women between the ages of 18 and 25 I find unhinging. They are always so model-ish. He also, at the age of three went up to the TV during a commercial for Baywatch where the gal lifegaurds were lined up: Pamela Andersen to that cick w/ the green eyes in the Lifetime Network movies, and proceeded to tap the screen where their breasts were saying “boobies…boobies…etc” all down the line.

    Actually, I am relieved he’s gay as until now I thought he was destined to be a serial womanizer. But isn’t that a little gay too?

  22. Posted August 11, 2005 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    “dislike the roughhousing that other boys enjoy.”

    You know, when I was younger, I disliked the other boys’ roughhousing because I felt that it was sort of…well…gay. When I was a little older and those same boys became “Alpha Males”, slapping eachother’s asses in the locker room showers, running around showing everyone their erections, and engaging in circle-jerks after school, my suspicions were confirmed.

    Unfortunately, I still got beaten up by them and called “Faggot.”

    Regardless, I read the full list of characteristics and see now that I clearly was what the FRC calls a “Prehomosexual” (similar, I might note, to the scientology term “Pre-Clear”).

    On another page of that site, here,
    there’s this gem:

    “…most homosexuals

  23. Shanster
    Posted August 11, 2005 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t read Dobson’s booklet yet, but I suspect I’ll find that I’m just fooling myself into heterosexuality. I was bright, precocious, and president of the thespian society. I was also a wrestler. Is there help for me?

  24. Posted August 11, 2005 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    Here is something I posted in another such debate:

    The dude in The Crying Game had sex with a man (a BJ, I think) without knowing that he was a man (a transvestite). Was this guy gay? No. He puked afterwards, showing perhaps an innate distaste for sex with those of the same gender–or maybe a learned reaction to it. But he did, by definition, a homosexual act.

    Prisoners who rape other prisoners of the same gender are not necessarily gay. Some experts have posed that such rape is about aggression and brutality–not about sexual desire. Others have said that humans need sexual release. In the prolonged absence of members of the opposite gender, that sexual release directs itself on the only other option. In such a case, would a prisoner in consensual homosexual sex–as opposed to rape–be gay? Even if in other circumstances, given the choice of both genders, he or she would choose a member of the opposite gender to have sex with every time?

    On the issue of learning: I read once that humans don’t have a natural aversion to shit–it’s a learned aversion. Anecdotal evidence: my sister’s friend has a toddler who while taking a bath crapped. He took the crap and put it in his mouth. She ordered him to spit it out, but he refused, saying, “uhn uhn.” She had to jam her fingers in his mouth to get it out. Some people have posed that we as infants are genderless (blobs as someone posted earlier), and that our gender is learned. I believe most definitely that you could condition a gay person to revile homosexuality–I’m thinking A Clockwork Orange here (but they would still be biologically gay?). But then I think of the following.

    What about people who are born with the genitals of both sexes? I saw a PBS documentary about such a person. At birth, the doctors decide he was mostly guy, so they surgically adapted him. All his life he had all sorts of problems relating to the fact that they chose the wrong gender for him. Is he gay? Did he learn it? Or was he born it?

  25. Posted August 12, 2005 at 12:08 am | Permalink

    this is great. i can’t wait to write about it back at the stem.

  26. Doug Skinner
    Posted August 12, 2005 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    For my relatives in Texas, a “faggot” was a guy who liked girls better than football. I never quite understood this.

    I don’t know anyone, gay or straight, who can choose who he or she is attracted to. In fact, I think we’ve all had crushes that we know full well are a very bad idea. You can choose who to sleep with, but you can’t choose who you want to sleep with.

    And Chris, your son will obviously grow up to be a casting agent.

  27. be OH be
    Posted August 12, 2005 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    copygodd, apparently you can wait just long enough to post a bit of spam here. Thanks for contributing to the discourse. Your comments were quite enlightening.

    I had thoughts similar to Brett’s about the “macho” set at my high school. They seemed to go out of their way to prove just how ungay they were or wanted to be. I once turned a corner in the locker room to find three nude classmates with athletic builds admiring each other’s “definition”. It felt like the setup scene in a gay porn flick. Uh … at least as Brett’s decribed them to me. Anyway, I believe their conversation ended with a comment about how they’d all see each other later at wrestling practice. At the time their whole lifestyle struck me as the closest thing to homosexuality I’d ever been exposed to. But of course those were the guys who were most likely to dish out the “fag” comments to people like myself and my friends.

    Personally, I’m more of the opinion though some people may be predisposed to be strictly heterosexual or homosexual, the larger portion of the population lies somewhere in between. I think societal conditioning affects how comfortable we are with that predisposition.

  28. Posted August 12, 2005 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    Oh yah, if God is so strict on this gender and sexual orientation thing, then why did he allow hermaphrodites to be born? Could God be a little confused on this issue as well? Tiresias?

  29. be OH be
    Posted August 12, 2005 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    I always imagine that God would be pretty bored day in and day out. Occaionally he might throw out a wildcard just to see what happens.

  30. Posted August 12, 2005 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    wow, bobbie, i’m sorry you took my comment as spam. actually, it was just a thanks for pointing out an interesting topic that i wanted to take some time to think over before i put something down on-screen.

    anyway, i was sent here by collin, whose comments i’m sure you would agree were quite enlightening. hopefully re-reading those will satisfy your desire for further discourse.

    sorry i couldn’t live up to your lofty expectations.

  31. Jim
    Posted August 12, 2005 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    After all these hilarious comments, a Simpsons reference is redundant, but I can’t help myself:

    Dolph to Nelson: ‘Oh man, you kissed a girl?’
    Jimbo Jones: ‘That is so gay.’

  32. john galt
    Posted August 12, 2005 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    FWIW I could care less if people are Gay or Straight.. Why do some people want to wear their sexuality on their sleves? I’m straight and not at all bothered by Gay men.. I don’t agree with special priveledges because they say they’re gay though.. If you think its a private matter, then treat it as that.. Throwing your lifestyle in peoples faces usually just pisses people off. For Example I used to really like the Ellen Degeneres show, before she “came out” (kinda like Elton John or Michael Stipe comming out).. After that it turned into a preach fest.. not funny at all.. stopped watching. If you’re really straight I really don’t think you’d be threatened by a Gay guy hitting on you.. If however you’re completely repressed, it may cause anger. I don’t think its so much genetic as it is caused by hormonal differences during gestation.. It must serve an evolutionary purpose as its been present in human society since at least Alexander the Greats time (He was Gay BTW).

  33. Posted August 12, 2005 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

    Hey Mark,

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention. We talked about this on our podcast this week ( ) and even mentioned your blog and a few of your ideas about the warning signs of potential evangelical nut jobs.

    My favorite: While the other kids are out exercising, your child is practicing exorcisms on the non-christian kids.

  34. Jim
    Posted August 13, 2005 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    You know, John, I have no problem with straight people, as long as they keep their lifestyle to themselves. I used to enjoy the comedic stylings of Bill Cosby until he got that sitcom, and then every week we had to see him living with his wife and their biological children. Okay, two careers and a swarm of kids is the American dream–we get it. Same with that Jerry Seinfeld–it seemed like every week he was dating some woman. Couldn’t that show have just kept to the observational humor about soap and socks for which we had come to love Mr. Seinfeld? And that Tim Allen–couldn’t he have just stayed with the tool talk and the home improvement projects–did they really have to bring his wife and children into the show?

  35. Lava Bubble
    Posted August 13, 2005 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Heh. Touche, Jim.

  36. chris
    Posted August 13, 2005 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    Jesus, what about that raymond show, king of Queens, etc. etc.

    Some of the most effeminate men I know have wives and children.

  37. mark
    Posted August 14, 2005 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    I agree with Jim wholeheartedly, and look forward to the day when everything on television strives to be as un-offensive to everyone as

  38. Jim
    Posted August 15, 2005 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Yesterday’s Boston Globe Magazine has an excellent article on current sexual orientation research:

    if you don’t want to bother with the free registration, the skinny is that it’s looking pretty clear that sexual orientation is determined by the time of birth.

  39. Shanster
    Posted August 15, 2005 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    Time of birth determines sexual orientation? This science is sounding like astrology.

  40. anonymatt
    Posted August 16, 2005 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    I’ll have to agree with Shanster, “time of birth” suggests astrology.

    I skimmed the article, though, and didn’t see anything about time of birth. Perhaps Jim meant “order of birth.” Perhaps he will explain further.

  41. Jim
    Posted August 17, 2005 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Sorry about my ambiguous word choice, although I

  42. Shanster
    Posted August 17, 2005 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    So, you’re saying that sexual orientation is already determined in the fetal stage, although during that time, the fetus inside the womb cannot be classified as a person?

    I do find much of the evidence about sexual orientation to be convincing (especially the fact that some people used CAPS), yet it doesn’t sway my opinion about the choice of homosexual actions/lifestyle/being. I have many tendencies and attrations which I consider natural and innate that I don’t (or shouldn’t) act upon. If I feel an urge to hit a biker on the road, I don’t accept it then come out of the closet and declare myself a ‘hit-and-runner’ (its a weak example, but I think you see where I’m going).

  43. Posted August 17, 2005 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    Why would anybody choose to be gay? To rebel against society? To piss off their parents?

    It’s not like it’s had historically positive connotations in popular American culture.

  44. be OH be
    Posted August 17, 2005 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    Shanster, your example isn’t just weak, it’s downright morbid. Are you equating sexual orientation to homicidal tendencies? Please try to think up a better analogy. I’m curious to hear what other natural tendencies and attractions you don’t act on.

  45. Shanster
    Posted August 17, 2005 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    Sorry I didn’t have time earlier. Better, less morbid, more directly applicable example: If I have an inclination to lust, say, for someone else’s wife, I don’t give in to it, even though it is clearly a ‘natural’ desire.

  46. Posted August 17, 2005 at 10:15 pm | Permalink


    You example may be less morbid, but its still way off the mark. This whole discussion is weird. Why does it matter WHEN someone became gay or whether it is an INNATE characteristic or a CHOICE.

    The bottom line is that it is a viable way of life for thousands and thousands and thousands of Americans. Many of us are healthier, happier, more productive members of society than we were when we tried to ‘play it straight’.

    Straight people deciding the origins or the viability of homosexuality is not only offensive…its stupid.

    We’re here. We’re queer. Get used to it. :)

    BTW: Mark…we still want to interview you. Have your people call our people.

  47. Shanster
    Posted August 18, 2005 at 1:06 pm | Permalink


    Yield to your logic?
    Found my weakness…poetry.
    Did you make that up?

  48. Posted August 18, 2005 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    I like straight people.
    Just don’t try to define me.
    Else you’ll get bitch slapped.

    p.s. Have we just declared a Haiku arms race?

  49. Shanster
    Posted August 19, 2005 at 5:17 am | Permalink

    Winning the debate
    through slogans and threats irate?
    I won’t escalate

    p.s. that’s rhymeku

  50. be OH be
    Posted August 19, 2005 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    Shanster makes a point
    What value pithy and adroit?
    Easy to exploit

    p.s. Sorry I couldn’t work Detroit in there

  51. john galt
    Posted August 19, 2005 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

    speaking of Detroit, could we start a Detroit is a decaying hellhole thread.. I saw a site the other week that chronicled the decaying ruins of Detroit. There was a great clip on Fark about a week ago of the current mayor’s mother (congresswoman apparently) completely loosing it on camera at a rally.. it was better than the Dean scream. I thought New Orleans was bad.. but at least its fun. Remember if your city is a hell-hole, bringing in Casinos is just gonna make it worse.

  52. Ken
    Posted August 19, 2005 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    If the D wasn’t the decaying hell hole, Elmore Leonard’s book wouldn’t be nearly as entertaining as they are.

  53. Anonymatt
    Posted August 20, 2005 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    If you want to talk about decay, take it over to the carcass thread.

  54. mark
    Posted August 21, 2005 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

    Thanks to all of you who participated in this thread. I think it’s one of my favorites… And I shall try to remember it the next time I consider pulling the plug on this site.

  55. Jim
    Posted August 22, 2005 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    In saying that a child’s sexual orientation is (largely if not entirely) determined by the time it is born, I was just presenting the current scientific consensus as reported in the Boston Globe article. I don’t have any personal expertise regarding the determinants of sexual orientation. (I could speculate, but introspection regarding one’s own memories of early childhood is a pretty worthless source of scientific knowledge.)

    I don’t see any inconsistency in maintaining that the sexual orientation of a fetus might be determined before the fetus develops to the point where we would consider it a person. After all, genetically determined features (such as an embryo’s sex) are determined at the time of conception, when the embryo is just a single cell.

    I agree with Dangina that gay and lesbian people deserve equal rights regardless of whether homosexuality is a choice; however, the fact is that many people become more tolerant of gays and lesbians when they learn that sexual orientation is not chosen. It’s easy to discriminate against homosexuals when one believes homosexuality to be a willful perversity, like choosing to wear unflattering clothing.

    I agree with Shanster that we should not act on our harmful impulses, but what would have to be shown is that there is something inherently harmful about homosexual behavior.

  56. Shanster
    Posted August 22, 2005 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    Last point first, and here’s where I assume we will disagree. It’s not the harmful nature of an action that causes me not to act on it. In the case of infidelity, even if no one is harmed, it is wrong (but not illegal, right?).

    Is it easier to discriminate against someone for making a decision? I don’t think so. More discrimination has been advanced against races/colors than creeds. That homosexuals should have equal rights should be “self-evident.”

    Back to the fetus. If there were only a genetic determiner of sexual orientation, that would be much more dangerous. For then, the whiff of eugenics that brett smelled could truly be exploited, and suddenly the homosexuals would find themselves allied with the Pro-life movement.

  57. Jim
    Posted August 22, 2005 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Okay, if the problem with homosexual behavior is not that it is harmful, then what is your objection to it?

    When you say that homosexuals should have equal rights, do you mean that it should be illegal to discriminate against gays and lesbians in areas like employment and housing, just as it is currently illegal to discriminate on the basis of sex, race, or religion?

    Like other scientific research, research on sexual orientation could have unintended and harmful consequences, but I think that the best course of action is to let research go forward, and then develop laws and ethics that take into account our current scientific knowledge.

  58. Shanster
    Posted August 22, 2005 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    My only objection to it is that it is an immoral choice.

    Yes, and I think I said it before. Choosing homosexuality should be equal to choosing any other religion. The word creed (belief) should apply not only to my faith, but to the beliefs of others (including homosexuals).

  59. Jim
    Posted August 22, 2005 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    Is your claim that homosexual behavior is immoral only a private, personal, opinion, or is it an assertion that is relevant to questions of public policy, such as whether homosexuals should be allowed to marry, adopt children, or serve in the military?

  60. Shanster
    Posted August 22, 2005 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Definitely relevant. Contrary to popular unfounded, misinformed, and indefensible claims, we do legislate morality but only the morality that our representatives can agree on. So, currently alcohol is allowed, but at one time the majority was opposed to its use on moral grounds.

  61. Jim
    Posted August 22, 2005 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    How then do we distinguish between moral and immoral behavior? I think that immoral behavior is behavior that causes unjustified harm. To use your example of infidelity, infidelity is immoral because it harms one

  62. Shanster
    Posted August 22, 2005 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    I disagree with your definition of immoral. Adultery is immoral whether or not it causes harm. That was established in written form in the ten commandments, which were understood as part of morality long before the writing of the torah.

    Of course I appeal to God and conscience as the ultimate authority of morality. But our consciences may tell us different things, so one of us must be wrong. The same would be true of any immoral act. That’s why the law was written, so that people could make the moral choice, not debate it. In Deuteronomy, Moses explains that in the law God laid before the people blessing and curses, life and death.

  63. Jim
    Posted August 22, 2005 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    So are you saying that the laws of the United States should be based on the laws contained in the Pentateuch?

  64. Shanster
    Posted August 22, 2005 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    Maybe, partially; they already are. Don’t Steal. Don’t murder. Coveting may not be something we can legislate against. I don’t know about adultery. It is grounds for divorce, so that makes it “wrong”, but not illegal. Sabbath rest? No. Idolatry? No.

  65. Jim
    Posted August 22, 2005 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    “Maybe, partially”? How do you decide which of the Mosaic laws still provide a basis for morality today? Only a small percentage of the Mosaic laws are widely regarded as expressions of universal principles of morality. (For an example of one that is not, see .)

    Furthermore, how do you decide how the moral principles derived from the Pentateuch should be put into law? For example, why should Mosaic prohibitions of homosexual behavior shape public policy, while the government protects people’s right to worship the god of their choice and to violate the Sabbath?

  66. Doug Skinner
    Posted August 22, 2005 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

    Jim — Alas, I’ve asked Shanster before what’s immoral about homosexuality, and never gotten a direct answer. Since I’ve learned that he has a weakness for poetry, I’ll couch it in verse:
    Please explain the reason, Shanster:
    Why condemn the man-to-manster?
    Why include sweet loving dykes
    In lists of ethical dislikes?

    The Ten Commandments do not prohibit adultery. After the tablets (quoted in Exodus xx)were broken, God dictated a new set (see Exodus xxxiv). They are:
    1: Prohibition of worship of other gods.
    2: Prohibition of molten images.
    3: Observance of the feast of unleavened bread,
    4: the feast of weeks,
    5: the feast of the ingathering,
    6: and the sabbath rest.
    7: Sacrifice of firstborn and firstfruits.
    8: Prohibition of leaven with sacrificial blood,
    9: of leaving sacrificial fat over till morning,
    10: and of boiling a kid in its mother’s milk.

    (I paraphrase, cribbing from the Britannica; as always, consult your Bible!)

    I don’t know anyone who follows these very explicit commands. Why cherry-pick injunctions against adultery or homosexuality and ignore the Commandments?

  67. mark
    Posted August 22, 2005 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    I hate to take us too far off topic (especialy as I really enjoy the direction things are headed), but am I the only one who read that line about a kid boiled in its own mother’s milk and started to salivate a bit? I know it’s probably a terrible taboo and all, but it sounds absolutely delightful to me

  68. Posted August 22, 2005 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

    What I find interesting is that that process of boiling a kid in it’s mother’s milk is called seething. Which coincidentally is what happens in my head when people say things like- this is or that is wrong, or that we can agree that something or other is immoral. As opposed to something like, I feel its wrong or I was taught that its wrong, or in my belief structure this is wrong or it’s against my personal religion.
    There is not ANY consensus that adultery or murder or seething sheep or 8 kazillion other things are wrong or immoral or that sin even exists!!!!
    That is the entire point!!! That one has, at least previously in this country, had to consider other religious views, other traditions. This is why law is primarily only to be used as a preventative against or recourse from infringment on persons and possibly their properties. Not setting any fricking moral codes.
    So stop using moral absolutes – they simply don’t exist under law. Jeez.

  69. Shanster
    Posted August 23, 2005 at 5:26 am | Permalink

    There’s no consensus that adultery or murder are wrong? Then let’s just throw out most of the legal system, and leave the police to their important duties of writing parking and speeding tickets. Do I need to preface every statement with “I think”? I think I feel in my belief structure in my comprehension of English that if I make a statement that’s what I think.

    Jim, Skinner-
    I’d like to point out to Jim and Skinner
    That each one among us is a sinner
    my definition comes from the bible
    I know in our land it is not viable
    to use it explicitly as the law,
    so we argue about them, hem and haw.
    The Prots, Papists, Buddists, Hindus and Jews
    and atheists too bring their moral views.
    What we can agree on goes on the book
    but the next gen can give another look.

    Writing Hexameter really stinks. Goethe must have been insane.

    I don’t think there should be any punishment.

  70. Jim
    Posted August 23, 2005 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    No, Shanster, your definition of morality does not come from the Bible. Instead, as Doug says, you cherry-pick the commandments. If I’m wrong about this, then please address the specific points Doug and I have made above.

    Until now I’ve been willing to accept your claim that you are not hateful, and to think that you are just trying to be true to your religious commitments, but now I have to agree with Doug that your aversion to homosexuality is less a matter of principle and more a matter of unexamined prejudice.

    I would defend your legal right to hold and promote your views about homosexuality, but I also think that it is wrong for you to do so. Hateful ideas like yours do great harm to gay and lesbian people–especially to gay and lesbian youth–and you do not have a moral right to hide your irrational homophobia behind the mask of religion.


    Yesterday I came across a very eloquent nonverbal response to “ex-gay” propaganda:

    Highly recommended.

  71. Doug Skinner
    Posted August 23, 2005 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    I never said Shanster’s belief that homosexuality is immoral was unexamined prejudice; I only wanted to know why he thought that. And I did want to make the point that the Bible is best used for inspiration rather than authority, since you can find just about anything in it — and even the Ten Commandments aren’t set in stone. If you cherry-pick what you like, you have to acknowledge that you’re being subjective, and, to a certain extent, arbitrary. That’s why I think a moral system based on doing no harm is more viable than reliance on scripture.

    I would argue that most sexual acts are neither moral nor immoral; it’s the way people treat one other that brings in the moral factor.

    At any rate, I’m glad to hear he doesn’t want to punish gays; I’m sorry he doesn’t like them, but nobody likes everybody.

    And I like the infusion of verse into these musings; a little music never hurts.

    But Shanster, though your verse is eloquent and neat,
    Hexameter it’s not: it only has four feet!
    Tetrameter is quite enough
    For blogs and other homely stuff.

  72. Teddy Glass
    Posted August 23, 2005 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Great link, Jim.

  73. Jim
    Posted August 23, 2005 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    Thanks, Doug, for both the correction and the Seussian intervention. I guess I was a little worked up. As I don’t know Shanster, it doesn’t bother me if he dislikes me; however, because he is clearly an intelligent person who probably exercises significant influence among his acquaintances, I do care whether he upholds and spreads ideas that cause direct and significant harm to lesbian and gay people and their families.

  74. Posted August 23, 2005 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    The best way to deal with bigots is not to reason with them. They live in another universe where sometimes there is a logical system of thought in place–only founded on some errant base. Arguments go in circles around that base, all too often.

    The best way to deal with bigots is to expose them to counter examples; in this case, Shanster needs to interact with some gay people. The more he befriends and interacts with, the less he will despise them. Jim, expose yourself to him at once. All will be solved.

  75. Shanster
    Posted August 23, 2005 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    I thought hexameter was 10 syllables, no?
    Your definition of immoral works for legal purposes just fine, but you would be left to define ‘unjustified’ harm. Might not be difficult.

  76. Jim
    Posted August 23, 2005 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    Harm may be justified if one intends to do good, if one has a reasonable expectation that the good achieved will outweigh the harm done, if it is impossible to achieve the good end without using harmful means, and if one uses the least harmful means possible. For example, a surgeon may inflict pain in order to heal a patient, or a soldier may kill an enemy in order to stop an invasion.

    So, do you consider homosexual behavior immoral for legal purposes (as in matters of marriage, adoption, and military service)? If so, why?

  77. Doug Skinner
    Posted August 23, 2005 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    Hexameter has six feet, giving it either 12 or 18 syllables. It’s not used much in English; Longfellow liked it. It’s used a lot in French poetry, for some reason — maybe because France is a hexagon!

    I’d define unjustified harm as any harm done not in defense of self, property, or other people. I think that’s a good basis for a social and legal moral code; the history of law and ethics is working out the details.

    A religion is free to believe that God is harmed by behavior that doesn’t harm other people (sexual and dietary restricions, for example). That code, though, has no place outside that religion.

    How’s that for a start? I’m sure it will need refining!

  78. Doug Skinner
    Posted August 23, 2005 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    I just saw Jim’s comment (I was dawdling over mine, and it hit the deck after his). Good points.

  79. Jim
    Posted August 23, 2005 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    Sorry if I jumped in on a question directed at Doug, who, I think, offers a good definition of unjustified harm.

  80. john galt
    Posted August 23, 2005 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    Does unjustified harm include the siezing of other’s property through force? Funny how much of this thread is very libertarian in nature but if you were to apply the principles to taxation I think Doug and Jim would argue differently. So what do the progressives think about the fair tax proposal

  81. Jim
    Posted August 23, 2005 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    John, I don’t really want to change the topic, but since you asked for my opinion, I think that a consumption tax would be regressive, as poorer people pay a smaller percentage of their income on goods than do wealthier people. We need a tax code that is more progressive, not less.

  82. Jim
    Posted August 23, 2005 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    And by ‘smaller,’ I of course mean ‘larger.’

  83. mark
    Posted August 23, 2005 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think there

  84. Shanster
    Posted August 23, 2005 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    I think both of your definitions are decent, but are they all-inclusive? Can we legislate any non-harmful behavior as illegal?

    Let me think about your question until tomorrow.

    I was using Goethe’s Prelude in Heaven to Faust as my example of Hexameter, which I think now it may not be.

  85. Shanster
    Posted August 24, 2005 at 5:00 am | Permalink

    Regarding military service, it’s basically just a job so I don’t think sexuality should be an issue.
    Regarding adoption, I would favor gay adoption over abortion any day. Abortion, the way I see it, would fit your definition of immoral as it does unjustified harm.
    Regarding marriage, I probably have to give in on logical grounds, but I would prefer to define the union as a civil union or something else (‘garriage’?), since marriage is a unique institution that is both civil and religious (as seen in Germany where they have 2 ceremonies). I think Joe Lieberman’s position is similar. Here’s my reasoning: our government cannot establish one religion over another. Some religions now endorse gay marriage, therefore we are left to respect that religion and endorse the union.

    This brings me back to the immorality question I posed: If only harmful acts are immoral, what about prostitution?

  86. Jim
    Posted August 24, 2005 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    Shanster, you still haven’t offered any reason why homosexuals should not enjoy complete equality with heterosexuals under the law. We don’t selectively grant rights to other minority groups on a case by case basis–how do you justify doing so with gays and lesbians?

    Anti-prostitution laws are justified because prostitution harms prostitutes. In our society at least, prostitutes are–as a rule–highly exploited. If prostitutes were not harmed, then I would have no objection to legalizing prostitution.

  87. Posted August 24, 2005 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    I think Sex workers should be legalized
    and then perhaps they would get unionized
    then panderers would be much more scrutinized
    And the clients would be much more satisfied
    They’d all be much less villified
    And the workers no longer quite so victimized

  88. Shanster
    Posted August 24, 2005 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    I answered your 3 specific questions with what I thought were offers for homosexuals to enjoy full equality (in the first 2 cases, marriage I maintain as unique to heterosexuals but offer a unique and equal station in civil union) under the law. I’m not sure which other inequalities you would have me address… housing, employment, freedom from harrassment (is my exercising my free speech here, in your opinion, harassment? I try to be logical and reasoned, avoiding expletives and condemnation.) We are all (all)endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights.

    About prostitution…at least you are consistent in your position. So I assume that you would find no problem with polygamy or really any other traditionally so-called immoral acts.

  89. Doug Skinner
    Posted August 24, 2005 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    John — I don’t see taxation as seizure of property, but as the price you pay for running the government. It’s your money; but it’s just pretty pictures of dead presidents without the state to back it up, and you don’t get that for free. The fair tax is interesting. I share Jim’s reservation; the poverty rebate and the exemption on used goods might help make it fairer. I’m not convinced, though, that income tax is so unworkable that it needs to be scrapped.

    Prostitution is sex between consenting adults, which is nobody else’s business. Rape, coercion, exploitation, fraud, and other nasty human behaviors that are often sparked by it are harmful — and therefore immoral — whether they occur in prostitution or not. After all, they can occur in marriage too, but that doesn’t make marriage immoral!

  90. Jim
    Posted August 24, 2005 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Shanster, I do appreciate that your positions on these issues are very egalitarian for someone of your religious and philosophical commitments, and I don’t consider your statements harrassment, but please consider how problematic the following statements sound:

    “Regarding military service, it’s basically just a job so I don’t think race should be an issue.
    “Regarding adoption, I would favor black adoption over abortion any day. ….
    “Regarding interracial marriage, I probably have to give in on logical grounds, but I would prefer to define the union as a civil union or something else (‘miscegenarriage’?), since marriage is a unique institution that is both civil and religious (as seen in Germany where they have 2 ceremonies). I think Strom Thurmond’s position was similar. Here’s my reasoning: our government cannot establish one religion over another. Some religions now endorse interracial marriage, therefore we are left to respect that religion and endorse the union.”

    Notice how these statements assume that the majority may withhold or grant rights to the minority at will? You seem to be saying that “religions” have more rights than do flesh-and-blood American citizens, and you still haven’t given any reason why the majority ever has a right to discriminate against homosexuals. And the phrase “unique and equal” rings a bell–what did SCOTUS say in Plessy v. Ferguson? Oh yeah, that was “separate but equal.”

    I would judge the morality of polygamy and the other acts to which you allude by the standard of whether they result in good or harm. But if you are moving the discussion from law to morality per se, I’d still like to know your grounds for claiming that homosexual acts are immoral (but shrimp-eating presumably is not).

  91. Shanster
    Posted August 24, 2005 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    You do turn a clever phrase, and I did realize while writing it that unique and equal would be challenged as such. Another religion may be unique in its ideas, but it is equal in the eyes of the law. I think the civil union which would be proposed could carry with it all the functions of marriage, different only in name. Heterosexuals had the name marriage first, its like a copyright.

    Jim, I’ve already stated that my grounds for my belief are in the Bible, and you then accused me of only using my religion to cloak my bigotry. So…here we go again. My grounds for my belief are in the Bible. I reject the ceremonial and dietary laws based on the New Testament. My understanding of the Ten Commandments and biblical morality are rooted in the Protestant tradition, Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, Luther’s Small Catechism, and Calvin’s writings. Is that enough or are you going to ask me again?

  92. Shanster
    Posted August 24, 2005 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    Plus, most gay males are prostitutes anyway, spreading disease to the children they prey upon.

  93. Shanster
    Posted August 24, 2005 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    I’m pretty new to blogland, but that’s just not right to steal someone’s ID like that.

  94. Jim
    Posted August 24, 2005 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    Shanster, this is the first time you’ve explained that you reject the ceremonial and dietary laws of the Pentateuch on the basis of the New Testament. I can somewhat respect that position, because Paul’s letters are pretty clear in condemning homosexual male sex acts, although I imagine you don’t accept exhortations in the Pauline corpus for slaves to obey their masters, or for women to keep silent in church.

    As for the word ‘marriage,’ it originally ‘belonged’ to English speakers, who took it from the French, who borrowed it from the Romans. So if the word belongs to anyone, it would be the heirs of the English, French, and/or Romans (straight, queer, or asexual).

    (I did think that that 14:10 comment was too stupid to be yours. Don’t mix incompatible stereotypes, people; everyone knows that children don’t pay 50 year old men for sex.)

  95. Shanster
    Posted August 24, 2005 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for recognizing the real me. Well, the ‘slaves obey your masters’ is applicable to workers in their relationships to their bosses, which I do try to follow. Paul also exhorted masters to be kind to their slaves. As for women keeping silent in the church, I think there were some specific local circumstances involved in that injunction, but you’re right, I don’t accept it as a rule.

  96. Jim
    Posted August 24, 2005 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    I would encourage you to approach Paul’s statements about male homosexual sex acts with the same hermeneutical sensitivity that you apply to his statements about slavery and gender. Paul lived in a highly patriarchal society in which sex was understood as an act of domination, a man was viewed as lord and master over his wife, and male homosexual relationships were viewed as inherently unequal. For the Greeks and Romans, there was no shame in being the ‘dominant’ partner when having sex with a man or a woman, but it was considered shameful for a man–especially an adult free man–to allow himself to be physically penetrated. Given these cultural assumptions, as well as the absence of any concept of inherent sexual orientation, it is hardly possible that Paul could have imagined a homosexual relationship as a committed union between two equals, as we think of marriage today.

  97. Shanster
    Posted August 24, 2005 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    ‘Hermeneutical sensitivity’? Have you been to the sem? I see your logic as applied to Paul, but Paul was also acqainted with the Septuigant and his morality also echoes that of the Pentateuch not only his culture.

    Thanks for the really interesting discussion. I find that although I still view homosexual acts as immoral, there are very few, if any, cases where I feel it is right to apply that view in a legal perspective, given our bill of rights which protects an individuals free expression of religion. In a previous statement, you pointed out that I favored ‘religions’ over individuals, but my opinion is based on the individuals who practice the religion and their freedom.

    Next morality question… If a person lives alone in the woods, can he ever do something immoral?

    By my definition yes; I think he can perform most of the seven deadly sins without interaction.

  98. Jim
    Posted August 24, 2005 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    Not sem, but you’re close.

    Although I became annoyed with you when I thought that you were avoiding the main issue, I have also enjoyed this discussion (as much as one can enjoy a conversation with someone who considers one’s way of life inherently immoral).

    I would agree with you that Paul was shaped by his training in Jewish law, which condemned homosexual sexual acts. But when Paul decided that Gentile Christians were not obliged to obey the Torah, and that Christian ethics could be summed up in the commandment to love one’s neighbor (Rom. 13), why did he still maintain the prohibition on homosexual sexual acts? In the culture in which Paul lived, which viewed homosexual relations as inherently exploitative and degrading, and the primary purpose of marriage not as the expression of love but the production of children, and which had no concept of homosexuality or sexual orientation, it’s hard to see how he could have thought otherwise. Christians today have to determine how to apply the commandment to love one’s neighbor in a very different cultural and intellectual context.

    A person can certainly commit an immoral action when alone, because one can harm oneself.

    As for marriage, I think that the best solution would be to disentangle civil marriage from religious marriage, and to leave religious marriage to the churches.

  99. Doug Skinner
    Posted August 25, 2005 at 2:00 am | Permalink

    Didn’t the Unabomber live alone in the woods?
    But that begs the question: I’d say that destruction of animals and the environment can be immoral, even though it may not directly affect your fellow citizens. You can cause harm in many ways. Again, intent is important.

    It’s worth noting that marriage has always been a flexible institution. These days, most people accept mixed faith and race; but reject incestuous, polygamous, polyandrous, arranged, and child unions — but earlier societies differed. Our current ideal of romantic marriage is, I think, pretty recent. We can decide what we want it to be; we don’t have to follow tradition.

    Civil marriage is a legal contract, which has nothing to do with the church; religious marriage is a sacrament, which has nothing to do with the state. They may as well be separate, especially in a society with many religions.

  100. Shanster
    Posted August 25, 2005 at 4:57 am | Permalink

    Well, I think I can agree with the Jimskinnerian marriage disentanglement proposal. I have always wondered how a judge or boat captain could provide the same marriage that a church provides. We’ve solved this problem, now we just have to get confirmed as Supreme Court Justices so we can legislate from the bench.

  101. Doug Skinner
    Posted August 25, 2005 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    It seems that what is often called “legislation” from the bench is the inevitable result of interpreting 18th century language for a 2ist century world. I prefer a judge whose definition of “cruel and unusual punishment,” for example, is informed by today’s mores, not those of colonial times.

    The alternative is the Scalia approach, which is that the Constitution is a dead document; and that all social changes since then are to be blithely ignored.

    The problem is that every judge has to interpret the law; those cases that come before the Supreme Court are precisely those in which the law is unclear.

    (For Scalia’s position, everyone should read his peculiar essay on capital punishment in “First Things”: He also comes close to arguing that theocratic monarchy is better than democracy — an interesting POV, but not one I want on the Supreme Court, and certainly not one inspired by an objective reading of the Constitution. If legislating from the bench is the alternative, please, sir, I want some more!)

  102. jen
    Posted September 5, 2005 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    you guys HAVE to go to they have a discussion website that will freak you out…like Dobson times 10.

    please feel free to comment…they need some rational thinking there.

  103. Stefan
    Posted October 27, 2007 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    I am gay… I never woke up one day and just decided to be gay… I didn’t choose to be gay… i wasn’t bullied into being gay… my parents didn’t force me to be gay… i never became gay by watching TV… i never became gay for no perks… i do not think that there are any outside influences to me being gay…

    I was BORN gay… My chromosomes and genes and internal chemistry made me gay… My DNA says i am gay…

    God never made me gay, neither did Jesus… Just plain and simple… genes, chromosomes, DNA and a load of testosterone and estrogen

    Weather i like it or not… i go with men… Sorry ladies.. i turn you all down so much.. but great bodies and great looking men are not all straight…


    Gay and Proud?

  104. Robert
    Posted October 15, 2008 at 1:37 am | Permalink

    I’m 100% straight, not strong built. At school I avoided sports while my classmate (who later I found out was gay) was an excellent swimmer and sportsman….

  105. Robert
    Posted October 15, 2008 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    Just for the record…that last comment wasn’t the Robert that commonly posts to this blog. That’s me. Whoever this guy is though, his post is strangely as pointless as mine always are. Now that I think about it, I guess all guys named Robert are pretty dull people.

    Unlike this visiting Robert, I don’t know exactly what percentage gay or straight I am. I don’t measure it that precisely. Instead, I keep track of my straightness/gayness using something similar to the US Armed Forces Defense Readiness Condition (DEFCON) system.

    I use the term GAYCON to express my gayness level. GAYCONs are matched to the situations of severity. Standard straight protocol is GAYCON 5, descending in increasingly severe situations. GAYCON 1 represents expectation of actual imminent homosexual encounter, and is not known to have ever been declared.

    I am currently holding at GAYCON4, which is where I’ve been since August.

  106. Bob
    Posted October 15, 2008 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Great topic! I spot the gay ones by wearing a jumpsuit covered in hundreds of hardcore images of man on man sex. The people who stare are obviously gay, and I stay away from them.

  107. kjc
    Posted October 15, 2008 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    Yeah I didn’t choose to be gay either. Wouldn’t I remember that? But I can still appreciate the phrase “homosexual acts,” especially when I think of how my straight friend just told me she fucks her husband up the ass.

  108. Robert
    Posted October 15, 2008 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    That’s so romantic, kjc. She must really care deeply about him. (no pun intended)

  109. ytown
    Posted October 15, 2008 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    To use GAYCON, you must have GAYDAR.

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