Gay Rights

Lankford Says Homosexuality ‘A Choice Issue’

U.S. Rep. James Lankford has joined the legendary ranks of Oklahoma’s political conservatives who openly express archaic views about gay people, and it’s been captured on video by the ThinkProgress blog.

Last week, I wrote about the somewhat muted response from Oklahoma’s conservatives to President Barack Obama’s announcement that he supports same-sex marriage and that remains true, but ThinkProgress caught up with Lankford, a Republican, last week and asked him about his position on job discrimination against gay people.

Lankford’s position is simply that homosexuality is a “choice” and thus the gay community doesn’t merit the same official anti-discrimination protections given to other groups. Here’s what he said, according to ThinkProgress:

Well, you’re now dealing with behavior and I’m trying to figure out exactly what you’re trying to mean by that. Because you’re dealing with — race and sexual preferences are two different things. One is a behavior-related and preference-related and one is something inherently — skin color, something obvious, that kind of stuff. You don’t walk up to someone on the street and look at them and say, “Gay or straight?”

When asked if “you don’t think someone is born gay necessarily?,” Lankford responded this way: “Do I personally? No. I don’t. I think it’s a choice issue. Are there tendencies and such? Yes. But I think it’s a choice issue.”

Lankford’s comments came after a group of Senators called for hearings on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would largely ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace.

The ThinkProgress piece and video has a sort of “gotcha” feel to it, but Lankford and others in Oklahoma’s Congressional delegation should be held accountable for their outdated views. The idea that homosexuality is just a “choice” for people has been debunked by the world’s medical and science communities for years.

Is Lankford’s position based on religious beliefs? Is it political expediency?

Lankford’s comments may not be that earth shattering for folks here in red-dirt country, but even in Oklahoma there’s a growing tolerance and acceptance of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) community.

The Oklahoma City Council, for example, recently passed an anti-discrimination measure that includes sexual orientation. That was an important step. Oklahoma City is in Lankford’s district.

How much longer can Oklahoma’s conservative politicians use intolerance of gay people as a campaign tool? It might still sell well with older Christian fundamentalists, but the demographics clearly show younger people are more tolerant and accepting of the LGBT community. It’s a matter of time.