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Your e-mails: The acceptance and rejection of homosexuality

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(CNN) -- Homosexuality is seemingly more accepted and tolerated in the United States today than decades ago. There are laws in many states that make it a crime to discriminate based on sexual orientation and many communities across the country have gays and lesbians openly serving in important roles. Yet there are many who still oppose homosexuality and many object to it on religious grounds.

For a bit of perspective, CNN.com asked readers if American society is now more accepting of homosexuality, especially in regards to issues concerning the workplace, religion, health and family. Here is a selection of e-mails, some of which have been edited for length and clarity.

On acceptance

Jackie Secor from Columbia, South Carolina
On some level I do believe homosexuality is gaining acceptance; however, life gets pretty tough around election time. I'm lesbian and I don't hide my sexuality like I used to. I don't go around announcing it because one's sexuality isn't a necessary conversational topic, but if the subject comes up I don't hide it -- sometimes just in self-defense. My coming out experience (about 15 years ago) was not a good experience. I come from a religious, Southern family, and being gay is not that desirable in South Carolina. As far as acceptance goes, I find that generally, at least in South Carolina, people are against homosexuality. On the other hand, I have had positive experiences on a personal level when people would find out about me. As a rule, I let people get to know me first, and most of the time someone else tells them I'm lesbian. I've had some interesting conversations with conservative people and whether or not I changed their opinion on the subject, I have in some cases gained their respect.

James Smith from Cathedral City, California
My partner and I have been together for 30 years. We both grew up in Central Texas, played high-school football and left town immediately after graduating in the late '70s. Life has changed for young men and women facing issues regarding their sexuality since then. But it still has a ways to go. I remember feeling lost after graduating high school. Friends who we had known since grade school turned their backs on us. It just didn't register with most folks. They were good, hard-working, middle-class folks and young boys who played football were supposed to date the cheerleaders -- not harbor secret thoughts for each other. But, that we did -- taking a high-school romance to a full 30-year relationship.

We both graduated in the top 10 percent of our class, but gave up scholarships and the typical college experience and concentrated on the work it would take to hold on to our unorthodox relationship instead. I hope those aren't the choices facing young gays and lesbians today. Our route took us through Colorado for almost 12 years and then to California for the past 17 years. In those 30 years, there have been great changes, but it is still a struggle. Sometimes, it's not the outside influences either -- my partner has struggled with his sexuality and still carried the shame that can leave its obvious traces on many gay men and women. Being gay automatically takes you from societal norms and sets you out into the periphery, somewhere between being lost in small-town America (like "Brokeback Mountain") or struggling to fit in with all the hard-bodied "A-List" queers in the big city communities that exist on each coast. But, really, most of us are just from middle America and expect to live our lives with the same freedoms and dreams afforded to every citizen. We don't necessarily want to be like everyone else -- that's part of an acceptance that comes with being gay. From my perspective, even though I feel that being gay is not a choice, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Donna Palladino from Las Vegas, Nevada
Since I came out 31 years ago, there are many, many more people tolerant and more knowledgeable of homosexuality today. But, there are so many people who are extremely close-minded about it, refuse to accept it and will not allow gay people to live their lives as straight people. I think we are the only minority where anyone can still say derogatory statements on television, radio and print media without any worry of penalty. I believe in free speech, but there are ways to express your concerns without name-calling and judgment. Unfortunately, this still happens today in our highest political offices and of course throughout the religious right. We are wage earners, taxpayers and voters with human feelings. This should be remembered by the less tolerant. Why is it acceptable for some people to have selective compassion?

Dana D. from Seattle, Washington
The acceptance of homosexuality has taken a firm hold in the urban centers across most of the U.S. and that acceptance is progressively radiating out to smaller communities. From the perspective of a gay man, I think this is occurring for three reasons.

First, the old stereotype of all gay men being effeminate, cross-dressers or child molesters is being erased. There has come the realization that most gay men are not on edge, in your face, melodramatic, flamboyant, or dangerous people. By far, and for the most part, we are normal individuals. People see we go about life in a peaceful, quiet, respectful, law abiding manner like most of the rest of society.

Secondly, the "coming out" and participation of gays in all levels of society (business, politics, religion, education, science, arts and entertainment) shows that we have in the past and will continue to contribute to the good of our culture.

Thirdly, the attention of the media, and the portrayal of gays on television and in the movies has influenced the general perception about gay people. While some of those portrayals may be comical (e.g. "Will & Grace") there are plenty of others that are normal dramatic characters (e.g. "Grey's Anatomy," "Brothers and Sisters").

Together, these things have warmed society to the welcome presence and participation of gay people.

Nancy Royce from Golden, Colorado
America is way behind the rest of the world in accepting homosexuality, but the climate is improving for homosexuals in the workplace, churches, and family acceptance. I am a heterosexual married female. It doesn't matter to me one iota if someone I know turned out to be gay. I have several gay friends, and love them as I love my heterosexual friends, and wish the rest of the world would follow suit. Being gay is not a choice. It's not a sickness. Gay people should be allowed to marry, share health benefits and adopt children together, without the negative stigma attached.

Arlene Coleman from Meridian, Mississippi
I like lesbians -- it leaves more guys available to all us straight women!

Anthony Boatman from Boise, Idaho
My partner and I live in Boise, Idaho, where I am the executive director of the orchestra and he is a professional chef. We moved here some seven years ago from Washington, D.C., and had some misgivings about how well we would be received in a conservative state like Idaho. We also hit them with a triple whammy, because he's black, I'm white, and together we are raising my [adopted] son and his nephew. We consider ourselves to be James Dobson's worst nightmare, a badge we wear with honor!

Anyway, we needn't have worried: Boise is a very open and accepting city, and we are all enjoying our lives here. Fifty years ago the "powers that were" engaged in a rather well-documented witch hunt against gays, so I'd say this city has learned a lot and turned 180 degrees since those days. Mind you, we don't parade our orientation down the main street for all to see, but we make no efforts to hide it either. It is one thing to keep a private life private -- quite another to keep a private life secret.

Kerri Wilhelm from Austin, Texas
I am a gay woman who lives in Austin, Texas. My experience is one of surprise at people's reaction upon their learning of my being a lesbian. They are always very confused, claiming that they never had any idea I was gay because I "don't look or act gay." Half of them look skeptical at my revelation. But I am gay. The surprise comes in discovering that many, if not most, of the straight people that I meet actually seem to have become convinced somewhere along the way in gay stereotypes popularized in the media. They assume that we are all effeminate men, short-haired masculine women, and rainbow-flag waving militants who look for any excuse to march. Why is it so hard for people to understand that, while the flag-waving marchers may be the most visible during gay pride, most of us tend to look like everyone else on the bus reading the newspaper, everyone else in the grocery store shopping for bananas and toilet paper, and everyone else trying to remain sane during the height of traffic after a hard day's work?

Matthew Williams from Columbus, Georgia
As a homosexual in the southern United States, I would have to say that there is still a lot of hatred and discrimination towards us. Living gay in the south has been a horrible experience. The South is still full of racists and bigots. I can see and hear it all the time. Just the other day, I tried to hold hands with my partner while walking down a mall strip. A little kid no older than 6 or 7 stuck his head out the window and yelled obscenities -- "Get out of our town fags!!" -- while the parents drove the vehicle and apparently did not punish him for it. I cannot wait until the old generation down here in the south disappears so that I may live free of hatred and discrimination that is thrust upon me by elders of the town.

Joseph Friendship from Seattle, Washington
I am a 25-year-old gay, black male. I find that my lifestyle is accepted in the most favorable of urban areas like here in Seattle, San Francisco, New York or Chicago, but as a whole, most of the country is conservative and is still hesitant on accepting us for who we are. And while our community has made some strides in the right direction, those gains have been at best scattered across the country.

Kim Greene from Columbus, Georgia
I think it may be gaining more tolerance, but many Christians will never accept the LBGT community. I am a 32-year-old lesbian with a family and girlfriend of nine years. We are definitely tolerated, but usually not accepted by those outside of the community or close friends and family. And we are the lucky ones. By the way we are also Christians. I believe God had a plan when two tortured souls can be brought together to mend.

The opposition to homosexuality

Don Schindler from Anchorage, Alaska
It is clear that homosexuality has increasingly been accepted by our culture. What is not so clear is that the homosexual lifestyle is a greatly disturbed one, generally unhealthy, and one that undermines traditional marriage at our peril. Those with sexual identity problems need counseling support and encouragement, not a "celebration" of a poor moral choice. Political correctness, especially in the media, has now blurred the distinction between tolerance and permissiveness, and we suffer when as a society we lack the compass of truth.

David Thomas from New Hyde Park, New York
Why the hell is CNN promoting this perversion?

Samuel Bloxom from Virginia Beach, Virginia
The morality of homosexuality is at the heart of every debate. Morality however is guided by individual beliefs and experiences. Homosexuality on a larger scale is simply unnatural, it is a selfish physical and emotional act made be choice. While I would never discriminate against someone because of their sexuality, it does not mean that I have to accept it as a social norm or condone it.

William Pruett from Bluefield, Virginia
The Bible teaches us that homosexuality is wrong, an "abomination before God." The same Bible teaches us we should hate the sin, love the sinner. While it would not bother me if my boss, or a neighbor was gay, and I could, and would accept and love them as Jesus taught, however as a Christian, it goes against my beliefs, for homosexuality to be accepted openly (the pulpit) into the church. I also have problems with homosexuality being taught in the schools to my children as if it is acceptable. God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for the very acts we are trying to portray today as OK. God doesn't change. If it was an abomination before him, more than 2,000 years ago, then it will still be today. As a Christian, I believe we have an obligation to reach those who have chosen the wrong path, and I also believe that by granting acceptance of their alternative lifestyle that their souls and their blood will be on our hands when we stand before God in judgment.

Kimberly King from Harrah, Oklahoma
I am a Christian, and the Bible tells me to love the sinner, but don't love the sin. I believe that homosexuality of anything is wrong and against God's will, but it is not for me to judge homosexuals.

Joyce Garrett from Folsom, Louisiana
Unfortunately being gay is becoming more and more acceptable. In fact, homosexuals are wearing their sexual preferences like badges of honor. When did Americans start to accept and glorify immorality? When did we Americans become so socially, politically and morally bankrupt? With respect to religion, some Americans condone homosexuality by saying that, "God loves everybody, even gay people." That is true. God does love everybody, but He does not approve of homosexuality. Politicians skirt the issue of homosexuality because they are afraid to lose votes and elections, and we as American citizens sit idly by and allow our society and our children to be corrupted by this pervasive spread of immorality. What happened to the first amendment of the constitution? Americans in every arena are afraid to speak out against homosexuality. In a society where gays (closeted or open) wield much political, social, and economic power with which they can sway public opinion, influence national elections, and have someone fired (Isaiah Washington), for opposing this lifestyle and speaking against it, that speaks volumes about the state of these United States of America.

Cindy Faircloth, Newton, Iowa
I absolutely do not agree with the gay/lesbian lifestyle. As a Christian I find it completely, morally wrong. However, I have very dear friends who are gay, and who know my position upfront and that is the end of it. I know I am not perfect in their eyes either, just like I have friends, relatives, and acquaintances who may drink heavily, smoke, or commit adultery, or whatever. It's not for me to judge anyone else, not my job. I'm quite sure I have done and will do in the future things which are not perfect in the eyes of God, but they will be no less than any others' sins, as there is no "degree of sin," just sin, period. We must learn that one is no better than the other and the world will be so much better for it.

Haissam Assi from Dearborn Heights, Michigan
I believe that homosexuality is more accepted today than it was 10 years ago. However, it's accepted because of the wrong reasons. Many people have been taught and now believe that homosexuality is a result of genetics. That theory came about only to legitimize something that is totally wrong because no one can totally accept homosexuality if that wasn't the case. And people are more restricted in talking against homosexuality, fearing they would be labeled as "homophobes" and anti-civil rights.

Dean Winchell from Amsterdam, New York
Like the heathen people in the Old Testament, the nature of man remains corrupted. People today seem not to care what the Good Book says or reflect on the way sin has negatively affected their own lives. People will pay any price, it seems, to live according to their own fleshly desires. Homosexuality is being widely accepted along with other troubling trends in our society, i.e. divorce, adultery, parentless children, pornography, vulgarity from the media.

There is no fear of God in lawless people who do not believe in a divine judgment.

Roy Pace from Medford, Oregon
No, homosexuality is not being more accepted. Just because we have to listen to this drivel day in and day out and are inundated with it because the "gay" interest groups keep shoving it to the forefront does not make it widely acceptable. The 6 percent of the nation who claims it is gay should not dictate the rules nor the morality for the other 94 percent.

Colleen Johnston from Apple Valley, California
There are several ways I view the acceptance of homosexuality. As a Christian, I love the individual homosexual people I encounter but believe it to be a sin. The bigger picture is, we are all sinners, their sin is no worse than mine. There are no "degrees" of sin. Sin is sin. In regards to homosexuals in the business world: No problem. It's their life. I do believe that homosexuals should be able to serve openly in the military. I do not believe that homosexuals are a minority deserving of special benefits for their sexual orientation. They should be allowed to have domestic partnerships, accompanying medical benefits and be allowed to have a say in their loved ones' medical conditions/visitation/funeral arrangements just like other couples who live together. Judge not lest ye be judged also.


bell.jpg

William Bell, 28 (right) says he thinks he and his partner, Patrick Kennedy, 35, are a good example of a solid, hard-working, successful couple representing how "normal" gays and lesbians really are.

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