Myths about reproductive cloning
cloning would allow gay and lesbian couples to have a child
that is genetically related to them.
Cloning would result in a child that is genetically "related"
to one individual in the couple, but in a way unprecedented
in history. (A cloned child would be a genetic near-duplicate
of one person, rather than being 50 percent related, as is the
case with alternative insemination or egg donation.) In the
case of male couples, a donor egg would be required to create
the cloned embryo and a "surrogate" mother would be
needed to carry it to term.
There are other viable options for having children, including
in vitro fertilization with donor gametes, alternative insemination,
or adoption. Our resources are far better spent advocating for
equal access to existing means of family building, legal protections
for GLBT parents and children, and full social acceptance of
cloning could help us better understand the "causes"
Would the clone of a gay man also be gay, and if he was, what
would that tell us about homosexuality? Not very much. There
are already plenty of kids out there whose biological parents
are both gay. Some of these kids grow up to be gay, many of
them do not. Simply producing a genetic copy of a gay man does
not tell us anything about the cultural, social and environmental
influences on sexuality. The vast majority of traits, including
physical ones, are influenced by multiple genes, and by environmental
and social factors.
sexuality is proven to be genetically determined, and embryo
screening becomes commonplace, heterosexual couples would screen
out "homosexual" embryos. Cloning gays and lesbians
would be one way to ensure that homosexuals are reproduced.
This kind of genetic screening and selection would greatly
alter the life prospects of individuals and exacerbate inequalities.
Embryo screening can be considered a crude form of eugenics,
since it selects among embryos based on traits that it is believed
the resulting child will develop. Especially for groups that
historically have been the targets of discrimination, this is
a road we'd best avoid.
New forms of discrimination
There is a long and ugly history of the misuse of genetic theories
and science to justify discrimination. Many people tend to seek
confirmation of their prejudices in scientific studies, and
continued efforts are needed to counter this.
Cloning, inheritable genetic modification (IGM), and other
new genetic and reproductive technologies raise special concerns
for the GLBT community and others that are targets of discrimination.
For example, efforts to identify a "gay gene" and
obtain statistical correlations between this and behavioral
and social data could lead to gross abuse. In countries such
as the US, where discrimination based on sexual orientation
is legal (and widely practiced), it is easy to imagine what
could happen if one's sexual orientation was genetically "identifiable"
- from embryo to adulthood.
The hunt for the "gay gene"
The notion that there might be a "gay gene" first
became popular in 1993 when molecular biologist Dean Hamer pinpointed
a genetic marker on the X chromosome supposedly linked to homosexual
behavior in men. Hamer and his team studied DNA samples from
self-identified gay men and compared them to other gay male
family members. The researchers discovered that most gay men
within a family share a common DNA segment, or marker.
Hamer's results have since been challenged, but the question
of whether there is a genetic basis for sexual orientation remains
a hot-button issue for both supporters and opponents of gay
rights. Many GLBT advocates believe the existence of a "gay
gene" would be a welcome counter to homophobic claims that
homosexuality is an "unnatural" or chosen lifestyle.
Some assert that confirmation of the "gay gene" would
justify legal protections against discrimination.
However, history tells us that other outcomes are possible,
perhaps likely. Arguments based on biological and genetic determinism
have often been used to legitimize discrimination against certain
groups (think women, Jews, African-Americans).
The expression of human sexuality, like any other behavior,
is influenced by a combination of biological and social factors,
and will probably never be definitively linked to a particular
gene or set of genes. The search for a "gay gene"
can itself be seen as an act of homophobia, based on the assumption
that homosexuality is an exception to the norm. Last time we
checked, no one was searching for a "heterosexual gene."
Advocates of genetic technology paint a rosier picture: Rather
than being used against gays and lesbians, they say, new technologies
can be used to help same-sex couples reproduce. Some have used
this argument to urge the GLBT community to jump on the cloning
Touting cloning as a new reproductive option for same-sex couples
substitutes a technical fix for committed and compassionate
social engagement. If gays and lesbians had equal access to
adoption and fertility services and were not judged "unfit"
to parent their own biological children because of their sexual
orientation, all of society would benefit. Yet instead of working
towards this common goal, advocates of reproductive cloning
are pouring their resources into the development of a costly
and dangerous technology that - even if it is made available
to gays and lesbians - would do nothing to address the underlying
issues of inequality and homophobia that plague our communities.
Cloning would not help gays and lesbians build healthy families.
Instead, it would have grave implications for the physical,
psychological, and social well-being of all children. Even if
cloning were safe, the social risks it entails would make it
an unjustifiable option.
Bans on the most dangerous eugenic technologies, and regulation
of other controversial technologies to prevent abuse, need not
impede potentially beneficial medical research and applications
or detract from full support for reproductive rights.
The minimal core policies needed to protect against abuse are:
and global bans on reproductive human cloning
and global bans on inheritable genetic modification
accountable regulation of all other human genetic technologies
In addition to the policies listed above, we recognize the
urgent need for legal protections for GLBT families - including
rights to adoption, custody and visitation, second-parent adoption,
and access to assisted reproductive technology.
There is no reason that people of different cultures, religions,
and sexual orientations cannot work together in support of the
policies needed to protect our common human future. Genetic
technologies cannot counter homophobia and discrimination, but
effective social policies can.