Origin of Homosexuality Unresolved despite Study; Debate by Backers and Opponents of Same-Sex "Marriage" Adds to Confusion

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Byline: Cheryl Wetzstein, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Even presidents don't have an answer to questions about the origin of homosexuality.

And it's no wonder. Science doesn't have a clear answer either.

During the third presidential debate, moderator and CBS News correspondent Bob Schieffer asked the candidates, "Do you believe homosexuality is a choice?"

"You know, Bob, I don't know. I just don't know," said President Bush, who then urged tolerance, respect and dignity for homosexuals.

"We're all God's children," answered Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee. Referring to Mary Cheney, the lesbian daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney, Mr. Kerry said, "She would tell you that she's being... who she was born as. I think if you talk to anybody, it's not choice."

So what does science say?

Is homosexuality inborn? Is it caused by outside influences? And, regardless of where it comes from, can it be changed? The answer to all three questions is: yes and no.

If lawmakers, judges, educators and the public are frustrated by such answers, it's because they've been bombarded all year by supporters and opponents of same-sex "marriage," who have boiled research down to their favorite sound bites.

"Decades of research all point to the fact that sexual orientation is not a choice and that a person's sexual orientation cannot be changed," say homosexual rights groups such as Human Rights Campaign, which are flanked by the nation's premier medical, mental-health and therapy professional groups.

"There is no scientific research indicating a biological or genetic cause for homosexuality," counters the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH). Homosexuals who want to "can grow into their heterosexual potential" through "psychological therapy, spirituality and ex-gay support groups," adds NARTH, which has allies in traditional-values and religious groups.

Research supports both camps, but is far more vague, nuanced and unsettled than either lets on.

Science has been searching for the origins of homosexuality since at least the 1930s, when early endocrinologists were hoping to find a glandular explanation for homosexuality. In the early 1990s, science seemed on the verge of finding a "gay gene" or, as Mr. Kerry referred to, some inborn, biological basis for homosexuality, akin to eye color or height.

However, none of the "gay gene" studies have panned out. Even a 2000 study of nearly 5,000 Australian twins showed that, despite having identical genes, only 20 percent of male homosexuals and 24 percent of female homosexuals had a homosexual twin. To many researchers, these findings strengthen the argument that homosexuality stems more from outside influences than inborn genetics. …