We first ran into this letter in the online world in May 2000, just after the state of Vermont permitted homosexual couples to contract "civil unions," an official recognition that imparted to same-sex partners the legal benefits of marriage, such as the right to be regarded by hospitals as their partners' next of kin, to make medical decisions on behalf of their partners, and to file joint tax returns. This "everything that is marriage but the name" decision pleased some and angered others, resulting in many heated opinions about same-sex unions in specific, and homosexuality in general, to be bruited in countless public forums.
Thanks to her oft-aired opinion that homosexuals were a "mistake of nature," radio personality
Dr. Schlessinger has attracted both adherents and detractors during her years of public life. Through her radio show, she dispenses advice to callers, usually from a conservative point of view. She was an Orthodox Jew at the time the letter quoted above was written (but she announced her renunciation of that faith on her show in July 2003) and often draws upon the Bible or religious teachings for guidance. She is blunt and forthright in her replies, viewing most situations as inherently black or white, right or wrong.
Laura Schlessinger is neither a medical doctor nor accredited in a discipline one would traditionally look to for the generation of expertise in moral, societal, or spiritual matters (such as divinity, psychology, or sociology). She earned her doctorate in physiology from Columbia University and practiced as a licensed marriage, family, and child counselor for more than a decade (although her California Marriage Family and Child Counseling license has been inactive for many years now).
In 1998 nude photos of Laura Schlessinger were displayed on the Internet. During the commotion over those pictures, their source was revealed to be veteran
Some see Schlessinger's use of "Doctor" as misleading and view her current stance on the sanctity of marriage and the wrongness of adultery as hypocrisy in light of her decades-earlier affair. Others believe the title of "Doctor" should not be restricted only to those in the medical field and hold that people can change over time, even to the point of full repudiation of previous behaviors and beliefs.
Dr. Laura is as controversial as she is popular, so she attracts both bouquets and brickbats whenever topics she is known to harbor strong opinions about become part of the day's news. Thus, those looking for someone to crow at over Vermont's recognition of same-sex unions would have quickly thought of
The counter to the "homosexuality is wrong because the Bible says so" argument that is the
While some versions in circulation identify
In August 2003 a journalist for the Halifax Daily News presented the
This May 2000 piece struck a note with many people, and by June and July of that year it had made its way into a number of newspapers, including the Knoxville News-Sentinel
The key to this essay is its premise, not the pedantic details of it of how it is defended. Simply put, the letter points out a logical flaw in the "homosexuality is wrong because the Bible says so" argument: if homosexuality is wrong because it goes against God's law as outlined in the Bible, why aren't any number of activities now viewed as innocuous but proscribed as unacceptable in the Bible also offenses against God's law? How can one part of Leviticus be deemed as etched in stone when other parts have been discarded as archaic?
The essay completes with the sarcastic rejoinder "Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging." While this is presented as a rebuke meant for just one, it is a general reminder that many belief systems pick and choose their way through Biblical teachings in determining what is right and what is wrong, with those assessments changing over time even within sects that pride themselves on strict adherence to the Good Book.
In early October 2000, Dr. Schlessinger ran a full-page ad in Variety offering an apology for what she called "poorly chosen" words about homosexuality. She had previously referred to gays as "biological errors" and "deviants," as exemplified by her remarks of
I'm sorry — hear it one more time, perfectly clearly: If you're gay or a lesbian, it's a biological error that inhibits you from relating normally to the opposite sex. The fact that you are intelligent, creative and valuable is all true. The error is in your inability to relate sexually intimately, in a loving way to a member of the opposite sex — it is a biological error.
October 2000 was not Dr. Laura's month. A few weeks after she issued her apology, a version of the "Letter to
Just as the Internet piece gave the West Wing writers fodder for a memorable scene, so did the exposure on a popular television show boost the online circulation of the "Letter to
In the wake of President George W. Bush's election to a second term, in the Fall of 2004 the piece was circulated yet again, this time addressed "Dear President Bush" rather than "Dear