Homosexual rights are more and more taken for granted as a given of American life. In October, for example, CNN raised the question of whether homosexual activists were correct in condemning Hollywood’s refusal to advance their agenda. Whether filmmakers ought to advance a homosexual agenda is, apparently, not worth discussing. In the world of magazines, the situation is, if anything, worse. The New Republic, which used to be the favorite magazine of many conservatives, is now a homosexual rights newsletter that ought to be printed in tabloid form. Each issue now features stories on “gay fiction” and “gay studies.” Mr. Andrew Sullivan, in his gushing pieces at the back of the magazine, can find nothing more important to talk about than the AIDS quilt and similar topics of universal interest.

William Buckley, who must know better, seems now to grant homosexuals the special rights of a victimized minority. But over the years National Review has mercilessly attacked the notion of group rights for anyone. Of course homosexuals have rights, the same rights the rest of us have, as guaranteed by federal and state constitutions and by the traditions of the Common Law. But, qua homosexuals, what rights can they possibly have in a society that has always regarded their practices as unwholesome, unnatural, and contrary to divine ordinance? Will there now be thief rights, cannibal rights, child molester rights? (I hope I am not giving anyone ideas.)

Yes, criminals and perverts do have rights, and where an activity takes place in privacy and between consenting adults, no sensible or well-bred person would want to stick his nose in, especially if one has retained a fine sense of smell. But do these people have a right to intrude their problems into my life, by coming out of the closet or by preaching to my children in school or by flouncing about in military uniforms? The proposed Oregon ordinance, to which Mr. Buckley objects in a column, was directed not against homosexuals themselves but against “gay rights.” The main object, so it seemed to most of us, was to prevent teachers and counselors from indoctrinating schoolchildren into a positive view of a perversion that will not only ruin their lives but will condemn them to an early grave.

Most of us find our own way of going to hell, and I hold no brief for the Don Juans, divorces, drunkards, stock manipulators, and slanderers of my acquaintance. Many of them will be found, no doubt, in lower circles than homosexuals who cling to their particular vice, but sin, in order to prosper, needs no encouragement—as a wise man observed—it needs only to be tolerated. Toleration and persecution are both official acts of a moralizing state. The best that homosexuals can expect from us is to be ignored; all we ask in return is a little discretion.

Any decent and moral person must attempt to resolve the obvious conflict between the sense of humanity and the sense of propriety. The case of John Schlafly, homosexual son of Phyllis Schlafly, is a case in point. To my knowledge, Mr. Schlafly dealt with his own problems in a private and discreet fashion; he invited no attention, made no demands. It was the homosexual activists at Queer Week who “outed” him, violating both Mr. Schlafly’s privacy as well as the common standards of decency that obtain in the aptly named “straight world.” The conclusion of National Review‘s October 19 editorial on this incident is worth repeating: “The media, though still furious about McCarthyism after all these years, have dropped any qualms they once had about ‘outing’. . . . So much for privacy. Not to mention free speech and fair play. ‘Outing’ is what used to be known as blackmail. And thanks to the ‘silent approval’ of good liberals, blackmail now hangs over one side in the debate on gay rights.”

In the better world of not too many years ago, we knew that vice was vice and sin was sin. We also had the manners and sense not to intrude into other people’s private life. If the cheerless gay community now believes that invasions of private life are justified by a higher morality, they arc initiating a power struggle they cannot win against the other 95 percent of the human race—even if they should live so long.