The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
With a convergence of inattentive writing and unquenchable zeal, the Republican Party of Texas recently suggested that most Texans are gay. The claim places the state party at the vanguard of the sexual revolution, leaping over Kinsey enthusiasts and their comparatively modest estimate that only 10% of Americans are homosexual. (Kinsey himself made no such claim.)
At least that's the interpretation being placed on the 2016 Texas GOP platform by gleeful Internet grammarians. With erratic use of "be" verbs and passive voice, paragraph 84 of the new platform states:
Homosexuality is a chosen behavior that is contrary to the fundamental unchanging truths that has [sic] been ordained by God in the Bible, recognized by our nations [sic] founders, and shared by the majority of Texans.
State party leaders meant to make the (false) claim that most Texans believe homosexuality is contrary to unchanging truths ordained by God. And that is the meaning of the similar but more careful passage in the 2014 Texas GOP platform. With greater attention to subject-verb agreement (and an actual possessive apostrophe!), it maintained: "Homosexuality is a chosen behavior that is contrary to the fundamental unchanging truths that have been ordained by God in the Bible, recognized by our nation's founders, and shared by the majority of Texans." These assertions, and various libels about homosexuality, go back decades in the Texas GOP platform.
Language is complex, rules of usage are not ironclad laws, and people make minor and unimportant grammatical mistakes all the time. Usually they deserve charity. The unlettered quality of a statement is nothing next to its toxic substance.
But Texas GOP leaders adhere to a pinched form of literalism in law and life, so they deserve to be taken strictly at their word: "Homosexuality is a chosen behavior that . . . has been . . . shared by the majority of Texans."
To be fair, the new platform language does not actually assert that most Texans are gay. It claims only that they "share" homosexuality. But what can this possibly mean? Perhaps it means that there is a certain amount of homosexuality that most Texans pass around to each other. If someone doesn't seem to have enough, one Texan may loan or even give another Texan some of his. Or it could refer to a trait that most Texans have in common, like good taste in barbecue. Of course, it should be emphasized that a majority but not all Texans share homosexuality. There may be some who hoard it.
What could have happened in my native state between 2014 and 2016? Not only all of Austin, but huge swaths of Houston and Dallas, plus parts of Corsicana, must have succumbed. We all know that in the annus mirabilis 2015 the Supreme Court decided Obergefell v. Hodges, which required gay marriages. The party platform instructs elected officials from the Governor on down to "assert our Tenth Amendment right and reject the Supreme Court ruling." The platform also vows to keep alive the practice of "sexual orientation change efforts," apparently in the vain hope that Texans may be coaxed back to heterosexuality.