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Scrutinizing Immutability

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Scrutinizing Immutability: Research on Sexual Orientation and
U.S. Legal Advocacy for Sexual Minorities


Lisa M. Diamond
Department of Psychology, University of Utah
Clifford J. Rosky
S. J. Quinney College of Law, University of Utah


We review scientific research and legal authorities to argue that the immutability of sexual
orientation should no longer be invoked as a foundation for the rights of individuals with samesex
attractions and relationships (i.e., sexual minorities). On the basis of scientific research as
well as U.S. legal rulings regarding lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) rights, we make three
claims: First, arguments based on the immutability of sexual orientation are unscientific, given
what we now know from longitudinal, population-based studies of naturally occurring changes
in the same-sex attractions of some individuals over time. Second, arguments based on the
immutability of sexual orientation are unnecessary, in light of U.S. legal decisions in which
courts have used grounds other than immutability to protect the rights of sexual minorities.
Third, arguments about the immutability of sexual orientation are unjust, because they imply
that same-sex attractions are inferior to other-sex attractions, and because they privilege sexual
minorities who experience their sexuality as fixed over those who experience their sexuality as
fluid. We conclude that the legal rights of individuals with same-sex attractions and relationships
should not be framed as if they depend on a certain pattern of scientific findings regarding
sexual orientation.

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