Marriage Equality and Science

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 26: (L-R) Cindy Jackson, a science teacher at Grace Church High School, and her partner, Denise Niewinski
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 26: (L-R) Cindy Jackson, a science teacher at Grace Church High School, and her partner, Denise Niewinski, Deputy Director of LGBTQ Policy and Practice at ACS, alongside Thomas Kirdahy, producer, and his partner, Terrence McNally, playwright, embrace before New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio performs marriage and vows renewal ceremonies for each couple, respectively, in front of City Hall on June 26, 2015 in New York City. Today the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states. (Photo by Yana Paskova/Getty Images)

It's worth noting that the decision to make same-sex marriage a nationwide right in America owes a big debt of gratitude to science.

Scientific research proved pretty conclusively that being gay is not a choice but a matter of genetics. Some of us would argue that even if you could choose to be gay, you should still get the same rights and protections as those who "chose" to be straight. Scientific evidence, however, revealed not just the immorality of prejudice, but the irrationality of it too -- and completely changed the way ordinary people looked at the LGBT community.

Without science, this Supreme Court decision might have been delayed another century until mere decency prevailed over the entrenched forces of American fundamentalism. This is the power of science: to quietly change and improve our lives through research and evidence. But sometimes science is too quiet. This is why I and many others -- Nobel laureates, science and tech stars, major science organizations, artists, politicians, university presidents and universities -- support ScienceDebate.org, an organization calling for televised public debates in which the U.S. presidential and congressional candidates share their views on science and technology policy, health and medicine, and the environment.

The fact that science is complex and hard to talk about is the very reason why it must be talked about. Avoiding the subject allows it to become another form of magic, dangerously open to political manipulation and exploitation. This is brilliantly explained in this short TEDx talk by science writer and ScienceDebate.org board chair, Shawn Otto.