Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old freshman at Rutgers University, jumped off the George Washington Bridge on Sept. 22 after his roommate and a friend did a live online broadcast of him engaging in homosexual conduct in his dorm room.
The two students responsible for this truly heinous act, Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei, both also 18, face up to five years in prison on an invasion of privacy charge. I hope they get the max. What they did is unconscionable to a disturbing degree, and surely a sign of our cultural decline and loss of traditional moral values. What they did is and ought to be unthinkable.
They will never outlive the tragic reality that somebody killed himself in response to a terrible thing that they did. Demons will haunt them for the rest of their natural lives, long after they’ve left their prison cells.
Authorities are also trying to pin a hate crimes charge on these two young adults, which would surely be a mistake. What they did was wrong, regardless of the sexual preference of the individual whose privacy they invaded. To punish them more severely just because of the victim’s sexual preference makes a mockery of the American principle of jurisprudence that every victim - every victim - deserves the full and equal protection of our laws.
They say that hard cases make bad law, and that’s the danger here. The press for a bias charge in this situation is surely a naked attempt to advance not just the normalization of homosexuality but to make it the supreme sexual preference in our culture. If it deserves special protections denied to those who engage in normative sexuality, then it is being elevated to a place that no sexually aberrant behavior should ever receive.
And surely the event suggests that Mr. Clementi was conflicted about his own sexual preference. Had this twisted young students invaded the privacy of a married couple in the same way, the man and wife would be angry and embarrassed, and want to see these punk miscreants punished to the full extent of the law. But are they going to throw themselves off a bridge? Of course not. Why? Because there is nothing morally objectionable about a man having sex with his wife. It is the one relationship in which sexual intimacy can be enjoyed with moral approval and societal endorsement. So a married couple filmed in the same way would be embarrassed but not ashamed.
Mr. Clementi, on the other hand, was not only embarrassed but apparently deeply ashamed and consequently took his own life. There’s no evidence that I’ve seen that indicates that he was being bullied or harassed by others for his sexual preference. In some profound way, what he did was contrary to his own deep sense of what is right and what is wrong. He likely died full of guilt and shame, which is a terrible way to die.
For those who find themselves in Mr. Clementi’s position, surely there is a better resolution to such inner conflict than suicide. No one is compelled to yield to dark sexual impulses, no matter how strong they may be. We are not animals, driven by a mindless sexual energy; we are human beings made in the image of God who are capable of sexual restraint and capable of redirecting sexual energy in healthy and life-affirming directions.
Every form of sexual intimacy outside man-woman marriage, whether homosexual or heterosexual, is degrading, dehumanizing, and leads to what the Judeo-Christian tradition calls “the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves” (Romans 1:24).
No sexual conduct outside marriage should receive society’s endorsement, or receive special protections in law, or be subsidized and normalized by government.
What Mr. Ravi and Ms. Wei did is already against the law. We don’t need a bias crime statute to punish them.
What Mr. Clementi did is tragic. But no other 18-year-old needs to repeat his terrible, self-destructive act. Change is possible, a change which offers the hope of normative sexuality, marriage, children, and a family to enjoy for the rest of one’s natural life. Let’s hope somebody in this situation has the courage to tell the truth to other 18-year-olds who may be tormented by same-sex attraction. There is a better way, and let’s hope other young men in Mr. Clementi’s position find it.
(Unless otherwise noted, the opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Family Association or American Family Radio.)