In my introduction to ethics course, we spend some time discussing homosexuality. I don't know how common it is for philosophy instructors to discuss this topic, but I have found it to be very worthwhile, for many reasons. After our discussion, I have them write a paper. The papers I receive, for them most part, fall into two categories. I wonder if this is a problem and, if it is, how it can be avoided.
The format of our discussion is fairly standard (at least for me). I make a few distinctions (in this case, that by 'homosexuality' one might be referring to, at least, certain kinds of (1) actions, (2) feelings or desires, (3) relationships and/or (4) stereotypical "lifestyles." I observe that these are all different and none needn't entail any of the others.
With these distinctions in mind, I then ask them if they know of anyone -- or have ever heard of anyone -- who would say that homosexuality is wrong, i.e., morally impermissible, or bad. Of course they all say yes.
I then ask them to break up into groups and try to come up with as many reasons as they have ever heard or could imagine anyone giving in defense of that conclusion. I note that perhaps reasons might better apply to actions and not to desires, etc.
We then wind up with a fairly massive list, especially since I add a few that they might not have thought of, that I sum up in this handout. We then work through many of these arguments, first stating them in valid form (i.e., usually adding a missing universal generalization or conditional) and then evaluating whether there are any reasons to think that any of the premises are false (e.g., in particular, whether there are any obvious counterexamples to the universal generalization).
The papers are then pretty predictable. Many argue either that there are no sound arguments against homosexuality (or none that they have seen), so we should think that homosexuality is permissible. These papers, it seems to me, are often quite good: the arguments are carefully explained, counterexamples given to the premises, and there's often a bit of good reflection at the end about why there is controversy in many circles about this issue, given their estimate of the quality of the arguments.
The other kind of paper is like this: the arguments against homosexuality are presented, but in a very uncareful manner: e.g., various interesting claims, about what's 'natural' or what something's 'function' is, etc., are made but not explained or defended. And objections are typically totally ignored: they are not even raised, despite that being part of the assignment.
So my question is whether this is a problem and, if so, what can be done about it.
(I should also add that I never assert any "final" view about the morality of homosexuality or the arguments. If anyone asks what I think I simply report here that my role is a guide (or game show host) and that I'm just trying to get people to think about these arguments.)