Did I misunderstand what I was taught about this country of ours?

Here's what I remember being taught: In America, each person gets to make his or her own choices in life, as long as they're not harmful or destructive to other people and to other people's property.The fact that you don't like someone else's choice is not an excuse for trying to limit their rights.

Even if you or your social group or your religion doesn't like it, each individual gets to choose. In America, we don't take away people's civil rights because another person (or group) doesn't like something about them.

I always thought that in America if two people fall in love, they get to choose if they want to spend the rest of their lives together and share their joys and sorrows with each other. They get to choose if they want to raise children together or not. Other people don't get to choose for them. Not their parents or family, not someone's church and certainly not the government.

I don't remember being taught in my American schools that some sort of a vote would be taken and if the majority didn't approve of a couple, they would be deprived of basic civil liberties and would be denied benefits that other Americans take for granted.

From what I've heard, I suppose that in the 1990s kids are probably being taught that if they're gay lots of people are going to expect them to live alone and be celibate for the rest of their lives; or they're going to be expected to act like they're heterosexuals, maybe even to tell people they've been "cured"; and only if they do one of those two things will they enjoy the same civil rights and benefits as heterosexual people. (Or the same rights and benefits as gay people who are passing as heterosexuals.)

Maybe Russell Gough (Readers' Forum, July 27), the Christian Coalition and people like Utah's Gayle Ruzicka, Lynn Wardle and Craig Taylor are right. Maybe I'm the one who has misunderstood how things work in America.

Kathy J. Worthington