The Occasional Muse
My humble opinion on current events
May 4, 2003
Santorum Gets a Bum Rap
By now, you've probably heard that
Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, a conservative Republican, equated
homosexuality with incest, bigamy, polygamy, and other forms of
unconventional sexual activities. You've heard he's a bigot. You have
I'm not saying that certain opportunistic
individuals have not been saying such things - they have been, loudly and
persistently. Liberal columnist Ellen Goodman proclaimed Santorum a member
of the "Taliban Republicans." Liberal columnist Leonard Pitts
wrote that "it is only in the most charitable interpretation of his
remarks that Santorum is a mere bigot. A harsher reading suggests that he
is something arguably worse: a crass opportunist, pandering to the fears
and hatreds of his core constituency."
So, according to Pitts, Santorum either
genuinely believes what he says, which makes him a bigot, or does not
believe what he says but instead is trying to score points with the folks
back home, who presumably are also bigots.
Often when the Left starts its juvenile
name-calling rather than address substantive issues with serious
arguments, it is trying to avoid an issue it can't deal with and instead
introduce an unrelated issue that is designed to inflame passions and
reduce thought. The Rick Santorum hullabaloo is a perfect illustration.
For the record, this is what Santorum said:
"If the Supreme Court says that you have to right to consensual sex
within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to
polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery.
You have the right to do anything."
I've read this statement over and over, and
I can't see where Santorum equates homosexuality with incest, bigamy, etc.
Where does he say that gay sex is the same as adultery or incest? He
didn't even mention homosexuality.
What I see is a classic, albeit clumsily
stated, presentation of a slippery slope argument. What he is saying is
this: If the Supreme Court decides that state governments cannot regulate
certain private consensual sexual acts - such as sodomy - in the
privacy of one's bedroom, then under what reasoning or legal justification
can states regulate or prohibit certain other private consensual sexual
acts in the privacy of one's bedroom? If sodomy laws are unconstitutional
because they invade people's privacy, then why aren't incest laws
unconstitutional? Why can the state prohibit one form of sexual behavior
but not the other?
In short, Santorum believes that a Supreme
Court decision declaring sodomy laws unconstitutional would lead to future
Court decisions declaring incest or polygamy laws unconstitutional,
because the logic and legal reasoning used to overturn the sodomy laws can
also apply to incest or polygamy laws.
For example, if an adult mother and adult
son, or adult father and adult daughter, or adult uncle and adult niece
wish to engage in consensual sex in the privacy of their bedroom, how can
the state legally stop them? I've heard it said that incest laws are okay
because incest could produce deformed children. But what if the couples
practiced safe sex? Or had their tubes tied? What if there is no possibility
of an injury to a third party? Garth Brooks once said that he couldn't
condemn anyone based on who they decided to love. Is the state then
incapable of condemning Granny for "loving" her 21-year-old
These are the issues Santorum was raising.
I believe they are serious, reasonable, and anything but bigoted. They are
not easy questions. Reasonable people can disagree.
But the Left ignores these serious issues
because it can't deal with them. It studiously ignores the logical
implications of its positions and instead slanders those who disagree. The
public may be against sodomy laws, but I doubt it wants incest and
polygamy laws overturned too. The Left knows this - that's why it deflects
attention from the real issue and instead brings public attention on
Santorum. Best to obscure the serious stuff from the public, lest they
(horrors!) agree with Santorum. Much easier and safer to demonize Santorum
and hoodwink the public.
This tactic comes from a movement that
endlessly praises itself for having the courage to dissent from popular
issues, like the war on Iraq. Just try to publicly dissent from one of the
Left's positions, and you'll get the same treatment it dished out to
Santorum. Dissent is permitted only if the Left approves of it.