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Louis Untermeyer


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 heard wrong.

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 grandson?

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.

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