Wednesday, April 23, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Directions: Open Mouth, Insert Foot, Brush Vigorously

It's not that I'm particularly surprised by Republican Senator Rick Santorum's (PA) recent anti-gay comments, prompted by Texas' ongoing Supreme Court case regarding sodomy laws:
[AP, 4/21/03] "If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual (gay) 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 anything."
...but this isn't just another example of backwater prejudice, it's just plain bad logic.

It's along the same lines as arguing that allowing people to eat meat is tantamount to promoting cannibalism.

Now, I'm sure there are some hard-core animal rights folks who might agree with that last comment, but that's hardly the mainstream of American sentiment. Sodomy laws have been in effect in many states for well over a century (or two, perhaps three). But while they've been on the books since great-great-great-grandpappy's time, one of the most odious things about them is the fact they're almost always selectively enforced.

What does "sodomy" mean? A lot of people think that sodomy laws are aimed strictly at male-to-male sexuality, but the traditional legal definitition of sodomy in many jurisdictions is any non-procreative sexual act. I'm sure it will come as no surprise that even heterosexual folks have been known to transgress that boundary occasionally.

Sodomy laws are a "penalty of convenience" that a prosecutor is free to invoke when it suits them, because they are almost never used to regulate heterosexual "violations" even though that is clearly within their scope.

Rather, they are used as a legal form of discrimination against gay and lesbian individuals in court cases involving primarily nonsexual matters such as employment, property or adoption cases. Sodomy laws are often pulled out as a "wild card" in court to sway legal cases against gay people...as in: "Of course we have to (a) take this person's children away, (b) fire this person, (c) Nullify this will.

Why? Because they're criminals! They commit the crime of sodomy in their homes!"

Of course, if you agree with these laws my argument probably won't change your mind. But looking at the matter in legal terms, how far do you think we should allow the government's (and the law's) reach to regulate and criminalize the details of our daily lives? Our personal records and credit histories? The workplace? Public parks and accomodations? The Internet and e-mail?

How far? If you ask me, I think the bedroom door is as good a place as any to draw the line.

By the way, I appreciate The Bleat's take on the issue:
"Santorum's remarks are not a recipe for electoral success in the 21st century. Things are balanced right now - a Democratic presidential candidate who insists that the Statue of Liberty’s mannish features prove she’s an example of transgendered statuary will find no national sympathy.

And a Republican who seems inordinately bothered by the fact that police can’t kick down a door and taser lesbians for snoring in a common bed - well, he’s toast, too. But the Democrats only need to be silent to win this issue. They win it just by being Democrats. Republicans lose the issue by raising it.

Come out with guns blazing, demand that the Supreme Court slam their big gilded gavel down on the very concept of sodomy, and they run the risk that people will go to the dictionary, look up the word, and say: I ain’t giving up that for a capital gains tax cut. Not on this or any other six planets."