"An Inclusive Man"

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It took President George W. Bush several days to respond to Senator
Rick Santorum's unscripted remarks to the Associated Press about
homosexuality. He attempted a couple of defensive passesclaiming,
at first, through his Delphic spokesman, Ari Fleischer, that he
never comments on current Supreme Court cases. But, finally, he
came clean, praising Santorum's character and adding that he
believes the senator is "an inclusive man."

We assume the president was apprised of Santorum's fullremarks. They centered on the completely legitimate question of
whether there is a right to privacy within the Constitution and
Santorum's view that there is not a perfectly familiar and
defensible one. But the full remarks that Santorum madereleased
only when the senator insisted that his remarks had been taken out
of contextreveal something far more elaborate and extreme. Santorum
argued that it is impossible to draw a firm, moral distinction
between homosexual relationships and bestiality or child abuse. In
the context of the recent crisis in the Catholic Church, he
described the abuse of minors as a "basic homosexual relationship."
More importantly, in making his Constitutional point about the
right to privacy, he let slip a clearly political point: that he
would disagree with a state that abolished anti-sodomy laws. There
is no plausible inference from his comments except that the senator
favors the criminalization of private, adult, consensual activity.
In the current context, in which the Supreme Court is weighing an
anti-sodomy law that targets gays but exempts heterosexuals from
prosecution for the same acts, there is also no plausible evidence
that he objects to that either. Indeed, neither he nor the
president has said anything to distance himself from the position
that private, gay sexual relationships should be crimes, and both
men have had ample opportunity to do so. In fact, the president's
only explicit comments on the discriminatory Texas law came when he
was governor, and he endorsed it.

Of course, to believe that all private, gay relationships should
exist under threat of police surveillance and criminal sanction is
an honest, if draconian, view. But how on earth can the person who
holds it be regarded as "an inclusive man"? It will be argued that
Santorum is merely reflecting orthodox Catholic doctrine, that he
loves the sinners and hates the sin. But Santorum goes much
further. He wants to turn this "sin" into a crime, blurring any
distinction between his own religious views and civil law. And he
invites worrying questions about the principle involved. The
theological reason for Santorum's opposition to same-sex sexual
relationships, after all, is that they cannot be procreative. But
the same could also be said of sex with contraception, a whole
range of heterosexual sexual behavior, and even sex between the old
or infertile. Does he propose making these "sins" crimes as well?
If not, why not? In fact, his disquisition on the evils of gay sex,
"man on dog" sex, and child abuse began with his aversion to the
Supreme Court's Griswold case, which protected precisely the right
to use contraception in one's own home. It is an absolutely
legitimate question to ask of Santorum whether he wants to
criminalize contraception as well.

But, of course, as a practical matter, he doesn't. His efforts
extend only to homosexuals whose only offense is conducting their
sexual lives in private. This is not an abstract issue. The current
Court case involves two men arrested in their home only five years
ago. In Oklahoma, another state with a law similar to Texas's, the
punishment for the felony of private, gay sex runs up to ten years
in jail, a sentence comparable to that for kidnapping. Whatever
else these laws are, they and their backers cannot by any stretch of
the imagination be called "inclusive." If the terms of inclusion
for gay people in the Republican Party are that they must give up
all private sexual relationships under threat of criminal law, then
inclusion, in GOP doublespeak, really means second-class
citizenship.

The president has appointed some openly gay men to his
administration; his party chairman, Marc Racicot, recently met with
the Human Rights Campaign; gay Republicans have been included in
Republican discussions on the Hill and at the Justice Department;
and the president has not reversed any of President Bill Clinton's
attempts to support and protect gay government employees. These are
all to the good. But the president is wrong to think that this
tacit acknowledgment of gay citizens will work indefinitely. He
still hasn't even said the word "gay" in public and acts as if it
were somehow inappropriate to mention it. But we are not living in
the 1950s, and this issue cannot be ducked much longer by
hypocritical bromides about "inclusion." Either the president wants
to include gay people in the American family, or he wants to cozy up
to people who would throw them in jail. He cannot want both. And
it's long past time that he made up his mind.

By the Editors

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