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April 22, 2003 - 1:08 p.m.
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In the news today, Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum made some comments about a pending case before the U.S. Supreme Court, Lawrence and Garner v. Texas, to the effect of:
Several groups, such as Human Rights Campaign, Center for Lesbian and Gay Rights, and Log Cabin Republicans, among others, are calling for the Republican senate to remove Santorum from leadership positions. The Human Rights Campaign says, "We're urging the Republican leadership to condemn the remarks. They were stunning in their insensitivity, and they're the same types of remarks that sparked outrage toward Sen. Lott." [Again quoted from Yahoo News.]
(If you don't remember, Lott got into trouble when, in honoring Strom Thurman, he remarked that had Thurman been elected president back when he ran, the country would be in better shape today. When Thurman ran for president fifty-some years ago, he ran on a strong pro-segregation platform.)
It bothers me when gay rights groups use unpersuasive rhetoric, because generally I agree with their goals. Well, except for Log Cabin Republicans- I don't agree with very many of their goals. Homophobia is a problem in American society, but in no way does it compare with Segregation. When the government figures out a way to physically mark homosexuals, herd them into run-down schools, make them give up their seats on the bus for whites, etc., then I will start listening to a homophobia-segregation connection.
(Now it wouldn't suprise me that several prominent government and religious figures are thinking at this very moment, Wouldn't it be wonderful if homosexuals had a distinctive skin color, so we could segretate them from the rest of society? Jerry Falwell could be praying for this right now.)
But you know what, I think that Santorum is right. By admitting that the government can't interfere with private sexual relations between two consenting adults of the same sex, then the government couldn't interfere with private sexual relations between any two (or more) consenting adults.
And that's fine with me.
When Santorum says, "You have the right to anything," he's close to making a correct statement. It's better put in these words: that there are "certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness."
Texas can't even come up with a good reason for its anti-homosexuality law- and it is facially anti-homosexual, because it only prohibits conduct between persons of the same sex, whereas an anti-sodomy law like Virginia's technically applies to sodomy between not only homosexuals, but heterosexuals as well (wink wink, nudge nudge). The best Texas can do to justify its anti-homosexuality law is that it preserves "public morals."
Public is an interesting word, considering that the law bans private conduct. Regardless of that, not every moral issue requires a criminal law to enforce it. The point of criminal law is to maintain an orderly society, not to tell citizens what to think. Generally, it's up to the citizens to figure out what to think.
Santorum forgot to add to his list of fears that, if the government can't prevent homosexuals from engaging in sodomy with each other, then the government can't prevent heterosexuals from engaging in sodomy with each other. Oh no, what then? If it's immoral for Joe to suck dick, then it's immoral for Joan to suck dick. I've read the Bible.
And let me tell you, I am frightened of a world in which the government doesn't let Joan engage in her right to suck dick. That's the worst authoritarianism.
It's not that I have no moral code. I think morality is extremely important. But I use my concept of morals go guide my own actions. I may try to persuade others that my ideas about morality are correct. I have no illusion, however, that I should be a philosopher-king, legislating my moral view to the ignorant masses.
Anyway, I don't know why I should care whether homosexuality is moral or not. I really have more important things to worry about, affecting me more personally. I do worry about the morality of things like beating and killing people because they are gay. Now that's immoral, properly illegal, and it frightens me and makes me concerned for the safety of some people who I know and like. I know that Jerry Falwell's incitements against homosexuals are immoral, because it's moral to love people but not to hate people. But Jerry Falwell's speech, even though immoral, is legal, and it should be legal. He has a First Amendment right to be an asshole.
I understand a little bit of Santorum's concern. The thought of homosexual sex makes him uncomfortable. You know what, Rick, like you, I hope to never see two men having sex with each other. But my advice is, if it makes you uncomfortable, don't think about it. If they are doing it in the privacy of their homes, and you don't break into their homes, then you never have to know about it.
I would be very happy to never have to think about two men having sex, and I would never have to think about it if zealots like Santorum weren't complaining about it all the time to the media and and trying to enlist the government to oppress homosexuals.
And the very reason that these guys, Lawrence and Garner, were having sex at their residence, and not my residence, is so that I wouldn't have to see it. And I appreciate that, and Santorum and the Texas appellate court and everyone else should just appreciate that too.
The existence of gay people does not mean that there's going to be sodomy everywhere. I've even lived with gay men on two seperate occasions, for two years, and I never once observed either one of them having sex. And they never observed me having sex. Except once, but he knew he should have knocked first before unlocking the door and barging in, that bastard.
I know it's not scientific, but based upon my limited experience with living with gay men, I don't think that treating homosexuals with the same respect as anyone else is going to lead to that disturbing scene from Deliverance played out everywhere. And even if I did come home and found my gay roommate having sex in the living room, I'm not calling the police, though I'd certainly call a house meeting to discuss this problem. And let me say this, if we're going to outlaw offensive conduct generally, then I think leaving dirty dishes in the kitchen sink and water all over the bathroom floor should be felonies.
Society has changed somewhat as homosexuality becomes more and more accepted. Fifteen years ago when I was an undergraduate, I never saw women walking around campus holding hands. Today, I see it a lot. And by the way, I still never see men walking around holding hands. And it bothers me a little bit that I see the women and not the men, because generally I'd like there be less gay women and more gay men. Why? Because I'm a heterosexual man, and I hate competition.
But regardless, society isn't going to fall apart of persons if the same sex walk around holding hands. Now, when I see those man-woman couples walking around, where he has his hand stuck in the back of her jeans and vice versa, that to me is a sign of societal collapse. The hand stuck in the back of the jeans thing is just plain wrong, at least in public. I could really use less of that.
In any event, it is not the job of the government to micro-manage every aspect of someone else's life that I might find offensive. It's the job of the government to protect me from psychopathic killers, from being robbed, and it's the governemnt's job to build roads and maintain parks, and it is the government's job to see that life is reasonably orderly. But if after all of those huge responsibilities, if the government feels like it has time left on its hands, what it needs to do is stop chasing around consenting adults acting in private, and take the tax money it isn't spending on that and give it back to me. And I know that police officers and prosecutors don't have so much time on their hands that they sit around twiddling their thumbs hoping that legislators give them busy work to do like chasing around two adult men who are having sex in the privacy of their own home.
And if this also means that the government can't stop "open marriages," it can't stop a Mormon man from having several adult wives, and can't stop an adult brother and adult sister from screwing around one day, then such is life. I think those three things are unwise, stupid, and sick, respectively, but not every unwise, stupid, or sick thing requires criminal sanction.
The real dangerous snowball possibility is that, if the U.S. Supreme Court says that sure, the government can regulate private life, then other extremely important rights will fall. And Congress, and state governments, try hard all the time to take away important rights. The Patriot Act comes immediately to mind, which gives law enforcement agencies carte blanche to spy on people for no good reason. If unsubstantiated suspicion of terrorism is enough for a wire tap on my phone and intercepting my e-mail, then making sure I don't do it with a man is enough justification for a camera feed to a law enforcement agency from my bedroom.
And if you don't think that can happen, you've been watching too much television and not reading enough newspapers.