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Of Santorum, Texas and Homosexuals
In Dissent, Number One Hundred and Six
by Brian S. Wise
29 April 2003Abortion Protestors

We should never underestimate the positive impact on society of people who are willing to selectively mind their own business.

It may no longer be the case, but at some point the State of Indiana (the author’s home State) had laws making mustaches illegal, so long as the wearer had a “tendency to habitually kiss other humans.”  (The news did not seem to phase my father, who not only has a mustache, but who repeatedly insists on kissing Mrs. Wise.)  Man invents law based upon his biases and concerns; the process is made better when others agree, better when his fellow legislators agree, better still when the governor or president agrees enough to sign their bills into law.  But more than anything else, law often reflects how silly we are, and how much nonsense we are willing to accept.  Whatever ethical ends were served by the mustache law, we will never know; we can safely assume that a group of people walked away from the process very pleased with themselves.
Indiana also had (and may still have) a law against oral sex on the books, which is another discussion entirely.  For one thing, it is virtually unenforceable; even if local and State police have very trivial matters to attend to (and they most assuredly do), none can be as trivial as enforcing the anti-oral sex statute, what with crack houses in operation and Democrats running amuck.  For another thing, is it really the State’s business what consenting adults do behind closed doors, so long as no minors are involved and no innocents are hurt?  If so, what is the exact point of having consent laws?
Senator Rick Santorum has offered (in the sense that some States include oral sex in its sodomy laws) some thoughts, via the Associated Press: “[If] you make the case that if you can do whatever you want to do, as long as it’s in the privacy of your own home, this ‘right to privacy,’ then why be surprised that people are doing things that are deviant within their own home? … And 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.”
The case Senator Santorum refers to here is Lawrence v. Texas, first mentioned in this space last December, in which two gay men, Geddes Lawrence and Tyron Garner, were arrested after police responded to a false report of an armed intruder in Lawrence’s apartment.  The apartment door was unlocked, the police entered, found the men and arrested them.
Conservatism finds itself in a bit of an ideological bind.  On the one hand, the Bible rather matter of factly says that man shall not lay down with man (nor woman with woman), and there is no threat of procreation in the thing (the word “threat” is used exactly as intended).  On the other hand, it was that Grand Old Conservative Ronald Reagan who said government should get off the people’s backs and out of their lives.  He meant the federal government, but we logically follow that the States should consider doing the same, which (in a roundabout way) comes to mean gays and bi-sexuals are left alone so long as, once again, no minors or innocents are either involved or harmed.
Christ will win the argument, which is something you would expect from anyone who takes their religion seriously.  What I am suggesting is that anyone can oppose the behavior and pray for the souls of the sodomites (thus making themselves square with the church), but otherwise leave well enough alone.  We should never underestimate the positive impact on society of people who are willing to selectively (not completely) mind their own business.
Santorum’s slippery slope argument – that in allowing gay sex you will soon be allowing bigamy, polygamy and other unseemly sexual activities – seems illegitimate.  There are already individual laws against those things and other bothersome practices, like bestiality.  None of them are rejected by the Court’s reversing this and similar sodomy laws, and no one in their right mind is suggesting someone should thus be allowed to mount either their farm animals, their sisters or their children.  Gay sex may be against God’s law, but it is not against the Constitution, no matter how you read it.  (We are safe in assuming the Warren Court could have found it in there if it wanted, but still.)
There is a State’s rights concern here, and I am not unsympathetic to that cause.  But one logically trusts (and hopes) Texas has grander considerations than whether or not it is constitutionally permitted to outlaw gay sex.  It would be nice, as Mr. Buckley suggested late last month, if Texas would simply repeal the law and (these are my words now) save itself the – is this the right term? – embarrassment of having it overturned, the basis being that the times have changed, and that indifference does not equal acceptance, just indifference.

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