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Monday, April 28, 2003
It's hard to add to what has already been said by everyone else about Rick Santorum's advocacy of sodomy laws, but what ticks me off more than anything about this is how slippery the Right is on this. Leaving aside the constitutional issue, the reason we have sodomy laws in this country is because state legislatures passed them, and have refused to repeal them. Which means, simply put, that there are some legislators out there who support them. And anyone who has driven through the Bible belt and scanned the car radio during the day will have no doubt as to why this is so-- there are areas of this country where homosexuality is so feared and so loathed that it is all they talk about on religious talk radio. Literally, there are preachers on the radio in the Deep South who talk about homosexuality as if it is the central problem facing this country.

The point is, if the right wing politicians and their supporters in the commentariat decided to buck their constituents and actively oppose sodomy laws, we wouldn't have them. Such opposition requires more than the "sure I oppose sodomy laws, but Sen. Santorum raises a legitimate issue and is being viciously attacked" position that we are hearing from most conservatives. Heck, even Pat Buchanan took that position on his MSNBC talk show the other day. And any position on sodomy laws that is shared with Pat Buchanan cannot be described as a position that confronts the religious right. Rather, these laws exist because those on the right who oppose them nonetheless indulge supporters of the laws as holding a legitimate, debatable position. Indeed, many conservatives have gone so far as to accuse those who oppose Santorum as being motivated by anti-Catholic or anti-Christian bigotry, as if Christian doctrine required that homosexuals be thrown in jail! (Quite the opposite; as I have pointed out before in this blog, someone who "loves the sinner and hates the sin" would never support these repressive laws which only do harm to the supposedly "loved" sinner.)

The reason that the right gets away with their soft opposition to sodomy laws is because nobody seems willing to ask them the tough questions. I have a feeling if that if most Americans, including quite a few who aren't particularly great fans of gay rights in other areas, knew that the Republican party tacitly, and sometimes actively, endorses throwing people in prison for having same-gender sexual relations in the privacy of their own homes, that might be a factor that those Americans would weigh in deciding whether to support Republicans. But somehow, the tactic of obfuscation, of making it sound like the only issue is the broad interpretation of the Constitution to provide a right to commit sodomy, or making it sound like the issue is anti-religious bigotry, or making it sound like the advocacy of jailing homosexuals is a moral tenet rather than a policy prescription, is working.

Of course, the Democrats don't help any. You will hear a lot of cheerleading for gay rights now, when nobody's paying attention, but during the election campaign, Democrats seeking the votes of bigots will tone down their support of gay causes. They always do. But I'd love to see John Kerry, or John Edwards, or Howard Dean, or whoever the Dems nominate, put the question to W in a Presidential debate in simple terms. "Mr. President, why won't you publicly confirm that you disagree with those in your party who say that gays should be thrown in jail just for having sex with each other? You do believe that there shouldn't be laws prohibiting gay adults from having sex with each other in the privacy of their home, don't you?" Of course, it will never happen. And sodomy laws will stay on the books, unless the Supreme Court strikes them down. How depressing.

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