‘Gay Case’ Should Worry Straights Too
Angeles Times, May 1, 2003
Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053
Fax: 213-237-7679 or 213-237-5319
By Norah Vincent
If you’re anything like the rest of the let-live
heterosexual population in the nation, by this time you’re probably sick of
hearing about gay sex. You figure it’s not your gig. You figure the
so-called Texas sodomy case (Lawrence vs. Texas) now being deliberated by the
U.S. Supreme Court and, of late, stirring up a rumpus between gay activists
and the GOP has nothing to do with average folk. Whether gays get the right to
do their deed in their own homes is a matter of relative indifference to you.
But it shouldn’t be, because the Texas case is only
superficially about sodomy. It’s really about the right to privacy and the
moral standard by which that right should be applied.
And that is something you and every other Jack and Jill
should care about because there may be one or two things you do in your
bedroom, or perhaps at the Super 8 Motel, to which Sen. Rick “Sanitarium”
Santorum (R-Pa.) and his would-be dormitory patrol would take mighty exception
to, if they caught you at it.
So we come to the thorny questions of privacy now
bedeviling the Supreme Court and the nation: How should we determine which
private sex acts the law should protect and which ones it shouldn’t? Should
we follow the standards of the Christian right and criminalize anything but
procreative intramarital intercourse?
Or should we slacken the cuffs and let married people
behave with impunity but nab gay folk for doing the same thing—which is what
the disputed Texas law currently does?
Or should we—gasp—let it all hang loose and allow gay
people equal protection of the laws in the romper room? But if we do that,
where will we draw the line? What will we do about incest, adultery, polygamy
and every other deviancy that Greek tragedy has made known to us? If we throw
out the biblical standard, or some vaguely fudged version thereof, what will
happen to family and civilized society?
There’s a simple answer to these questions, one that,
consistent with the framers’ intent, separates church and state while
setting clear, morally defensible boundaries around privacy, a right that is
integral and indispensable to any true notion of liberty.
The legal standard for sexual privacy should be this: No
private sexual act should be illegal as long as all parties to it are
consenting adults and no one else is harmed in the process.
By this libertarian standard, as long as they do not
involve children, such practices as incest, polygamy, sadomasochism, oral sex,
sodomy, orgies and even prostitution should be legal because they harm no one
but their consenting adult practitioners and are, therefore, nobody’s
Now Santorum et al would argue that society at large is,
in fact, harmed by deviant sexual acts committed in private, that the family
in particular is ostensibly torn asunder by such acts.
Of course, the grand fallacy in this argument is that
most homosexuals, not to mention many supposed perverts of every stripe, were
raised in “normal” heterosexual families and are the products of civilized
society. As recent events have disclosed, the Catholic Church itself has
nurtured, enabled and shielded from prosecution a number of pedophiles, one of
the few sexual perversions even the libertarian standard criminalizes.
So, you see, the strict standard of the Christian right
isn’t just invasive, it’s hypocritical and selectively applied. This is
why we all need to worry about what sodomy, broadly defined, means. Because in
the mind of the holy GOP, the slippery slope of sexual privacy slides both
ways. Just as legalizing sodomy has the potential to legalize incest,
criminalizing it, as Santorum’s recent remarks implied, has the potential to
criminalize adultery. And after that, what’s next? Impure thoughts? One
shudders to think.
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