Republican Senator Rick Santorum is in hot water for remarks he made recently regarding a pending Supreme Court case challenging state anti-sodomy laws, and some gay groups are calling for his ouster as chairman of the Republican Conference, the third highest position in the Republican leadership. Is this another black eye for the GOP, akin to Sen. Trent Lott's embarrassing suggestions a few months ago that seemed to hearken back to America's segregationist past? Or is it one more example of the dangers of speaking out on controversial issues in these politically correct times?
In an interview with the Associated Press, Santorum offered the opinion that "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."
Santorum was referring to Lawrence v. Texas, which was argued before the court last month and involves a case in which two men were charged under a Texas law prohibiting homosexual sodomy. The men were arrested when police came to investigate a neighbor's complaint that someone was wielding a gun and "going crazy" in a nearby apartment and found the two men in flagrante delicto . Although the initial complaint turned out to be wrong -- the man filing it was later prosecuted for making a false report -- the two gay men spent the night in jail and were fined $200 each.
Only a few states -- 13 -- still outlaw consensual sodomy; and only four, including Texas, criminalize homosexual, but not heterosexual, sodomy. No state routinely enforces any of these laws, raising the question whether they all ought to be repealed. But the issue before the Supreme Court is not whether such laws are good policy but whether states have the right to make laws regarding private, consensual sex between adults in the first place.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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