Where do you draw the moral line regarding sexual behavior? Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), a Catholic, draws the line at homosexuality. Regarding a pending Supreme Court case on the Texas state sodomy law, Santorum told the Associated Press: "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."
This statement was directly in line with the Judeo-Christian values upon which this country is based. Gay and lesbian activist groups immediately attacked him.
Mark Shields, associate director of communications for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay advocacy organization, told me the remarks were "insulting, it flies in the face of scientific and medical data, common sense and basic decency."
Chris Young, president of the League of Gay and Lesbian Voters, in a phone interview, called Santorum's assertion an "all-out attack against lesbian and gay people."
Michael Heflin, director of the OutFront program (a wing of Amnesty International), told me that Santorum's statement was "outrageous ... totally inappropriate."
All of these organizations called for Santorum to resign as chairman of the GOP conference in the Senate. Under severe pressure, Santorum issued a press release stating that his comments "should not be misconstrued in any way as a statement on individual lifestyles."
While the comparison between homosexuality and bigamy/polygamy/incest/adultery no doubt hurt feelings, none of these gay-rights advocates could explain why the comparison was faulty. How could they? For those who believe in the veracity of the Bible, Santorum merely restated an already accepted view. For those who have an arbitrary moral standard based on personal feeling or logic, consensual acts of bigamy/polygamy/incest/adultery are identical to consensual acts of homosexuality. Eventually, each representative acknowledged to me that any view that accepted homosexuality as moral had to accept bigamy and polygamy as moral, too.
When I asked Shields where Santorum was wrong in his comparison, Shields could only state that "there's a huge difference," without explaining why. He went on to accuse Santorum of "playing to people's most base and deep-seated fears ... (fueling) the kind of prejudice that leads to, often, hate crimes and other kinds of discrimination." Shields refused to comment on whether the HRC would oppose laws against bigamy and polygamy, noting that those causes "are absolutely outside of our mission statement."
Young was more honest. "I think that different people have different sets of morals, and I think that as Americans, we should be able to accommodate those to the extent that nobody else is harmed ... There is a question about bigamy and polygamy that I don't want to get into. I personally am not wild about those ideas, but I'm not clear whether those really should be regulated either." Young stated that Santorum had a moral obligation to prevent religious beliefs from influencing policy. He also accused Santorum of cynicism and insincerity, telling me, "I don't believe he's sincere because I know the guy. ... I don't think he has a sincere bone in his body."
Heflin maintained that homosexuality couldn't be compared to bigamy/polygamy/incest/adultery, since "we're talking about sexual relationships between consenting adults on the one hand, and on the other hand, you're talking about situations where there's a general consensus that the government does have a right to regulate sexual relationships." His basis for the view that homosexuality was more moral than bigamy? "International law." After a few minutes, Heflin conceded that while "we don't take a position on bigamy, polygamy and incest ... I think these are going to be important debates."
This issue comes down to the conflict between Judeo-Christian morality and arbitrary morality. The gay-rights advocates I interviewed were forced to admit that their logic gives bigamists and polygamists the right to pursue their lifestyle legally. Their stated moral boundaries changed during the course of our conversations.
While there can be a reasoned debate about whether the state has business legislating sexual activity, there can be no doubt that any moral system condoning homosexuality must also let other, less widely accepted sexual practices through the door. If that fluid, careless amalgam of values based on feelings and personal logic ever takes precedence, America will suffer the fate of ancient Rome.