In the last week, the American public has become rightfully enraged at the comments of Republican Senator Rick Santorum (Pennsylvania). However, this anger has been somewhat misapplied. Most groups are complaining because they believe that Santorum's comments insult gays. That Santorum has made horrible insults to gay people is true and reprehensible, of course, but it's only a fraction of the full scope of Santorum's folly.
Here's what Rick Santorum said:
If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual 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.
Senator Santorum's comments do not just describe a Republican Party agenda to outlaw homosexual sex between consenting adults. They also reflect a deeper Republican Party agenda to outlaw ALL sex that occurs outside of marriage! This sounds incredible, but it's true, and honest Republican Party officials do not deny it.
The primary defender of Senator Santorum has been the ultraconservative organization, the Family Research Council. Here's what they had to say in their defense of Santorum's statement:
"The law has historically respected and protected the marital union and has distinguished it from acts outside that union, such as fornication, adultery and sodomy. To extend homosexual sodomy the same protections given to the marital union would undermine the definition of marriage..."
"The Human Rights Campaign's attack on Sen. Santorum, a champion of the family, is intended to intimidate defenders of marriage..."
"We urge Chairman Racicot to repudiate the smear tactics of HRC [Human Rights Council] and the Log Cabin Republicans, publicly defend Sen. Santorum, and reiterate his support for the Republican Party platform's defense of marriage."
"Because marriage serves a public purpose--namely, procreation and the benefit of children and society--government can legitimately privilege marriage and seek to strengthen it in its policies. Other relationships such as cohabitation and homosexuality do not benefit children and society, and, therefore, should not be supported by government."
In the view of the Family Research Council, with whom Senator Santorum has historically been partnered, it's not enough just to make gay sex illegal. No, they believe that adultery and fornication have to be made into crimes too.
Fornication? Did you notice the Family Research Council's friendly little reference to fornication? What is fornication exactly? Well, according to my computer's handy-dandy little dictionary, fornication is nothing more than "sexual intercourse between two consenting adults, who are not married to each other".
Senator Santorum's allies in the Republican Party are openly advocating for the ability to legally prosecute people who have sex of any kind, if they are not married. This means that if Joe and Sally have been dating for three years, and are engaged to be married, but they break down and have sex a week before getting married and are caught, they would be hauled off to jail.
It's not just that Santorum's remarks equate gay sex with incest and bigamy. Santorum also equates adultery with incest and bigamy. These aren't just things that Santorum deplores. They're crimes. Rick Santorum and the national Republican Party are reminding people that in some places in America, having sex outside of marriage is a crime. It's part of the Republican Party's shadow platform to make sex outside of marriage illegal everywhere in the United States, and to ensure that the crime is punished to the full extent of the laws they seek to create.
It is well worth remembering that Senator Santorum is, officially, the third most powerful member of the national Republican Party. Santorum himself has admitted that his comments reflect a public policy agenda of the Republican Party to support efforts to undermine adults' right to consensual sex in private, commenting that ,"This is a legitimate public policy discussion." They're not just talkers, this crowd of extremist Republicans. They intend to act.
Santorum's comments are made in the context of a Supreme Court case about whether Americans have the basic right to have consensual sex without having the government investigate their sexual lives, arrest them, and imprison them for committing acts such as oral sex, or sex outside of marriage. Senator Santorum, and the national Republican Party that he leads, are against the legal right of Americans to have sex in private.
It's this last point that really frightens me. I'm married, and I only have sex with my wife, so you'd think I'd have nothing to fear. I wouldn't be breaking the Republican laws against fornication, right? Well, actually, if my wife and I had oral sex, we would be breaking the laws against sodomy. Let's say, for the sake of argument, however, that my wife and I were strictly missionary.
Even then we'd have something to fear from the Republican sex criminalization agenda. You see, it's not just that the Republicans want to make all sex other than vaginal intercourse between husband and wife illegal, it's that they want to prosecute and convict. You see, Republicans believe in punishment of sinners.
In order to prosecute and convict, you have to investigate. You have to get police to conduct searches. You have to follow suspects around. You have to interview friends, family and neighbors. You have to conduct surveillance.
Making sex a crime makes all Americans into suspects, available for police investigation and harassment. Making sex a crime gives police the excuse to snoop into the bedrooms of anyone who is at all, or is suspected of being, sexually active.
Could I ever go to a business meeting with a woman other than my wife without being suspected of a crime? Would the police check in just to make sure that the woman in bed with me was my wife? How would they know I was keeping my legal obligation of fidelity without oral sex unless they kept tabs on us?
Such constant sexual voyeurism by the police is the wonderful world that the Family Research Council envisions when it supports efforts to make "sodomy", "adultery", and "fornications" into crimes. You see, they, and other Republicans like them, actually do believe that the sex you have is their business. The current Republican leadership, including Rick Santorum and even George W. Bush, believe that the government has a right, even a responsibility, to restrict the private sexual activities of consenting American adults.
The American left is making a mistake when it criticizes Republicans like Rick Santorum only because they insult gays. Yes, Santorum has insulted gays, and yes, he should be criticized for that. The fact is, Santorum has insulted the rest of us too, and the larger Republican agenda to criminalize sex should be brought out into open view too.
I'm all for gay rights, but I'm not just for gay rights because I like gay people. The fact is, at this point I don't even have any friends that are openly gay. I live out in the country, where that sort of thing is kind of rare.
I support gay rights because I support the rights of all Americans to have sex without the government snooping in on them. Republicans hate it, but the fact is that sex is a normal part of life. A normal part of life should not be made into a crime.
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