Gay rights debate not over

Print More

(Host) Commentator David Moats reflects on the controversial views about homosexuality recently expressed by Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum.

(Moats) Vermonters who went through the bitter debate about civil unions three years ago may have thought the whole topic of gay marriage and gay rights was over and done with. But incidents like the Santorum flap are a sign it’s not over and done with at all.

He said he has nothing against gay people but he objects on moral grounds to what gay people do. There’s nothing unusual about that. It’s a widely held religious point of view. He also pointed out that gay sex is illegal in places like Texas, and he agrees it should be. After all, he said if we made gay sex legal, then we would have to legalize incest and polygamy and adultery. Someone has probably clued him in by now that adultery is not illegal.

Santorum’s big mistake, however, was in equating gay relationships with relationships everyone understands to be dishonest or abusive. It’s an old rhetorical trick. Vermonters heard the same canard three years ago. As one columnist said, it shows Santorum is either a bigot or a moron.

Gay rights issues are not over and done with because people like Rick Santorum intend to exploit them for political purposes. The dust had barely settled at the World Trade Center in 2001 when Santorum was sending out a fund-raising letter saying the true threat to America was gay marriage. Gay rights issues are not over and done with because courts in two separate cases are considering action that might be important breakthroughs for the civil rights of gays and lesbians.

The Texas law forbidding private gay sexuality has been challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s possible the court will recognize that government regulation of intimate relationships is an unconstitutional invasion of privacy. In Massachusetts, the Supreme Judicial Court has heard arguments in a case that could lead to the inclusion of gay and lesbian couples within the Massachusetts marriage statute. In that case, the lawyer for the gay and lesbian couples argued that discrimination in the choice of marriage partners is also an invasion of privacy.

The Republicans were quick to pat Santorum on the back after his anti-gay comments. President Bush went so far as to call Santorum “inclusive.” The Democratic candidates, meanwhile, have taken varying positions, mainly in support of gay rights.

Three years ago, Dick Cheney, who has a lesbian daughter, was coy about Vermont’s Civil Unions law. He said it was an issue best left up to the states. But as far as Rick Santorum is concerned, the states ought to make a criminal of Dick Cheney’s daughter, ought to discriminate against relationships that Vermont has chosen to certify as central to human happiness.

This is an issue we’ll hear more about in the coming months. Luckily, Vermont is far ahead of the game.

This is David Moats from Middlebury.

Comments are closed.