Social & Domestic Issues

Santorum Defends Constitution

Conservative Sen. Rick Santorum (R.-Pa.) was asked by homosexual groups to resign from the Senate Republican leadership last week after he publicly agreed with existing Supreme Court precedent on the issue of whether there is a constitutional right to all adult consensual sex. The Court seemingly settled this issue seventeen years ago in Bowers v. Hardwick, the case that upheld Georgia’s anti-sodomy law. But the question has risen again this year in Lawrence v. Texas, which is a challenge to Texas’s anti-sodomy law. Homosexual groups are asking the court to use this case to overturn Bowers and declare that private adult consensual sex is a “fundamental right.” Controversy exploded around Santorum after an Associated Press reporter misrepresented his remarks. The reporter is the wife of a prominent Democratic operative. Lara Jakes Jordan—wife of Sen. John Kerry’s (D.-Mass.) presidential campaign manager and former Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee official Jim Jordan—added the word “gay” in parentheses to a statement Santorum made during an hour-long interview. Santorum in fact was accurately reflecting the very question that homosexual groups have put to the Court. In her AP report, Jordan quoted Santorum as follows: “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.” But Santorum had not used the word “gay,” according to a transcript of the interview later released by AP. Jordan did not reply to messages left by HUMAN EVENTS on her mobile and office telephones. The AP transcript quotes Santorum as saying: “If you say, there is no deviant as long as it’s private, as long as it’s consensual, then don’t be surprised what you get.” This and other parts of the transcript appear to strengthen Santorum’s explanation of his remarks—that states will lack legal grounds to outlaw consensual incest or bigamy if the Supreme Court creates a new constitutional right to private, consensual sexual behavior. According to briefs filed in Lawrence v. Texas by the petitioners and others, including the Human Rights Campaign and the American Civil Liberties Union, this is exactly what the pro-homosexual groups are asking the Court to do. Stands His Ground Appearing Wednesday at a town hall meeting in Williamsport, Pa., Santorum asserted that the controversy was the media’s fault, and that he had no plans to resign his leadership position or apologize. “I put forward arguments which I happen to believe in,” he said. “I’m going to stand by those comments and will stand by that argument. . . . It’s unfortunate that [the remarks] were taken out of context and portrayed in a way that didn’t really reflect the discussion, but that’s the way the media sometimes acts.” Nonetheless, television and print news outlets began reporting that Santorum had “equated,” “likened” or “compared” homosexuality with incest, bigamy and adultery—apparently because of Jordan’s original misquotation. In spite of AP’s later release of the transcript—which pointedly did not include Jordan’s insertion of “gay”—television and print media were still misreporting Santorum’s statement as late as Thursday. The New York Times, seizing upon the misquotation, even called Santorum’s statement “highly unlearned.” Santorum’s discussion of the issue, however, was far more learned than any of his critics. Even his choice of words arose from the court’s 1986 Bowers decision. In Bowers, Justice Byron White, an appointee of Democratic President John F. Kennedy, wrote that if the court created a constitutional right to consensual sex that took place within the home, “it would be difficult . . . to limit the claimed right to homosexual conduct while leaving exposed to prosecution adultery, incest, and other sexual crimes even though they are committed in the home.” Although Santorum did not compare sodomy to incest or bigamy, his full remarks were bound to be controversial because he did express moral disapproval of homosexual behavior—as opposed to people who have a homosexual orientation. Although this is a traditional Christian view—hate the sin, love the sinner—few politicians in Washington these days have the moral courage to express it, even when a major case revolving around the issue is pending in the Supreme Court. “I have no problem with homosexuality,” Santorum said, according to the AP transcript. “I have a problem with homosexual acts. As I would with acts of other, what I would consider to be, acts outside of traditional heterosexual relationships.” Even as a Washington Post‘s editorial blasted Santorum Thursday for equating homosexuals with “bigamists and those who practice incest,” a news story in the paper quoted Chester Gillis, chairman of Georgetown University’s Theology Department, as stating that Santorum, who is Catholic, was “reflecting Catholic theology very clearly.” Told that this was the Catholic position, liberal Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D.-N.Y.) remarked on FOX News’ “Hannity and Colmes”, “I think that’s a bigoted position.” A spokesman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said that there were no plans within that body to defend Santorum. The White House dodged the issue, offering an evasive response to reporters Wednesday. “The President typically never does comment on anything involving a Supreme Court case, a Supreme Court ruling or a Supreme Court finding—typically,” said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer. The President did comment on the recent Michigan affirmative action case, however, and the Justice Department routinely files briefs, and sometimes makes oral arguments, in Supreme Court cases. The Administration did not file a brief in Lawrence v. Texas. Social conservatives, however, rushed to Santorum’s defense. Among the many writing and speaking in favor of Santorum were Media Research Center President Brent Bozell, columnist Marvin Olasky, Family Research Council President Ken Connor, former presidential candidate Gary Bauer, Free Congress Foundation President Paul Weyrich, and Concerned Women for America President Sandy Rios. Appearing on CNBC’s Kudlow & Cramer last Wednesday, conservative Sen. Jim Bunning said when asked about the controversy: “Rick Santorum has done a great job, and is solid as a rock, and he’s not going anywhere.”


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