Who Determines How Far Right to Privacy Extends?

Rick Santorum Is Right

CRISIS Magazine - e-Letter

April 23, 2003

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Dear Friend,

I've been in the media business long enough to have learned a thing or two about the way the system works. Sometimes I learned those lessons the hard way after being misquoted or having my statements taken out of context by an unfriendly reporter. It's like playing the old game of telephone: What you say, no matter how clearly you phrase it, is almost always jumbled and confused after being passed from person to person.

We've all been there before. And now it seems the latest victim is Senator Rick Santorum from Pennsylvania.

Sen. Santorum, a devout Catholic with a strong pro-family voting record, has recently come under fire after he was quoted in an AP article as saying, "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."

On the face of it, this statement seems confusing. Is Santorum equating homosexuality with incest? What exactly does he mean here?

It's not surprising that members of the Democratic party and various homosexual activist groups have jumped all over this. Santorum's comments have been equated with Trent Lott's earlier remarks about Strom Thurmond, and some are even calling for his resignation as chairman of the Senate Republican Conference. The political director of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest gay rights lobbying group, said, "Clearly, there is no compassion in his conservatism. Discriminatory remarks like this fuel prejudice that can lead to violence and other harms against the gay community."

But is Santorum really being discriminatory here? It's always a tricky business talking about homosexual activity in today's society, especially if you happen to be against it. But this isn't just a case of differing views -- Santorum's comments here were taken out of context.

The interview he gave AP was in reference to a case coming up before the Supreme Court regarding the constitutionality of Texas' sodomy laws. The plaintiff in the case is arguing that the state has no right to interfere in one's sexual life (in the form of anti-sodomy laws) on the grounds that it violates our constitutional right to privacy.

The question is, how far does our right to privacy extend? Legal scholars have pointed out that, if the sodomy laws are overturned on the basis of our right to privacy, then other sexual acts that are currently illegal -- like incest, bigamy, and adultery -- will have to be made legal on the same grounds. Santorum's point is not a new one, nor is it discriminatory. Really, it's just being consistent.

Reading the full transcript of the AP interview makes it even clearer that Santorum isn't "gay-bashing," but merely questioning the constitutionality of the argument for sodomy based on the right to privacy, and then extending that argument to its logical conclusion. Rather than having the Supreme Court come in, Santorum said that the people should be allowed to vote within their state as to whether they want sodomy laws, or any other kind of laws that restrict these activities.

The moral of this story is this: You can't get too philosophical with reporters. In the end, your in-depth analysis will be reduced to a 5-second sound byte, and no one will bother to understand your original point. Trust me, I've been there. Just chalk it up to experience and move on. I hope that Senator Santorum will do the same.

Talk to you soon,

Deal


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