Note: My Web pages are best viewed with style sheets enabled.
By Norah Vincent
May 1, 2003
Norah Vincent is a columnist in Yardley, Pa.
If you're anything like the rest of the let-live heterosexual population in the nation, by this time you're probably sick of hearing about gay sex. You figure it's not your gig. You figure the so-called Texas sodomy case (Lawrence vs. Texas) now being deliberated by the U.S. Supreme Court and, of late, stirring up a rumpus between gay activists and the GOP has nothing to do with average folk. Whether gays get the right to do their deed in their own homes is a matter of relative indifference to you.
But it shouldn't be, because the Texas case is only superficially about sodomy. It's really about the right to privacy and the moral standard by which that right should be applied.
And that is something you and every other Jack and Jill should care about because there may be one or two things you do in your bedroom, or perhaps at the Super 8 Motel, to which Sen. Rick "Sanitarium" Santorum (R-Pa.) and his would-be dormitory patrol would take mighty exception to, if they caught you at it.
So we come to the thorny questions of privacy now bedeviling the Supreme Court and the nation: How should we determine which private sex acts the law should protect and which ones it shouldn't? Should we follow the standards of the Christian right and criminalize anything but procreative intramarital intercourse?
Or should we slacken the cuffs and let married people behave with impunity but nab gay folk for doing the same thing — which is what the disputed Texas law currently does?
Or should we — gasp — let it all hang loose and allow gay people equal protection of the laws in the romper room? But if we do that, where will we draw the line? What will we do about incest, adultery, polygamy and every other deviancy that Greek tragedy has made known to us? If we throw out the biblical standard, or some vaguely fudged version thereof, what will happen to family and civilized society?
There's a simple answer to these questions, one that, consistent with the framers' intent, separates church and state while setting clear, morally defensible boundaries around privacy, a right that is integral and indispensable to any true notion of liberty.
The legal standard for sexual privacy should be this: No private sexual act should be illegal as long as all parties to it are consenting adults and no one else is harmed in the process.
By this libertarian standard, as long as they do not involve children, such practices as incest, polygamy, sadomasochism, oral sex, sodomy, orgies and even prostitution should be legal because they harm no one but their consenting adult practitioners and are, therefore, nobody's business.
Now Santorum et al would argue that society at large is, in fact, harmed by deviant sexual acts committed in private, that the family in particular is ostensibly torn asunder by such acts.
Of course, the grand fallacy in this argument is that most homosexuals, not to mention many supposed perverts of every stripe, were raised in "normal" heterosexual families and are the products of civilized society. As recent events have disclosed, the Catholic Church itself has nurtured, enabled and shielded from prosecution a number of pedophiles, one of the few sexual perversions even the libertarian standard criminalizes.
So, you see, the strict standard of the Christian right isn't just invasive, it's hypocritical and selectively applied. This is why we all need to worry about what sodomy, broadly defined, means. Because in the mind of the holy GOP, the slippery slope of sexual privacy slides both ways. Just as legalizing sodomy has the potential to legalize incest, criminalizing it, as Santorum's recent remarks implied, has the potential to criminalize adultery. And after that, what's next? Impure thoughts? One shudders to think.
Copyright © 2003 Los Angeles Times