More turds from the "Elephant in the Room�
By Mel Seesholtz Ph.D.
Online Journal Contributing Writer
Jun 5, 2008, 00:12
Rick Santorum�s extremist views and
abrasive rhetoric were the reasons Pennsylvania voters overwhelmingly
booted him out of office in the largest margin of defeat for an incumbent
senator since 1980. It seems he didn�t learn anything from the experience.
On May 22, 2008 Santorum�s biweekly �Elephant
in the Room� column appeared in The
Philadelphia Inquirer bearing the title �A wake-up call on gay marriage
after '03 alarm went unheeded.� It�s pure Santorum: fear-mongering,
self-aggrandizing, misleading, illogical. The first paragraph set the tone:
Those were just a few of the terms
hurled my way in 2003 when I said that the Supreme Court's Texas sodomy
decision opened the door to the redefinition of marriage.
When I wasn�t ducking the epithets, I was being laughed at, mocked, and given
the crazy-uncle-at-the-holidays treatment by the media. Or I was being told I
should resign from my leadership post by some Senate colleagues.
Wrong, Mr. Santorum. That�s not what you said in the
Associated Press interview on April 22, 2003. This is:
AP: OK, without being too gory or graphic, so if somebody
is homosexual, you would argue that they should not have sex?
SANTORUM: We have laws in states, like the one at the Supreme Court right now,
that has sodomy laws and they were there for a purpose. Because, again, I would
argue, they undermine the basic tenets of our society and the family. And 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. Does that undermine the fabric of our society? I would argue yes, it
does. It all comes from, I would argue, this right to privacy that doesn't
exist in my opinion in the United States Constitution, this right that was
created, it was created in Griswold -- Griswold was the contraceptive case --
and abortion. And now we�re just extending it out. And the further you extend
it out, the more you -- this freedom actually intervenes and affects the
family. You say, well, it�s my individual freedom. Yes, but it destroys the
basic unit of our society because it condones behavior that�s antithetical to
strong, healthy families. Whether it�s polygamy, whether it�s adultery, where
it�s sodomy, all of those things, are antithetical to a healthy, stable,
These are the comments that caused a national firestorm and
the calls from his colleagues -- on both sides of the aisle -- and his
constituents for Mr. Santorum to step down from his leadership position. It�s
also the paragraph that Mr. Santorum said was unfairly altered by AP when they
quoted him in the transcript as saying �And 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.� Santorum
claimed the insertion of �[gay]� misrepresented his statement. It did not as
any reader can clearly see from the fuller
Santorum doesn�t believe in the right to privacy. He
believes self-righteous voyeurs such as himself should have the right to
dictate what consenting adults do behind closed bedroom doors. He also seems
totally ignorant of the fact that sodomy -- �anal or oral copulation with a
member of the same or opposite sex� -- is practiced by many heterosexuals,
including married Christian couples.
The former senator went even further over the edge by
suggesting such intensely intimate acts between consenting (or married) adults
in the privacy of their home �undermine the basic tenets of our society and the
family.� How, Mr. Santorum? HOW? You
love to bluster, but offer no explanations and more importantly no empirical
evidence to support your outlandish claims, such as those you made on the floor
of the Senate just before the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment to the U.S.
Constitution went down in flames (along with your political career): �the
future of our country hangs in the balance because the future of marriage hangs
in the balance. Isn�t that the ultimate homeland security -- standing up and
When the Elephant in the Room does offer �evidence,� it�s as
fallacious and disingenuous as his claims and always coupled with the same
snide, inappropriate comments that cost him his Senate seat:
. . . you might ask: Don�t we have more to worry about than some
court redefining marriage? After all, gas prices are soaring, health-care costs
are rising, and our nation is at war. Why should we care what a few activist
judges in California say?
Let�s put aside the tired argument that the people should have a say in the
laws of their government. That is so 18th-century white-male drivel. Thank
goodness we have unaccountable judicial elites to make decisions for us bigots.
Look at Norway. It began allowing same-sex marriage in the 1990s. In just the
last decade, its heterosexual-marriage rates have nose-dived and its
out-of-wedlock birthrate skyrocketed to 80 percent for firstborn children. Too
bad for those kids who probably won�t have a dad around, but we can�t let the
welfare of children stand in the way of social affirmation, can we?
Take it paragraph by paragraph.
�Don�t we have more to worry about than� gay couples
committing their lives to each other? To be sure there are �larger� issues that
affect more people, but as Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote in his Letter from Birmingham Jail, �Injustice
anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.�
The California Supreme Court did not �redefine marriage.�
They ruled that injustice -- discrimination -- is not acceptable under the
state�s constitution. As California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald M.
George, who was appointed to the court by Ronald Reagan, wrote, �in view of the
substance and significance of the fundamental constitutional right to form a
family relationship . . . the California Constitution properly must be
interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all Californians, whether
gay or heterosexual, and to same-sex couples as well as to opposite-sex
Isn�t it time for Santorum and the Christianist Right to put
away the hackneyed �activist judges� rhetoric? When courts render rulings they
like, they praise the judicial system. When courts render rulings they don�t
like, they scream �activist judges.� Santorum made a big deal about the
epithets he says were hurled at him. Perhaps he should stop hurling them at
The Elephant opined �Let�s put aside the tired argument that
the people should have a say in the laws of their government. . . . Thank
goodness we have unaccountable judicial elites to make decisions for us
bigots.� The California Supreme Court noted in its
ruling the case of Proposition 14. It was passed by the voters in 1964 and
allowed real estate agents and landlords in California to reject home buyers or
tenants as they saw fit, even if their decision was based on racial
discrimination. The law was struck down in 1967.
California�s Proposition 14 and other discriminatory
measures supported by the vox populi
are just a snapshot in time, but times change. The year after the U.S. Supreme
Court struck down all laws criminalizing interracial marriage (Loving v.
Virginia), a 1968 Gallup poll showed 72 percent of Americans polled opposed the
legalization of such unions. Today, only the KKK and other fanatics would argue
against the legitimacy of interracial marriage.
Proposition 22 -- that restricted marriage in California to
one man and one woman -- was passed by 61.4 percent of the voters in 2000. It
was the pet project of the Christianist Right who, at the time, were riding
high on the Bush-Rove wave that in the following years would divide the country
with its modus operandi of
encouraging religion-based hate and prejudice. As Marc Dunkelman pointed out in
a 2007 Philadelphia Inquirer
editorial, �Rove set out to segment the electorate, determine which
constituencies would support the president, maximize their turnout, and damn
the rest to the political hinterlands.�
Rove is �gone.� Bush tops �the list when
American voters pick the worst U.S. President in the last 61 years.� And
since 2000, attitudes toward gay people and their right to civil equality have
changed significantly. More and more people -- including a considerable number of
evangelical Christians -- have grown weary of Christiantist leaders� vituperative
attacks on gay and lesbian Americans and their obsessive ranting about gay
marriage, while ignoring virtually all other social concerns.
Times have changed. Over 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies
now have anti-discrimination policies that protect gays. More and more
companies, colleges and universities, states and municipalities are offering
same-sex domestic partner benefits, despite
challenges and litigation from the Christianist Right�s legal minions.
Aside from the fact that equality is just good business, America is awaking-up
from the Bush-Rove nightmare and realizing same-sex civil marriages are a
threat to no one (except those who need someone to marginalize) and that such
unions reaffirm the value of the marriage commitment.
The Los Angeles Times
conducted a readers� poll after the state�s Supreme Court�s decision. The
question posed was �Did the California Supreme Court make the correct
decision?� The results as of May 18, 2008 reflect the changing times and
attitudes. Of the 35,257 respondents 75.8 percent said �yes,� while only 24.2
percent said �no.�
On May 23, 2008 the LA
Times released another snapshot of the vox
populi: a poll
�of 834 Californians, 705 of them registered voters, [and] found that 54
percent of the voters surveyed backed a gay marriage ban proposed for the
November ballot and 35 percent opposed it.�
Christianist and social conservative groups were quick to
proclaim �Majority of Californians favor gay marriage ban marriage,� but they
didn�t note that 54 percent is much less than the 61.4 percent that voted for
Proposition 22 in 2000. Perhaps many Californians came to the same conclusion
that Washington Post columnist E.
J. Dionne did:
I am one of the millions of Americans whose mind has
changed on this issue [same-sex marriage]. Like many of my fellow citizens, I
was sympathetic to granting gay couples the rights of married people, but
balked at applying the word �marriage� to their unions.
�That word and the idea behind it,� I wrote 13 years ago, �carry philosophical
and theological meanings that are getting increasingly muddled and could become
more so if it were applied even more broadly.�
Like a lot of people, I decided I was wrong. What moved me were the
conservative arguments for gay marriage put forward by the writers Jonathan Rauch,
Andrew Sullivan and New York Times columnist David Brooks.
They see society as having a powerful interest in building respect for
long-term commitment and fidelity in sexual relationships and that gay marriage
underscores how important commitment is.
Prohibiting members of one part of our population from making a public and
legal commitment to each other does not strengthen marriage; it weakens it.
The Christianist headline was misleading in another way, as
the LA Times noted:
than half of Californians said gay relationships were not morally wrong, that
they would not degrade heterosexual marriages and that all that mattered was
that a relationship be loving and committed, regardless of gender.
Overall, the proportion of Californians who back either gay marriage or civil
unions for same-sex couples has remained fairly constant over the years. But
the generational schism is pronounced. Those under 45 were less likely to favor
a constitutional amendment than their elders and were more supportive of the
court's decision to overturn the state's current ban on gay marriage. They also
disagreed more strongly than their elders with the notion that gay relationships
threatened traditional marriage.
The results of the survey set up an intriguing question for the fall campaign:
Will the younger, more live-and-let-live voters mobilized by likely Democratic
nominee Barack Obama doom the gay marriage ban? Or will conservatives drawn to
the polls by the amendment boost the odds for the presumptive Republican
nominee, John McCain?
Either way, the poll suggests the outcome of the proposed amendment is far from
certain . . . because ballot measures on controversial topics often lose
support during the course of a campaign, strategists typically want to start
out well above the 50% support level.
�Although the amendment to reinstate the ban on same-sex marriage is winning by
a small majority, this may not bode well for the measure,� said Times Poll
Director Susan Pinkus.
The future belongs to the young, and America�s youth have
had enough of dark, backward-looking. Apparently so have others:
of California Voters Approve of Same-Sex Marriage
May 30, 2008
A new poll released Wednesday shows that for the first time in three decades
registered California voters approve of allowing same-sex couples to marry --
by a margin of 51% to 42% -- a flip from the last poll taken in 2006, when
voters disapproved of gay marriage 50% to 44%.
The nonpartisan California Field Poll of 1,052 registered voters, conducted May
17-26, with a 3.2% margin of error, also found voters were leery of the
proposed ballot initiative that would amend the state constitution to define
marriage as only between a man and a woman, with 54% opposing the measure and
40% favoring it.
It�s here, at this point in the battle over the M-word that the words of
Jeffrey Amestoy, former chief justice
of the Vermont Supreme Court and the author of that court�s 1999 decision that
led to the nation�s first civil-union statute, should be heard loud and clear:
One need not ascribe to the majority�s
view that the difference in terminology is constitutionally untenable to
recognize that words matter. It is surely understandable why same-sex couples
who are constitutionally entitled to all the rights and benefits of marriage do
not wish to have their license bear a different designation. One can imagine,
for example, the resistance of heterosexual couples to a licensing scheme that
reserved the word �marriage� for first marriages, and compelled those who
remarried to seek a �remarriage� license.
It is, in fact, precisely the [California] chief justice�s sensitivity to words
that prompts him to indirectly suggest to the California legislature how to
moderate the aftershock. He suggests that lawmakers could assign a name other
than marriage as the official designation of the formal family arrangements for
all couples, �perhaps in order to emphasize and clarify that this civil
institution is distinct from the religious institution of marriage. . . ."
That invitation, coupled with the 30-day delay before the decision is
effective, provides the California legislature with an unparalleled opportunity
to preserve the fundamental fairness of the court�s decision. An official
designation of the constitutionally protected and legislatively enacted right
to the benefits and protections for all couples as �marriage unions� would
assuredly be constitutional under the majority�s rationale.
Some, of course, would prefer to
refight the political war over the marriage word. It is doubtful that new
insights will be gained from another protracted battle between pro- and
anti-gay marriage activists. �Suppose you go to war,� said Abraham Lincoln,
�you cannot fight always; and when, after much loss on both sides, and no gain
on either, you cease fighting, the identical old questions . . . are again upon
But back to Mr. Santorum�s comments. Looking into his dark,
clouded, cracked crystal ball, the Elephant in the Room urged readers to �Look
at Norway. It began allowing same-sex marriage in the 1990s. In just the last
decade, its heterosexual-marriage rates have nose-dived . . ."
Classic Santorum: deliberate
misleading. What the former senator is suggesting is that there is a direct,
one-to-one causal relationship
between allowing same-sex marriage and the decline of heterosexual marriages in
Norway. Anyone who has had even one course in sociology would understand the
deception. Aside from the cultural differences, there are myriad factors that
affect social trends. To suggest there is just one is pure nonsense, but the
type of nonsense Santorum shills, constantly, as he did at the end of his
commentary when he claimed that unless legislators pass laws denying gay
Americans the right to marry �they will contribute to the end of marriage, a
decline of the family, more children being raised without dads, and a deep
erosion of our freedom of religion.�
Do you think Santorum ever heard of �Massachusetts� where
heterosexual marriage has been unaffected, more families are secure, and
religious freedom remains intact? He did, however, mention the latter, but
again misrepresented the facts: �In Massachusetts, the first same-sex-marriage
state, Catholic Charities, one of the state�s largest adoption agencies, was
forced out of business because it refused to arrange adoptions for same-sex
Catholic Charities in Massachusetts -- like those in San
Francisco -- chose to shut down, and many of the organizations�
because of the uncharitable, dogma-based decision issued by those who would
rather leave children parentless than place them in loving homes. The
architects and enforcers of that dogmatic decision in Massachusetts were none
other than the
bishops of the state�s four archdioceses. The church hierarchy . . . the
same hierarchy that covered-up decades of child abuse and pedophilia by
Catholic priests in Massachusetts and nationwide.
In claiming the California ruling and a failure to embed
religion-based discrimination into civil law would �contribute to the end of
marriage, a decline of the family� Santorum sounded like another Christianist,
Don Wildmon and his American Family Association, an organization dedicated to hurting
gay and lesbian families. In one of his patented hysterical Action
Alerts, Wildmon claimed the California ruling would lead to
of polygamous and other aberrant unions as �marriages�
of marriage between an adult parent and adult child
of group marriage
all the marriage laws in the other 49 state [sic]
Apparently �Reverend� Wildmon is unaware that the Bible he
claims to be THE final word on marriage (and everything else) clearly condones and sanctions -- one
might say even promotes -- polygamy, as well as selling one�s daughter into
slavery and stoning non-virgin brides.
The rest of Wildmon�s wild-eyed claims are as nonsensical as
Santorum�s, and echo the former senator�s infamous April 2003 statements. How
same-sex marriage would lead inexorably to incest -- �legalization of marriage
between an adult parent and adult child� -- remains a twisted notion in the
�minds� of those who rely on fear and scare tactics. But then again, fear and
scare tactics are the tools of those who use religion as a weapon.
The words of Benedict de Spinoza come to mind every time I
read one of Wildmon�s fanatical rants against gay Americans and their families
or he chirps about how the Christian Alliance Defense Fund is suing
to block or negate benefits and/or social recognition these families receive:
I have often wondered, that persons who
make a boast of professing the Christian religion, namely, love, joy, peace,
temperance, and charity to all men, should quarrel with such rancorous
animosity, and display daily towards one another such bitter hatred, that this,
rather than the virtues they claim, is the readiest criterion of their faith.
More rancorous bombast from the Elephant in the Room
included this question and bizarre reasoning: �What about the constitutional
right to equal protection under the law? Marriage is not an inalienable right;
it is a privilege, a license granted by government conferring certain
The Declaration of Independence states, �We hold these
truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are
endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are
Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.� The Constitution expands upon
those principles. In its Loving v. Virginia decision the U.S. Supreme Court
ruled that marriage is �one of the basic rights of man� and the freedom to
marry is �essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness.� But �inalienable
rights� -- especially justice and happiness -- for all of �We the People� seem
anathema to Mr. Santorum.
The former Pennsylvania senator was, however, partially
correct about one thing: marriage rights begin with �a license granted by
government.� Marriage is a secular
institution and as such equal protection under the law should indeed apply,
which is exactly what the California
Supreme Court said in its ruling. Jaundiced religion, discrimination and
bigotry have no place in a state-regulated institution or in civil law.
One final note. Actually it�s a question for the former Pennsylvania
you ever pay back the $100,000, Mr. Santorum? From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, November 19, 2004:
U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum should
reimburse $100,000 to the Penn Hills School District [in Pennsylvania] for
taxpayer money used since 2001 to cover online charter school tuition for his
children, four school board members said Thursday. . . .
�He�s admitted he�s not a resident. I�m going to put up a motion for him to pay
back the entire amount,� said Penn Hills School Board member Erin Vecchio . . .
She plans to call on the board during
its regular meeting Dec. 7  to urge Santorum to return the tuition money
to the district. . . .
Penn Hills Superintendent Patricia Gennari said she phoned the senator
Wednesday afternoon to arrange for the district to query him about his
residency. Santorum issued a statement late that night saying he had decided to
pull his children from the online school and home-school them instead after
being told by district officials that �only children who live in a community on
a full-time basis� are eligible for the tuition money. . . .
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