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, traditional family.

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 context.

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 defending marriage?�

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 couples.�

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 others.

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:

More 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:

Poll: Majority 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 you.�

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 misrepresentation, deliberately 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 couples.�

Catholic Charities in Massachusetts -- like those in San Francisco -- chose to shut down, and many of the organizations� executives resigned 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

  • Legalization of polygamous and other aberrant unions as �marriages�
  • Legalization of marriage between an adult parent and adult child
  • Legalization of group marriage
  • Overturn 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 governmental benefits.�

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 senator: Did 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 [2004] 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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