Politics & Policy

Sullivan, Santorum & Me

A response.

Yesterday, I posted a piece on NRO defending Senator Rick Santorum against the egregious misrepresentations of his views on homosexuality being purveyed by the Democrats, and by the press. Andrew Sullivan, one of Santorum’s strongest critics, has posted a reply to my piece, and I must say that I am baffled by it.

For starters, Sullivan chastises me for ignoring the fact that Santorum equates homosexuality to child abuse and bestiality. But in his interview, Santorum explicitly said that homosexuality is not child abuse and not bestiality. Sullivan also professes grave disappointment with me for not agreeing to a policy that gives gay people the freedom to have sex with one another in the privacy of their own homes. But I do agree to that policy, and have said so repeatedly. I agree that sodomy laws should be abolished. I said so publicly a couple of years ago, and I said it again in my Santorum piece, several times.

Sullivan strains to open up a gulf between Jonah Goldberg’s position on sodomy and my own. But I just don’t see what Sullivan is talking about. Here is how Goldberg describes his own opposition to sodomy laws, in NRO’s The Corner: “I’m against sodomy laws simply because homosexuals are citizens, human beings, taxpayers, etc. I don’t have to dig everything they do to recognize this fact. And whatever moral justification for sodomy laws there may be — I don’t see any, really, but I’m open to the idea that there might be some — are obviously outweighed by the moral costs of enforcing them. Kicking in doors, spying on people etc. would not only be unfair to the ‘criminals’ it would be destructive for the cops and the people who pay their salaries.”

The only difference I have with this statement is that, unlike Goldberg, I think I do have some understanding of the moral arguments in favor of sodomy laws. I believe that those arguments contain some sound sociological points, but I do not share their religious presuppositions. Nonetheless, just as Goldberg says, I think the merits of arguments in favor of sodomy laws are outweighed by the moral costs of enforcing them. So, except for the fact that I feel I have some understanding of the basis of arguments in favor of sodomy laws (something Goldberg says he is perfectly open to understanding himself), I agree with everything in that passage from Goldberg. Nor has Goldberg, so far as I know, called for Santorum to resign. So I just don’t see how, in Sullivan’s eyes, I have failed to give “the same basic level of respect” to gay people that Jonah Goldberg has.

Sullivan is perfectly aware that I have publicly called for the repeal of sodomy laws. He has praised me for that stance on a number of occasions in the past. So how is it that Sullivan is now trying to create an imaginary distinction now between Jonah Goldberg’s “respectable” position on sodomy and my own allegedly unacceptable position? I suppose it would suit Sullivan’s purposes if, just before the gay-marriage battle hits (after this summer’s Massachusetts ruling) he could discredit me. But again, I have publicly and repeatedly announced my conviction that gay people ought to be entitled to have sex without government interference in the privacy of their own homes. So if Sullivan wants to pretend that I have not said this, his is smearing me. It would be nice to have a public acknowledgment of my true position from Sullivan. If Sullivan should misrepresent my position on this matter in the future, I will continue to call him on it.

Sullivan seems to be saying that it’s not enough to oppose sodomy laws. You can only be respectable in Sullivan’s eyes if, in addition to opposing sodomy laws, you also demand that anyone who favors them resign his office in disgrace. That is a position that I will not take. (Nor, it seems to me, has Goldberg taken this position.) If this is what Sullivan is demanding, then just as I said in my piece, it effectively disqualifies all Americans who hold traditional views on homosexual conduct from holding political office in the United States. That, it seems to me, would itself be a deeply biased position.

Since Andrew Sullivan has called on conservatives to clarify their own positions on sodomy, I would like to see him clarify his position on whether it is legitimate for any Catholic who adheres to the Church’s official position on sexuality (which is what Sen. Santorum was expressing) to hold high elective office in the United States. And, to put a second and equally important question, does Sullivan believe that anyone who favor sodomy laws, even if elected, is presumptively illegitimate as public a leader and ought to be asked to step down?

Stanley Kurtz is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

Recommended

The Latest