By JAMES K. FITZPATRICK
I’m about to write some things I would never write if I were running for public office, even though I stand by them without reservation. There are statements like that, comments that give the media an opening to misinterpret your position so effectively that you will never be able to recover even if logic is on your side. That means the only prudent course for someone running for office is to avoid them like the plague.
Rick Santorum learned that when he was running for the Republican nomination for the presidency in 2012. A statement he had made about same-sex marriage in a 2003 interview in USA Today was brought up time and time again to cast him as a religious nut. The more he explained, the worst things got. As the saying goes, “When you are explaining, you are losing.”
In the 2003 interview, Santorum had said, “In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That’s not to pick on homosexuality. It’s not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing.”
The homosexual lobby and his political opponents pounced. They said he was “equating homosexuality and pedophilia and bestiality.” No matter how much Santorum protested that his point was only that almost all societies have limited marriage to a union between one man and one woman, the charge stuck. I would wager serious money the quote will be attached to him as long as he is in public life.
Santorum’s point remains sound. For thousands of years, the human race has understood that there are individuals with sexual yearnings different from the norm, attractions that deviate from those between a man and a woman that are central to the bond of marriage and the formation of families. (That is why we once routinely referred to them as “deviant.”)
But no society has accepted the argument that the existence and the strength of these sexual longings entitle those who experience them to marry the object of their sexual desires. When Santorum mentioned pedophilia and bestiality, he was merely giving his audience an example of how societies from the beginning of recorded history draw the line between the romantic love between a man and a woman that forms the basis of marriage and the formation of families and those sexual urges that do not.
What I am about to say will be met with the same response that Santorum was hit with. My protestations that I am not “equating” homosexuality with bestiality, incest, pedophilia, or any of the other behaviors routinely called “deviant” not that long ago will get me nowhere. Even so, I want it on the record: “Equate” means consider as equal, and I accept that not all sins are equally abhorrent. I have no intention to establish a pecking order of the reprehensibility of sexual acts outside of marriage. I am not a moral theologian.
My point is that the proponents of same-sex marriage have set up a pecking order of that sort. Listen to the way they make their case. It never fails. Even though homosexual activists attack those who oppose same-sex marriage for being “judgmental,” they are as judgmental as anyone on the planet. They always limit the new definition of marriage that they seek to one that will include “loving, monogamous, same-sex couples” alongside heterosexual couples.
Well? Why are they so judgmental about the other sexual partners that they do want to include in their new definition? Why not include those with strong and deep yearnings for incest, polygamy, children under the age of 16, even bestiality? Why do most of those who promote same-sex marriage express deep disapproval for Woody Allen’s protestation that he was “following his heart” when he married his stepdaughter Soon Yi? Why were his longings “unacceptable”?
How do the proponents of same-sex marriage make their case that polygamy, incest, and pedophilia, etc., should continue to be considered “wrong” but that “adult, loving homosexuals” should be free to marry? Do they use natural law teaching to make these distinctions? Or do they fall back on the legitimacy of the societal consensus on these behaviors?
They can’t take that tack; not if consistency matters. Natural law theory and the societal consensus were the standards that established why same-sex couples were not entitled to marry up until now. How can they be considered legitimate only when they are interpreted in such a way as to reinforce the views of those currently pushing for same-sex marriage? By what logic should the proponents of same-sex marriage be granted the authority to redefine Western society’s definition of the natural law and the societal consensus about marriage based upon it?
I concede that those who favor same-sex marriage appear to be carrying the day, as more and more states vote to permit the redefinition of marriage they seek. (The number of states permitting same-sex marriage is now 16, plus the District of Columbia.) But that does not change the fact that the change in public opinion was secured by faulty logic.
The proponents of same-sex marriage scolded the defenders of traditional marriage for being judgmental about homosexual couples. OK. But the activists who pushed for same-sex marriage made their case by being judgmental about sexual activity that did not fit within the category of a “monogamous, same-sex relationship.” They told us it was wrong to “discriminate” against “gay couples who seek a loving marriage,” but they discriminate against those with sexual attractions of a different sort who want the same thing.
Beyond that, they don’t tell us how these lines get drawn. Look: Until very recently as history measures time, societies all around the world never had difficulty in saying that the intensity of “deviant” sexual yearnings does not qualify them to be placed in the same category as married love. What the proponents of same-sex marriage are arguing is that an exception should be made for their monogamous relationships; that those relationships should be removed from the category where pedophilia, polygamy, bestiality, and incest are assigned, and placed alongside monogamous heterosexual marriage.
It is hard to believe that a change of this magnitude will be made without society being given an explanation for why.