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Thanks a Lott? 

Crank Call

Published April 30, 2003 at 4:00 p.m.

How thoughtful of Senator Rick Santorum, Republican of Pennsylvania and chair of the Senate Republican Conference, to take my mind off Iraq, Iran, Syria, SARS, North Korea, Donald Rumsfeld, Laci Peterson, women's wrestling and that freak in the White House by attacking "homosexuality." It's been a good long time since I've written a screed in defense of gay sex, an issue of such burning importance to the fate of the world that it's even eclipsed the Dixie Chicks and Charlton Heston's farewell speech to the National Rifle Association.

For those who care, Mr. Heston, stricken with Alzheimer's, won a standing ovation at the NRA's annual convention on Sunday, "shuffling onto the stage before a crowd of 4,000," according to wire reports, and "strong enough to raise an 1866 Winchester rifle over his head" while gasping his trademark line, "From my cold, dead hands." Which, right now, to speak very frankly, I wish were wrapped around Santorum's neck.

Oh, yes, I know - Santorum has "no problem with homosexuality," as he told the Associated Press in the interview that caused all the fuss: "I have a problem with homosexual acts. As I would with acts of other, what I would consider to be, acts outside of traditional heterosexual relationships." These acts might include golfing, cheating, lying, stealing, bombing Iraq and leaving the toilet seat up, but let's not pin a straight man down. "I think this is a legitimate public policy discussion," Santorum remarks. "These are not, you know, ridiculous, you know, comments."

No. These are, you know, appalling, you know, disgusting and despicable comments. Santorum was referring to a case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court, in which two men from Texas, God help them, have appealed their arrest on "sodomy" charges. He describes the abuse of children by priests as "a basic homosexual relationship," and while he acknowledges that homosexuality, in itself, is "not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be," he sees no need to retract his words. "And if the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home," Santorum adds, "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."

Well! That's a lot to swallow, forgiving the expression. I doubt that "swallowing" sits high on Santorum's list of "traditional heterosexual" acts, though I'm sure if my cold, dead hands were to lift the sheets when he and Mrs. S. get together for the Deed, he'd cry bloody murder at the intrusion. Democrats have called for Santorum's resignation from his Senate leadership post, and even the Human Rights Campaign, a generally brown-nosing gay rights organization made up almost exclusively of the moneyed, mortgaged, cotton-sweater crowd, has said that his stance is "stunning in its insensitivity - putting homosexuality on the same moral plane as incest is repulsive."

Actually, incest is the only item on Santorum's list that can be compared to "homosexual acts," even if the comparison is odious. Bigamy, polygamy and adultery are terms all defined by their relation to legal or, if you prefer, holy matrimony, while Santorum must know a great deal more about "man on dog" than I do. Take away the marriage vow and these entities change their names. "Bigamy" becomes a second marriage, "polygamy" a third, fourth, fifth or sixth, and "adultery" - let's face it - is just "an affair." Outside the law, none of them has anything to do with sexual preference, positions, partners and parts.

Incest, on the other hand, while it might be illegal, is a social taboo, powerfully and permanently proscribed by almost every society and so fraught with psychic, genetic and emotional baggage as to pop the diamond right out of your ring. It, too, is widely practiced, despite its prohibition, and no matter how many times its perpetrators tie the knot. The same is true of "dick on dick," if I can lapse into vulgarity for the sake of a point. This is why Santorum can claim "no problem" with homosexuality but only with the "you know" part of it - the "act." This is how we know that he's thought about it - a lot. It would simply blow his puny mind, in a way that bigamy, polygamy and adultery never could.

In the wake of l'affaire Santorum, there's a been a lot of pundit blather comparing his "incendiary" comments to those of another revolting bigot, former Senate majority leader Trent Lott, whose remarks on racial segregation cost him his post at the start of the year. Will Santorum resign, step down, give in - who cares? No mention is made of Lott's previous piggery, in June 1998, when he compared homosexuality to alcoholism, "sex addiction" and "kleptomania." Four months later, lest we forget, the body of Matthew Shepard was found beaten, bludgeoned and tied to a post, left to die by a couple of punks who feared he might unman them with a glance, and who, if the God Santorum believes in is really on the job, will be raped in perpetuity in the jail where they belong.

If there's a hero in this scenario, it's our own Howard Dean, who, three years ago, signed Vermont's civil union law like a nervous nellie, virtually in the dark, but who seems to have found his courage on the national stage and says he "can't wait to engage Republicans on that issue." I hope he means it. Because - oh, irony! - while the Bush administration and Republican swine insist there will be no "theocratic, fundamentalist" government in the new, remodeled Iraq, we're well on our way to getting one here.

Don't ask Santorum to "apologize," folks. Vote Democratic and throw the bums out.

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Peter Kurth

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