Sex in Politics

Many fascinating news stories pop up every day in the United States and across the world, but each month, I will pick one news story that provokes me and offer my response here. Enjoy!

On Thursday, January 5th, following his strong second-place finish in the Iowa caucus, Republican Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum riled a group of students in New Hampshire at the College Convention 2012 when he defended his opposition to same-sex marriage with the rationale that legalizing same sex marriage is the same as legalizing polygamous marriage.

The discussion got heated when a woman asked Santorum why he thinks the American notion of freedom and the pursuit of happiness doesn’t apply to two men hoping to marry. Santorum repeatedly deflected the question asking, “What about three men?” and at one point arguing, “If you’re not happy unless you’re married to five other people, is that O.K.?”

A question about equality among monogamous couples was answered with continued equations of homosexual unions and polygamy.

Watch the video and read the article here.

Let me react first by saying: people should not be defined by their sexual preference or orientation. This is not who they are. Defining someone by his sexual orientation would be like introducing me with “Here is a doctor” instead of “Here is Sara.” That’s what I do. It’s not who I am.

Regardless of someone’s label as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or heterosexual, we are all citizens and supposedly have the same civil rights. And even though a president is elected by a majority of the citizens, when he takes office, he represents every single person. And according to a Gallup poll from May 2011, 53% Americans actually support gay marriage.

In any society, certain practices are frowned upon and others are embraced. This is based on the first level of culture. A society then may choose to recognize its cultural values in law. In the United States, we’ve decided that monogamy is the norm. So why limit marriage to monogamous couples of opposite genders alone?

The United States has said that every citizen has the right to “the pursuit of happiness.” While “happiness” is subjective, one thing is for sure: If one person’s pursuit of happiness limits another person’s safety, freedom, or their own pursuit of happiness, then that’s a problem.

For example, if someone is blasting loud music, that may make his neighbor sleep-deprived. Culturally, our society has decided that a moderately quiet environment is of value. We turned that cultural value into a law. That’s why you can receive a noise citation and may have to pay a fine if you throw a loud party.

In my opinion, homosexual marriage doesn’t limit others’ happiness. But this is my subjective view.

Santorum was asked a very clear question: how do you justify your opposition to gay marriage? He suggests that polygamy could derail society. Although I am having a hard time figuring out the link between gay marriage and polygamy but I respect his opinion as everyone is entitled to theirs. But, what if he becomes president? in our country, some people practice polygamy for reasons that are personal, religious or merely because it make sense to them. Does this mean that if Santorum becomes president, he will ignore some people’s civil rights because of their personal choices?

Let’s imagine that I run a private religious institution. If you know my institution only supports marriage between a man and a woman, you can choose to come, stay home or go elsewhere. If gay marriage is important to you, you can find a gay-friendly service somewhere else.

But a country is not like my private religious institution. And this country was founded as a safe haven for persecuted minorities. It has always prided itself on being diverse. The President is supposed to protect those diverse citizens too. A President is entitled to his personal opinions, but he has to separate his personal opinions and his political views.

This actually makes me think; Is this Rick Santorum’s personal opinion? Does he really think homosexuality and/or marriage is execrable, or is he courting the votes of conservative Americans who oppose homosexuality?

In office, President George W. Bush was against gay marriage. But privately, what did he think? His daughter, Barbara Bush, publicly endorsed gay-marriage last February, and her mother Laura Bush has also supported legalizing same-sex unions. Vice President Dick Cheney publicly supported the Republican party’s definition of marriage between a man and a woman, but privately, how does he treat his lesbian daughter, her partner of 15 years, and their child?

My hope is that through the process of campaigning for President, Rick Santorum can clearly identify why he holds his views on gay marriage and homosexuality. Does he have these opinions for person or political reasons? And most importantly how much would he allow his opinions influence the laws and legislations in this country in years to come.

The world looks to America as an example of hope. If a gay person in a country where homosexuality is illegal cannot look to America as an example of a freer life, what does that say about us? What is the image we project? Being a global leader is not just about military might or economic power. It’s about cultural leadership, too. What is our nation’s cultural responsibility when it comes to gay marriage?

What news articles have you excited or riled up? If there is a news item you’d like me to comment on, please post it here!