Santorum: Race is Identity, Gay is Sexual Conduct
According to GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum, racial identity and sexual orientation are two very different things because, the notoriously homophobic pol suggested during a Fox News appearance on Oct. 9, racial minorities are born into their identity, whereas gays are gay only because of the sexual partners they choose.
Santorum made the comments while discussing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the recently repealed anti-gay law that barred military service by openly gay and lesbian patriots. Santorum rejected the idea that fully integrating the military to include service by open gays and lesbians was comparable to racial integration of America’s fighting forces, which was protested by skeptics decades ago with arguments that are similar to the reasons advanced by foes of DADT’s repeal.
"I mean, we are talking about people who are, you know, simply different because of the color of their skin, not because of activities that would cause problems for people living in those close quarters," Santorum said.
The televised exchange came in the wake of a highly controversial episode in which Santorum called the retirement of the anti-gay law a "social experiment" on the United States military and said that if he were president, he would issue an executive order restoring the ban.
Santorum had addressed a question from a gay soldier stationed in Iraq at a recent debate between the members of the GOP’s crowded field of hopefuls.
"In 2010, when I was deployed to Iraq, I had to lie about who I was because I am a gay soldier, and I didn’t want to lose my job," Stephen Hill said via video during the Sept. 22 Fox News / Google debate in Orlando, Florida. "My question is... do you intend to circumvent the progress that’s been made for gay and lesbian soldiers in the military?"
Santorum responded that were he to win the presidency, he would issue an executive order that would once again impose a ban on openly gay and lesbian patriots serving their country in uniform, an EDGE Gay Blog posting reported on Sept. 22. The anti-gay pol--who once famously compared lifelong committed relationships between same-sex couples to sex with animals, and who has not served in the Armed Forces--also offered the remark that "any type of sexual activity has absolutely no place in the military," though he did not offer to explain why that observation might be considered more relevant when it came to gay and lesbian soldiers.
"Look, what we’re doing is playing social experimentation with our military right now and that’s tragic," Santorum added, despite the fact that all of America’s Western allies have long since abandoned their own anti-gay bans and integrated their militaries.
Santorum went on to say, "That policy would be reinstituted and as far as [gay] people [who are already] in [uniform], I would not throw them out because that would be unfair to them because of the policy of this administration, but we would move forward in conformity to what was happening in the past, which is--sex is not an issue. It should not be an issue. Leave it alone. Keep it to yourself--whether you’re heterosexual or homosexual."
Santorum’s boilerplate, hard-right ideological reply raised some hackles, but the media also took note of the fact that when Hill asked his question--identifying himself as a gay man as he did so--some in the audience booed him.
Even more troubling, GLBT equality advocates and mainstream media sources alike noted, was the fact that not a single one of the candidates assembled for the debate reacted to the monumental disrespect shown a serving American soldier on national television.
The distasteful incident drew a stinging rebuke from President Obama. One GOP hopeful, Herman Cain, addressed the issue, telling the media that he ought to have spoken up for the soldier.
But Santorum simply re-iterated the curious non-sequiturs to which he had given voice at the debate last month, even though the military’s rules about sexual behavior are universally applicable to all servicemembers, gay and straight alike.
Moreover, Santorum did not acknowledge that gay and lesbian servicemembers who had not engaged in any sexual activity were drummed out of the service nonetheless under the provisions of DADT--and not always because they disclosed their orientation. In some cases, other servicemembers found out about gay and lesbian colleagues by snooping through their personal belongings. Gay and lesbian troops who were outed against their will were then subjected to investigation and separated from the service.
Moreover, heterosexuals were sometimes subjected to intrusive anti-gay investigations because of maliciously made false claims by personal enemies.
Santorum was asked to respond to a quote by Col. Eugene Householder, who said, "The Army is not a sociological laboratory. Experimenting with Army policy, especially in time of war, would pose a danger to efficiency, discipline and morale and would result in ultimate defeat."
Householder wrote those words in 1941, Fox News reported. He was addressing the issue of African American troops being fully integrated into the ranks.
"It’s not the same," Santorum insisted. "And I know people try to make it the same, but it is not. It is a behavioral issue, as opposed to a color of the skin issue, and that makes all the difference when it comes to serving in the military."
Santorum also disputed that equality before the law for sexual minorities was a matter of civil rights.
"I know the whole gay community is trying to make this the new Civil Rights Act," the anti-gay pol declared. "It’s not. It’s not the same. You are black by the color of your skin. You are not homosexual necessarily by--obviously by the color of your skin or anything--it’s by a variety of things."
The Obama Administration has already stated its disagreement with that line of thought. Earlier this year, in suspending government defense of the Defense of Marriage Act in the federal courts, the Obama Administration effectively declared that GLBTs are who they are as a matter of their innate identity, and not because of any choices that they had made. This acknowledgment opened the door for the courts to regard gays as a "suspect class," which is to say, a class of people who do not embrace an identity but rather are born into it; cannot simply leave that identity; and have faced bias and persecution based upon that identity.
Santorum attempted to reference the so-called "ex gay" movement, which claims that gays and lesbians can "convert" to heterosexuality. Critics of the movement acknowledge that some people who have had same-sex relationships may indeed have gone on to enter mixed-gender relationships. But critics also point out that those individuals could have been bisexual, or might simply have been experimenting during their same-sex relationships, and always have been heterosexual to begin with.
Moreover, many gay people who undergo so-called "reparative therapy," which purports to "cure" gays, have either left the ranks of the "ex gays" and returned to an acknowledgement of their natural inclinations, or reported that they had quelled same-sex desire only by sublimating sexual urges of any kind.
Others have described a life characterized by "daily struggles" against homosexual attraction.
Mental health professionals warn that sexual orientation is innate and unchangeable. They also say that gays who subject themselves to the treatment are at risk for psychological damage.
Santorum offered one other intriguing tidbit, saying that the military should not expect to be able to recruit fresh troops if those recruits are going to be faced with "uncomfortable" living situations. The anti-gay pol did not clarify how serving in stressful, hot environments under daily threat to life and limb qualified as "comfortable."
Since the entry of Texas Gov. Rick Perry into the field, the race has essentially become a two-man contest between Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, with Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann reportedly losing ground to trail as a distant third.