Beliefnet
The United States Supreme Court's decision on Thursday to strike down a Texas ban on gay sex, ruling that the law was an unconstitutional violation of privacy, was necessary and correct. To be sure, I have devoted much of my career to upholding the institution of heterosexual marriage, and strengthening the religious commitment of American society. But I know that religion is sacred precisely because it involves freedom of choice. This is not Iran. We don't want a society where police can barge into a couple's bedroom to determine whether they're practicing sodomy or not and whisk them off to jail.

Senator Rick Santorum, a man I admire and respect, said in a recent interview with the Associated Press that if the justices overturned the Texas law, "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." The Senator is wrong. We don't prosecute people in America for adultery. No court would throw a man in jail for cheating on his wife, even if he deserved it. There has got to be a difference between moral and ethical sin and religious sin.

Homosexuality and sodomy are not ethical sins. No one is being hurt, no one is being cheated, nobody's rights are being infringed upon. Homosexuality is a religious sin, analogous to other Biblical prohibitions, like not eating the carcass of a dead animal, or not sleeping with a woman during her menstrual cycle. In many ways, adultery is even worse, because it does transgress ethics. It involves deception and lying. But we don't prosecute people for adultery.

I don't mean to minimize these prohibitions. I am an observant Jew who takes the Bible seriously. But a man who eats shellfish--which the Bible calls an abomination (Leviticus 11:12: "Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you") is not immoral so much as irreligious. Likewise, a man or a woman who works on the Sabbath is not unethical. They haven't stolen from anyone. But they have contravened a Biblical injunction.

Senator Santorum and Justice Scalia are simply wrong. Saying you won't throw homosexual men into jail for practicing gay sex is not condoning homosexuality, just as saying that we won't throw a cheating husband into the electric chair is not condoning adultery. We don't have Kalashnikov-armed mullahs beating our women for walking in the streets without having their breasts hidden. We believe in the power of G-d's laws to be argued rationally and logically and to win arguments in the marketplace of ideas, rather than blowing people away for being infidels.

What percentage of the American population is gay? Ten percent? What percentage of the population is divorced? At least 50 percent. In addition, we have a rampant culture of womanizing, where men are conditioned to use women and discard them. And yet, what are we religionists obsessed with? Homosexuality! Who made this a bugbear of conservatives and religionists like me? Why do we squander all our credibility on the gay issue?

Our approach should be simply this: we believe in heterosexual marriage. We believe a man and a woman have more to offer each other through a diverse and complimentary relationship than the homogeneity of a homosexual relationship.

Having said this, we understand there are many gay men and women who have no inclination whatsoever to members of the opposite sex. To them we say they should be in responsible and committed same-sex relationships, even though we cannot equate these relationships fully with heterosexual marriage.

Let's turn our attention to the real enemies of marriage: Men who impregnate women and abandon them. Men and women who cheat on their spouses. Men and women whose commitment to marriage is so tenuous that they are prepared to divorce without first seeking extensive counseling. And finally, the huge explosion in men and women who insist on a prenuptial agreement before marrying, promoting their money over their hearts.

As regards the states with sodomy laws outlawing anal sex even between husband and wife, I (the author of a book called "Kosher Sex") say: Stop being ridiculous. I'd rather a husband and wife experiment, including by having oral and anal sex and trying out every sexual position, than use pornography to get excited. I would rather a husband have anal sex with his wife than leave him to think about another woman while having missionary sex with her. It's better to condone all sexual positions than to have men going to a whorehouse to experiment with positions that are forbidden to them in marriage.

But I'm getting ahead of myself here. There is another question raised by the Supreme Court case decided today: whether the U.S. government, or any government, has the right to regulate people's private, intimate, sexual behavior. This question goes to the very heart of democracy. Are our private lives just that - private? Or do my actions in private have an impact on public morality?

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