Andrew Sullivan and The New Republic have made a great contribution to the discussion of the issue of homosexuality by giving readers the article about Lawrence v. Texas, the sodomy case before the U.S. Supreme Court (“Unnatural Law,” March 24). My only concern is with Sullivan’s closing, which says that hopefully the Supreme Court will now end this violation of civil rights and invasion of privacy by “liberat[ing] a whole class of persons.” It seems to me that the Supreme Court will follow the precedent set by the decision it made in the Colorado Amendment 2 case, Romer v. Evans, and say that it is as individuals that we have these rights. Thus, the sodomy laws, whether they are enforced only against homosexual citizens or against all citizens, are an example of unequal enforcement of the law, violate the basic civil rights of citizens, and are unconstitutional.
Co-founder and Vice-Chair Homosexual Information Center
Bossier City, Louisiana
Sullivan makes an argument against the Texas sodomy laws based in part on an evolving understanding of the so-called Judeo-Christian sexual ethic. While he may be correct about Christian theology, Sullivan’s perception of Jewish law and philosophy is completely off base.
Sullivan states that “Jewish and Christian Scriptures ... prohibit divorce, which is now legal across the Western world.” Actually, Jewish Scriptures expressly allow for divorce and include provisions for a woman’s remarriage (Book of Deuteronomy 24). The Talmud devotes significant coverage to divorce law, taking for granted divorce’s permissibility and focusing on its execution and implications.
In a more significant difference between the two religions, the Jewish view of sex is not purely procreative. Biblical and rabbinic law have always unambiguously allowed and encouraged married couples’ sexual relationships even absent the possibility of reproduction. The Talmud also debates allowable contraceptive practices. Tradition considers the Song of Solomon—an allegory about two lovers and a model for the human relationship with God—the holiest book in the Bible. “Jewish” sexual ethics have remained essentially unchanged throughout the centuries: Sexual union between a husband and wife is allowed, encouraged, and sanctified.
RABBI ELLI SCHORR
Silver Spring, Maryland
Sullivan will not find any Scripture in the Bible that backs his description of sodomy; and he exclusively bases his opinions and views on Catholic religious laws that were created hundreds of years ago and are not based in Scripture and therefore do not represent the mainstream Christian view.
Sullivan’s definition of sodomy is not biblically based. Nowhere in the Bible does it state that oral sex, masturbation, contraceptive sex, coitus interruptus, or anal sex is wrong. I am not doubting that in ancient Catholic writings you can find such material. However, Protestant Christians, who make up the majority of the Christian community in the United States, do not accept those writings as valid because they cannot be reinforced by any Scripture.
ANDREW SULLIVAN REPLIES: Rabbi Elli Schorr is right that Jewish sexual ethics have carved out a narrow place for divorce. But that place is still far less liberal than our current civil laws, which allow multiple, no-fault divorces. My point was simply that, if we can change some biblical inheritances in the law, like divorce, we can also change others, like sodomy. Amber Bills is incorrect to say that my understanding of sodomy is not based in Scripture. The very term “sodomy” is derived from Genesis, as I pointed out; and homosexual sex is explicitly barred in Leviticus. I focus on the Catholic arguments since, for 1, 500 years, these determined the meaning of sodomy in Europe, and subsequently English and thereby U.S. sodomy laws. Without an understanding of that debate and history, we cannot understand our present.
In The New Republic’s editorial “Bomb Scare,” the editors conclude that the United States should negotiate with Kim Jong Il and discuss at length what we might expect from such negotiations (March 24). Although I agree that unilateral war with North Korea would be a disaster, there is no reason to believe that Kim Jong Il will be dissuaded from developing nuclear weapons. I believe that it is reprehensible that China, Russia, South Korea, and Japan have been sitting on the sidelines of this situation while the United States is prompted to go it alone politically, militarily, and economically and surrender to this madman’s blackmail.
There is, however, a very simple and elegant solution to this mess: We should, through back channels, notify all the regional players that, unless they all agree to multilateral negotiations and pressure North Korea to disarm, the United States will give Japan twelve nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles. Given China’s, Russia’s, North Korea’s, and South Korea’s fear of a militaristic and overwhelmingly powerful Japan, I am certain that these other nations would quickly go into high gear to prevent a nuclear Japan. Meanwhile, we would offer to remove our 37,000 troops from the region and tell South Korea to handle their own security.
Although it would be a breach of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and Japan would have to revise its constitution, I am sure that, when push came to shove, Japan would be happy to get a dozen nuclear missiles while saving billions of dollars in development costs. If everybody else is willing to pass the buck on this conflict, then, instead of “Give peace a chance,” we could resort to “Give nuclear blackmail a chance.”
HAROLD E. BRONHEIM, M.D.
New York, New York
These letters originally ran in the March 5, 2003 issue of the magazine.