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Letters to the editor, 04/24/03

Thursday, April 24, 2003

We must hold public figures accountable for their statements

My own senator scares me to death. Sen. Rick Santorum has already borne down on my reproductive freedoms, and now he is publicly bearing down on the sexual freedoms of others ("Santorum Remarks Outrage Gay Groups," April 22).

Two men engaging in sex in their own home were arrested, on account of Texas' sodomy laws, after police entered their home and "caught" them. Rick Santorum reveled in his extremely biased views on homosexuality, comparing homosexual sex to incest. A spokeswoman for Santorum said the senator was "specifically speaking about the right to privacy within the context of the Supreme Court case." Let me apologize if I still am not seeing the relationship between these two men having sex and bigamy or adultery.

How many elected officials are we going to let slide by in what they say and do? J. Leon Holmes, a Bush nominee for the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Arkansas, said in 1980, on the issue of abortion for rape victims, that pregnancies from rape "occur with approximately the same frequency as snowfall in Miami." He also has written that women should be subordinate to men. This is a man our own president has nominated.

Sen. Trent Lott experienced a similar situation as Santorum. He expressed his bigoted views and he, fortunately, was made to step down from his leadership position in the U.S. Senate. This can be attributed to the number of African-American groups that spoke out about their outrage, as well as the general public. This is the kind of return that must be shown with Sen. Rick Santorum.

I for one do not want a man with such extreme and hateful views toward others speaking for me as a citizen of Pennsylvania. Rick Santorum must be forced to step down out of office, both in his place within the GOP and his Senate position in Pennsylvania.

CASEY SILL
Beechview


The most basic of rights

While discussing a pending Supreme Court case involving two gay men who were arrested for having sex, Sen. Rick Santorum said the constitutional right to privacy "destroys the basic unit of our society because it condones behavior that's antithetical to strong, healthy families."

Mr. Santorum could not be more wrong. People who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender create families that deserve equal protection of the laws on the same basis as everyone else.

The right of privacy protects all families by shielding them from government intrusion into their most intimate decisions and acts. The right to be let alone is one of the most basic rights, and Sen. Santorum should respect it.

DAVID DiSABATINO
Executive Director
American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia


His right to speak out

I support Sen. Rick Santorum insomuch as all people should be treated equally. Just because of your sexual orientation, this does not give you any special rights. I have yet to see a campaign for heterosexual rights. When a "gay" person speaks up, he or she is fighting for his or her rights; when a heterosexual speaks up, he or she is gay bashing.

GARY DUNMIRE
Glassport


Unforgettable intolerance

If Sen. Rick Santorum can't comprehend the difference between consensual sex between adults and incest, many other Americans can. I hope they will remember that the next time he is up for re-election. I know I will; I deeply resent his intrusion into Americans' bedrooms.

And I continue to be deeply ashamed of his "representation" of Pennsylvania. His attitudes epitomize the old saying that "Pennsylvania has Pittsburgh in the west and Philadelphia in the east with Alabama in the middle."

His intolerant views are much more in touch with the religious leadership of "progressive" countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran. I wish he would consider moving there; I'm sure he would fit in just fine.

LAURIE MANN
Mt. Lebanon


Environment of distrust

Thank you for having the guts to address Pennsylvania's absurd alcohol laws ("Liquor Stickler: Consumer Convenience Moves at a Snail's Pace," April 16 editorial). We have come a long way from our Soviet-style Liquor Control Board era in the 1970s, when a customer stood in line to order from a cash-register list and an employee would go into a back room and re-emerge with the order. But it is hard to believe that in a country calling itself "the land of the free," Pennsylvania still has stupid laws when things are comparatively consumer-friendly in many other states, and for that matter, elsewhere in the modern world.

Just the same, I think the Post-Gazette is too kind in placing the blame entirely on the Legislature and not on the LCB, its union and its employees, who have a long history of fighting consumer-friendly initiatives for their own benefit. Also, you ignore the powerful beer and wine distributors who support legislative hurdles that limit competition.

These special interests cloak their agenda in demagoguery from organizations like MADD, which long ago abandoned its commendable mandate of preventing drunks from driving and replaced it with a quasi-prohibitionist agenda to further restrict all alcohol sales -- a dubious policy itself. These powerful groups have made it abundantly clear how our politicians had better vote.

But look at states where laws are more lax. They prove there is no societal requirement for LCB stores or beer-only-by-the-case "distributors." Meanwhile, the Europeans have proved that the way to handle alcohol responsibility is by teaching youth to drink "as adults" while in the presence of parents and other grown-ups, both in public and at home.

Instead, our prohibition-oriented system is not only inconvenient for legal drinkers, it has created an environment where our youth learn to irresponsibly party-drink absent the wisdom of authority figures. It encourages them to hide behavior, experiment with concealable hard liquor (and even other drugs) and it makes a criminal out of any adult who attempts to chaperon the drinking they know will go on anyway.

Meanwhile, in Germany, one can legally purchase beer at age 16 at most any outlet. Yet Germans have a fraction of the problems we do, and their drunken driving is negligible compared with the United States.

Prohibitionist laws are mistakes for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the answer is libertarian-style freedom and common sense rather than legislation that prolongs adolescence and inconveniences citizens for the benefit of a few politically connected groups.

J.C. ERNHARTH
Aspinwall


Inconvenience is OK

I finished reading another editorial bemoaning Pennsylvania's system of liquor control ("Liquor Stickler: Consumer Convenience Moves at a Snail's Pace," April 16) and chose to respond because it was just last week that my 25-year-old son (as we drove by for a different purpose) identified the building where he was able to buy beer while in high school. The building is about 25 miles from our home and now vacant.

The editorial board continues to ignore the reality that alcohol is the No. 1 drug of abuse for adolescents. Beer, wine and liquor are available in grocery stores, gas stations, even street vendors, in many other states. Many of us have traveled to or lived in those states.

We're willing to withstand some inconvenience to us to reduce the chance of abuse by our kids.

WESLEY BOOTS
Menallen Township


Don't we all want essentially the same things?

For more than a month a banner saying "Quakers for Peace: War Is Not the Answer" hung outside our Quaker Meeting House on Ellsworth Avenue. This is a true reflection of our strongly held belief as Quakers that "as members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), we are called to witness to God's love for every human being; to respect the human dignity of each person; to promote equality and justice; to oppose violence and war; and to work for a peaceful world" (Friends Committee on National Legislation).

A few weeks ago, the sign was torn down, we assume by someone or some people opposed to our stand against this war.

Quakers have a history of building bridges to understanding and of reaching out to others to try to engage them in dialogue. We are aware that in times of crises and war our society can become polarized and divided. People are labeled as being "for war" or being "for peace." Yet it is unlikely that anyone wants war, with the killing of our soldiers and innocent civilians. More likely all of us would like to see peace in our world.

Do we not all want the same things for our families and children: security, freedom from fear, a society in which our needs for food, medical help and good education are taken care of? Our approach to securing these needs may be different, but we share the same concerns. Instead of seeing each other as enemies, let us explore our commonalties and search for creative ways to build bridges of understanding.

We invite those who do not agree with our stand that "war is not the answer" to join us in exploring together how to work for a world in which we can all feel secure and safe. We hold an open discussion on Thursday evenings from 7 to 8 at 4836 Ellsworth Ave. in Oakland.

SCILLA WAHRHAFTIG
Convener
Pittsburgh Friends Meeting
Oakland


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