Tuesday, February 09, 2016

The Michigan Senate passed an anti sodomy law. WTF?

So apparently the Michigan Senate just passed an animal rights bill. This would prevent people who have being convicted of animal cruelty from owning pets for handling animals for several years as punishment of their animal cruelty and to potentially save the lives and dignity of animals from these people. However, one state senator decided that it would be a great idea to also include in this bill language that would make sodomy act between two humans also illegal. In an animal rights bill. 


So what does animal welfare have to do with anti sodomy? Well either everything or nothing. On the side of everything, we have to go back to the etymology of the word sodomy. Now the word sodomy comes from the name of the mythical town called Sodom, which the Bible said was full of wickedness and licentiousness. One story that supposedly exemplifies the ways in which Sodom was the story of Lot. in the story a pair of Angels show up at lots doorstep and they are pursued by a crowd that wants to rape them Andrew Luck takes the Angels into his house and says no don't drink these angels here, take my to virginal daughters instead. Because for some reason giving your two virginal daughters to be raped by a crowd is better and more moral then just not letting the crowd attack anyone but I digress. Somehow this story is to show that this licentiate wicked behavior was against God I suppose because they wanted to fuck angels in the butt or that was the implied reason. And so we have the word sodomy which encompasses any sexual act that goes against God.
Now for many very conservative Christians this appears to also mean that beastiality and sodomy are the same thing or at least belong in the same category of being against God. We see this in cases like with former senator Rick Santorum who famously compared homosexual marriage to man on dog. When people started to say WTF, he backtracked and made it a general slippery slope argument, but the whole connection between same sex marriage and man on dog sex is a common trope in and amongst conservative Christians. Apparently this is why an amendment that makes consensual sex between two human beings in a non procreative manner is part of an animal rights and welfare bill. Because bestiality and oral and anal sex are all against the conservative Christian God.
On the other side, beastiality and sodomy have nothing to do with each other, and the term sodomy is not used because it carries with it a lot of unclarified and embedded meaning that is just plainly illegal by statute law by constitutional law in Michigan, and constitutional  interpretation at the federal level.

But who cares about that? Apparently for some conservatively Christian minded people, man's laws are subservient to God's laws, even when God's laws are not actually enumerated on points such as these, and even when God's laws specifically go against actual legislation. (Strangely enough, though, human laws in human traditions trump God's laws when the traditions and laws in question are those that conservatively minded Christians believe are good for them.)
So yes, the Michigan Senate passed a bill that in an amendment makes sexual activities that both heterosexual and homosexual people may engage in equivalent to beastiality and place it in a bill that was intended to protect animals against animal cruelty. Because one senator could not understand the difference between man on dog and human on human. Apparently the bill now will go to the Michigan House where they will decide whether they want to strip out this amendment. Hopefully, this amendment will get stripped out without much fuss and the bill that gets passed out of conference committee will also have this amendment stripped out.


UPDATE: Thanks to a friend of a friend for the specific language of "the abominable and detestable crime against nature with mankind or with any animal" from the bill. Apart from the legal position that the ACLU is arguing against (which is that this bill should have any language that links it to the actions between people struck due to such language being unconstitional), as a biologist, I have to bring up some points of contention against the other parts of the framing of this part of the bill, specifically the blatant deeply embedded conservative Christian moralizing.

What is really difficult is determining how to define what is and isn't "abominable," "detestable," and a "crime against nature," since these terms are highly subjective. Fifty years ago, a black man having sex with a white woman (even if they were married) would have been both abominable and detestable and likely justified as being a crime against nature. Hell, this is still seen as detestable by many people in the country (just ask Gov. LePaige of Maine about what he thinks about black men having sex with white Maine women). Without any legally defensible definition of "abominable" and "detestable," the perception is left to the witness, many of whom might disagree with what is and isn't "abominable" and "detestable" sexual acts with a consensual sexual partner.

And as to the "crime against nature" part, as the natural sciences have shown time and again, non-procreative sexual activity is practiced throughout nature, often quite vividly in the animal kingdom. So, even the phrase "crime against nature" cannot - by the standard of nature - apply to anal, oral, manual, or tool-assisted sexual activities. Heck, even the use of live animals as a masturbatory aide (bestiality among non-human animals) has been witnessed by scientists as has the use of dead animals, plants, and other inanimate objects (necrophelia among non-human animals).

Does all this evidence from nature about how animals engage in what is characterized as "crimes against nature" that are "abominable" and "detestable" mean that nature is commiting a crime against itself? Obviously not. What it does show is how firmly up his own arse this particular senator was when he was crafting this moralizing legislation based on his own (presumably religiosly based) perception about what kinds of sexual activities consenting human adults do with each other.

Now, none of the above is to say that one cannot legislate against the animal abuse that is bestiality. However, IMO such a law would not be based around a framing of the issue that is "the abominable and detestable crime against nature with mankind or with any animal." (As the ACLU pointed out, the "with mankind" part of the bill is unconstitutional anyway.) Cut out all of the social norms and religiously motivated language and just write something like, "The use of animals for sexual gratification by any person shall be illegal." There. Done.