NOT TOO LONG AGO, my little boy saw two men kissing -- on the lips. Not too long after that, a friend's child looked into a window on the way home from school and saw a man taking pictures of a nude woman. And not too long after that, a woman called me to say that her little girl had wandered over to the magazine rack in a drug store and brought back a picture of what we used to call a naked body. What's a parent to do?
Almost any parent can tell a story like that. Sex of all kinds is all around us -- homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual and God-knows-what-else- and it makes the job of parenting all the more difficult. In my case, for instance, I was simply not in the mood to being explaining to my son why some men kiss on the lips and others don't and why I would prefer, as long as we're at it, that he didn't. (In fact, he never even asked.)
But it's a long way from that momentary feeling of parental unease, to what appears to be the official policy of Fairfax County. There, homosexuals are prosecuted for sex acts in public places -- prosecuted as felons. They are arrested, taken before the grand jury, indicted and, eventually, tried. One of them recently committed suicide. his name was William Oliver and he was 39 years old. It seems that the prospect of a felony trial was too much for him.
It would be unfair to blame either the county or the prosecutors for Oliver's death. It was not something they could have forseen and it could have happened, just for the sake of argument, in a shoplifting case. But the prosecutors can be faulted for a leap of illogic -- the assumption that homosexual sex in public is somehow much worse, than heterosexual sex in public. This is the way one of the prosecutors put it: "A couple of us said we don't want our sons seeing it."
Why? Would the kids have fallen down dead? Would they become homosexuals on the spot? Pyromaniacs? Something worse -- liberals? What exactly did the prosecutors think would happen to their sons and, while we're asking questions, don't they have daughters?
The questions are worth posing because they seem to be the basis of public policy. I say "seems" because it's not clear anymore what the exact policy is. One of the assistant prosecutors was quoted in the newspaper as saying that the old policy was to arrest homosexuals on a misdemeanor charge while the prosecutor himself, Robert Horan, insists that the policy has always been to treat sodomy as a felony -- that being the intent of the legislature, he says.
Regardless of what the policy is, there seems to be no doubt that homosexuals are treated differently from heterosexuals. When homosexuals are spied (the right word) doing whatever they do, they are arrested and charged with the felony. When heterosexuals are caught doing the same things, they are sent on their way. Horan said it was something like five years since a heterosexual was prosecuted for what amounted to having sex in public, but you don't have to be a latter-day Kinsey to suspect that the cops really aren't enforcing the law.
It is hard to believe that in Fairfac County with all those cars and all that parkland and the romantic twinkle of lights from planes landing at Dulles, there is not, from time to time, just a little bit of sex going on outside the home. Speaking personally, it was years before I considered a car primarily a means of transportation.
Still, homosexuality is homosexuality and not the norm. Society views it differently than it does heterosexuality and the sight of it is probably more repulsive to most people than the sight of a heterosexual couple going at it in the park or in a car or even next to you in the movies. We are all entitled to our views -- our hangups.
But the law is not so entitled. The law ought to get its facts straight before taking action and in this case, the law is confused. The plain fact of the matter is that no one knows what happens when some kid (how old?) sees a homosexual act.No one knows how it differs from a heterosexual act or whether any of it makes any impact at all. In fact, no one knows what makes a homosexual a homosexual. There are lots of theories, but none than I know makes any mention of witnessing sex acts in the men's room of the Tysons Corner Woodies.
So what the prosecutors are doing is not protecting kids, but harassing homosexuals, which is a whole different matter. They have somehow evolved a whole new crime for a whole new class of people and predicated it all on some inferred damage to the mental health of their own children.
But it's not the kids who have troubles with homosexuals, it's their parents. And while they are entitled to their views and have the right to raise their own children any way they want, they are not entitled to use the law any way they want -- turn it on and turn off, use it on some people and not on others when the crime involved is the same. At best, it's lousy justice and at worst it sets a bad example.
Think of the kids.