UPI's Capital Comment for April 22, 2003

April 22, 2003 at 5:58 PM
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WASHINGTON, April 22 (UPI) -- Capital Comment -- Daily news notes, political rumors, and important events that shape politics and public policy in Washington and the world from United Press International.

Fighting words...

The politics of sexual preference is still a red-hot issue in Washington, as one U.S. senator may have recently discovered. In an interview published Monday in Washington, Pennsylvania's Rick Santorum, No. 3 in the Senate GOP leadership, appeared to equate homosexuality with incest and other perversions while talking about the right to privacy in the context of a Texas anti-sodomy law being reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

"If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual (gay) sex within your home, 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," Santorum reportedly said. "All of those things are antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family."

The remark set off a firestorm of protest with pro-homosexual rights groups calling on the Senate's GOP leadership to repudiate the comments.

A representative of the nation's largest homosexual political organization called Santorum's remarks "deeply hurtful," adding that they "play on deep-seated fears that fly in the face of scientific evidence, common sense, and basic decency," the Human Rights Campaign's Winnie Stachelberg said.

"Discriminatory remarks like this fuel prejudice that can lead to violence and other harm to the gay community. HRC is calling on Republican leaders to take quick and decisive action to repudiate Senator Santorum's remarks," Stachelberg continued.

Several prominent Democrats called for Santorum to step down from his leadership post, but not everyone is taking off after him. Conservative groups, including the Family Research Council, which bills itself as one of the nation's largest pro-family organizations, have taking up a defense of the Pennsylvania senator.

On Tuesday the group fired back at the HRC, saying that their anti-Santorum effort "is intended to intimidate defenders of marriage and silence critics of the homosexual political agenda." The group's president, attorney Ken Connor, says the senator's observation, which Santorum's says was limited specifically to the issues posed in Texas vs. Lawrence, was sound.

"If the justices overturn the Texas law and hold sodomy to be a constitutional right on the grounds of privacy," Connor, an attorney, said, "then laws against bigamy, incest, polygamy, adultery and other purely 'private' sexual relationships must also be unconstitutional. This is hardly a novel point of view. Many legal scholars have made the same argument," he said.

Santorum's office says the calls they have received since the HRC asked people to contact his office have been "three-to-one positive," expressing support for the two-term senator and expressing dismay that the comments were taken out of context.

Mail call...

An independent watchdog group is accusing the U.S. Postal Service of using deceptive advertising to promote priority mail as "a low-cost two-day delivery service" when, according to a study just released by the group, more than one-quarter of that mail fails to reach its destination within two days.

"The ads misrepresent Priority Mail as a low-cost two-day service, while failing to disclose that First-Class letters, at nearly one-tenth the cost (37 cents vs. $3.85), generally arrive at their destination just as soon, if not sooner than do Priority Mail letters," Postalwatch Executive Director Rick Merritt says in the just-released Priority Mail Sham.

Postalwatch says that 45 percent of all First-Class letters arrive at their destination within one day compared with only 26.6 percent of Priority Mail. Less than 73 percent of the Priority Mail sent by consumers during the past five quarters actually arrived within two days. Postalwatch is calling on Congress to apply pressure to the USPS, forcing it to enact pro-competition policies that would better protect consumers and private-sector rivals.

We won't sit still for this...

Legislation proposed by U.S. Rep. Max Burns, R-Ga., to require states to establish policies that prohibit school officials from requiring children to take psychotropic drugs as a condition of entering school is drawing support from some unlikely quarters. Grammy-award winning recoding artist Isaac Hayes and Eduardo Palermo, the star of NBC's "Kingpin," have come out strongly on behalf of the Child Medication and Safety Act, saying the issue has special meaning for minority children in public schools.

Hayes, who is identified as an adviser to the Citizens Commission on Human Rights International, an offshoot of the controversial Church of Scientology, says he urges "all members of the minority community to fully support this bill for the sake of our youth.

"Many of our children, antagonized by poverty and substandard inner-city education, are being subjected to dangerous psychiatric drugs that do nothing to address their emotional or educational needs. Under no circumstance should a parent be forced to drug their child," Hayes said in a statement.

The CCHR says the 1998 annual report of the Federal Office of Special Education found that black children "are three times more likely than whites to be labeled with mental or 'learning disabilities' through the public education system, and the number of Hispanic children placed in special education increased 53 percent over a 10-year period."

According to Burns, some school officials are forcing parents to place their child on psychotropic drugs, such as Ritalin or Adderall, to keep the school from refusing to provide educational services to the child, something he calls "unconscionable."

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