Keyes explains himself--sort of

Alan Keyes, a Maryland-based radio commentator, Republican Presidential wannabe in 2000, and this year’s improbable candidate for an Illinois Senate seat--he has never lived there--is making waves again. Illinois Republicans, eager for an African American to run against Democratic wunderkind Barack Obama, last month drafted Keyes to run for the Senate seat being vacated by one-term Republican Peter Fitzgerald. The GOP’s previous candidate withdrew in the heat of a sex scandal. Now they’ve got their hands full with another uproar, and this one might not be so easy to dismiss.

Keyes is virtually certain to lose in November in an Obama-rama landslide. But he seems determined to leave his mark. He certainly left a big impression on Aug. 30 when in a radio interview he proclaimed that gays and lesbians are “sexual hedonists.” The show’s host asked if that made Vice Presidential daughter Mary Cheney a sexual hedonist. His reply: “yes, of course she is.” Even Illinois Republicans were outraged by the remarks, and some are now talking of dumping Keyes as their Senate candidate. A spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee said that GOP candidates sometimes “are not reflective” of the party’s message.

So two days later, my colleague lorraine_woellert and I were a couple of blocks away from Madison Square Garden looking for a place to grab a quick bite, and we bump into Alan Keyes, standing casually at the intersection, waiting for police officers to let him cross. We quiz him on whether he really said that gay people are sexual hedonists, expecting him to demur that he’d been misquoted, or quoted out of context at the very least. Instead, he said those were his words. But please, he added, “I want to explain.”

In a normal relationship between a man and a woman, he said, there is the “opportunity for procreation,” which is why couples have sex—so they can bring children into the world and perpetuate the human race. But in a gay relationship, “there is not that opportunity, so that means gay couples are in their relationship only for the sex.”

He goes on: Gay partnerships are “based on self-gratification and hedonism.” In a heterosexual marriage, because children are involved, it’s different. “It’s not just about yourself.” Society can’t dictate the character of individuals, but “society makes a decision about the character of the institution” of marriage. Incredulous, we ask: “But what about childless couples? Are they selfish hedonists too? What if they can’t have children—does that mean they shouldn’t get married?” No, he said, “there will always be individual exceptions to what I’m saying, and I don’t want to get into particular situations.”

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