Mansfield, Sullivan Debate Homosexuality in `Justice'

Two of the nation's most out-spoken commentators on gay rights met yesterday for an intense debate on homosexuality in Sanders Theatre before a crowd of 1,200 students.

The debate, between Kenan Professor of Government Harvey C. Mansfield Jr. '53 and New Republic editor Andrew Sullivan, was held in Professor of Government Michael J. Sandel's "Justice," Moral Reasoning 22.

"It is often said that controversial issues cannot be debated at American universities," Sandel said. "Today we proved otherwise."

Sullivan, arguing Mansfield "on his own terms," said homosexuality is moral because it is natural for some human beings.

Mansfield, on the other hand, argued that homosexuality is immoral since gays cannot use sex as a means to procreation. He said homosexuality should be restricted through the mechanism of shame.


"All morality is dependent on shame, but all reasoning tends to destroy shame," said Mansfield, whose remarks met with delayed applause.

"So what?" said Sullivan. "Professor Mansfield's arguments are in their own internally flawed."

Sullivan cited the Universal Catechism of the Holy Roman Church, which says, "A not negligible number of men and women have pronounced sexual tendencies," as proof in support for his argument.

"For Professor Mansfield to argue that homosexuality is immoral, he has to be more Catholic than the Pope," Sullivan said.

"I'm for formal, legal equality," he said. "The government should not actively punish people for who they are."

Mansfield did not oppose Sullivan on that point.

"I don't think gays should be criminalized," he said, although he also said he thought enacting antigay legislation was acceptable.

Many students said they were unimpressed with Mansfield's performance.

"I was disappointed," said Elizabeth A. Papp'97. "I think Mansfield had a very good argument,but he did not articulate it well."

Students did not, however, agree whetherMansfield's debating style or his argumentscontributed to their impression that Sullivan wonthe debate.

"From beginning to end, Mansfield had nothingto say," said Dena R. Greenspan'97. "I felt heoffered no persuasive arguments."

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