Washington, D.C.-based gay rights group Human Rights Campaign expressed deep concern Monday over comments made by Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), saying that he supports a provision that would allow faith-based groups receiving federal funding for community service programs to discriminate against gays and lesbians in hiring--even in cases where local and state nondiscrimination laws are already in place.
Santorum, who is chairman of the Senate GOP Conference, made the remarks in Monday's Washington Post. He said he told the president that during the upcoming debate over welfare reform, he would fight for a provision to allow religious groups to discriminate against certain people--gay people, for instance--in hiring if they don't share their religious beliefs. "I will make that stand," Santorum said.
HRC said Santorum's comments are in contrast to his remarks last year concerning faith-based initiatives legislation, when he said he did not want to include any provision in legislation drafted by him and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) that would preempt state and local civil rights laws.
"Senator Santorum is not only suggesting that the federal government help fund discrimination against gays and lesbians with tax dollars, but his support for such a provision would also override state and local nondiscrimination laws across the country," said HRC political director Winnie Stachelberg.
In a letter sent Monday, HRC executive director Elizabeth Birch asked Santorum to clarify his views on the issue. "While we may not see eye to eye on every issue affecting the gay and lesbian community, we hope that you will remain consistent in your belief that this federal legislation should not preempt state and local civil rights laws," Birch wrote.