Democrats criticize Santorum

BY Advocate.com Editors

April 22 2003 11:00 PM ET

Just as the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has called on Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania to resign from his leadership position in the Republican Party following antigay comments he made to the Associated Press, two Democratic presidential hopefuls and the U.S. Senate minority leader also have joined those criticizing Santorum.

Santorum, who is third in command in the Republican Party, made his comments when discussing the U.S. Supreme Court's upcoming decision regarding the constitutionality of antigay sodomy laws. "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 said. "All of those things are antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family. And that's sort of where we are in today's world, unfortunately. It all comes from, I would argue, this right to privacy that doesn't exist, in my opinion, in the United States Constitution."

Former Vermont governor Howard Dean, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, said Tuesday that he is outraged by the comments made by Santorum. "That a leader of the Republican Party would make such insensitive and divisive comments--comments that are derogatory and meant to harm an entire group of Americans, their friends, and their families--is not only outrageous but deeply offensive," Dean said in a statement. "The silence with which President Bush and the Republican Party leadership have greeted Senator Santorum's remarks is deafening. It is the same silence that greeted Senator Lott's offensive remarks in December. It is a silence that implicitly condones a policy of domestic divisiveness, a policy that seeks to divide Americans again and again on the basis of race, gender, class, and sexual orientation."

Fellow presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts also came out in opposition to Santorum's comments: "The White House speaks the rhetoric of compassionate conservativism, but they're silent while their chief lieutenants make divisive and hurtful comments that have no place in our politics. The White House says Santorum is 'one of the original compassionate conservatives' who 'has a philosophy that's good for the people of Pennsylvania no matter who they are.' Every day in our country, gay and lesbian Americans get up, work, pay their taxes, support their families, and contribute to the nation they love. These comments take us backward in America."

Meanwhile, Senate minority leader Tom Daschle also shared his displeasure with Santorum's position. "Senator Santorum's comments were unfortunate, and I disagree with him wholeheartedly," he said. "I hope he clarifies that he was not equating homosexuality with bigamy or incest. Those sentiments are out of step for tolerance, and I hope Senator Santorum would repudiate them."

In a statement Tuesday, Santorum denied that his comments were meant to be antigay. "I am a firm believer that all are equal under the Constitution," he said. "My comments should not be misconstrued in any way as a statement on individual lifestyles." He added that his comments were meant to be restricted to the Supreme Court case.

Questioned at a White House news briefing, press secretary Ari Fleischer had no comment on Santorum's remarks, saying he had not seen the "the entire context of the interview. And...I haven't talked to the president about it, so I really don't have anything to offer."

On Monday several national and Pennsylvania-based gay rights groups also urged Republican officials to remove Santorum from his leadership position in light of his comments. "Senator Santorum's comments are shameful but not surprising as they reflect his record of bigotry," said Dave Noble, executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats. "It should disturb every fair-minded American that this is the man that Senate Republicans chose to lead their conference." Added Winnie Stachelberg of the gay rights group Human Rights Campaign: "Discriminatory remarks like this fuel prejudice that can lead to violence and other harms against the gay community. HRC is calling on Republican leaders to take quick and decisive action to repudiate Senator Santorum's remarks [and] on Republican leadership to demonstrate that tolerance and civil rights are important to them--not simply something that is politically expedient."

The gay GOP group Log Cabin Republicans called on Santorum to apologize for his remarks. "The choice for Senator Santorum is whether he will embrace the inclusive and winning message of President George W. Bush or the rejected team of Pat Buchanan, Pat Robertson, Gary Bauer, and their grand total of 0 electoral votes," said the group's executive director, Patrick Guerriero.

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