Graduates walk out on Santorum

BY Advocate.com Editors

May 19 2003 11:00 PM ET

Approximately one eighth of the graduating seniors at Philadelphia's Saint Joseph's University walked out of commencement ceremonies on Sunday as U.S. senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), who recently infuriated gay rights groups and others with derogatory remarks about homosexuality, prepared to deliver the keynote address. About 100 graduates got up and walked out--amid competing boos and applause--when students were given an opportunity to leave "nondisruptively" before Santorum was introduced to receive an honorary degree and make his speech. Santorum didn't make any reference to the walkout or the controversy directly. "We are all called to love one another, even people we disagree with, even people who hate us for what we believe," he said.

Some students had urged the Jesuit university to rescind Santorum's invitation after he likened gay behavior to bigamy, polygamy, incest, and adultery in an April 7 interview with the Associated Press. "Senator Santorum and I are at completely opposite ends of the spectrum," said Saint Joseph graduate Sara Foglesong, who was among those who walked out. "I am not incestuous. I am not a bigamist. I just happen to be bisexual. It offended me."

The commencement also drew about two dozen protesters to a nearby street corner. "He represents homophobia, [which] I don't believe is a value based on Christian love," said demonstrator Malcolm Lazin, executive director of Equality Forum, a Philadelphia-based gay and lesbian group. "Homophobia encourages hate crimes, and Senator Santorum needs to be held responsible for that."

Patrick Hamilton, a 1996 graduate of Saint Joseph's, said he was "disappointed" that the university had invited Santorum: "Saint Joseph's has always been known as a conservative university, but they've made a lot of strides in being more tolerant and accepting of gays and lesbians."

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