Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania has not softened his stance on the immorality of homosexuality since the April firestorm fueled by his remarks comparing gay sex to polygamy, incest, and bestiality. In an interview in GQ magazine published July 15, Santorum reiterated his belief that gay sex is always wrong.
When asked what his reaction would be if one of his six children told him of "gay urges," the third-ranking Republican in the U.S. Senate responded, "I would try to point out to them what is the right thing to do. And we have many temptations to do things we shouldn't do...it doesn't mean you have to submit." If one of his children were to turn out gay, he said, he would "continue to help them in their life in a way that would lead them to a better and happier life."
Kevin Jennings, executive director of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, responded angrily to Santorum's remarks in a written statement, calling them "dangerously irresponsible, inflammatory, and outrageous."
"Mainstream mental health and education authorities have made it clear how we can help LGBTQ youth achieve the 'better and happier life' that the senator speaks of," Jennings said. "We must support them in accepting their sexual orientation, which is an innate characteristic, and provide them with homes, schools, and communities that value and respect who they are. Any suggestion contrary to medically accepted wisdom on this subject therefore puts our children in harm's way."
"Senator Santorum should focus his attention on helping parents provide both our nation's children--and his own children--with homes that are safe havens from abuse and advocating for schools and communities that provide the same," Jennings continued. "We call on Senator Santorum to retract his statements and clarify what he plans to do to help parents create healthy and happier lives for LGBT and questioning youth."
The mother of one Pennslyvania gay youth who committed suicide after enduring years of antigay harassment also recently reached out to Santorum, only to meet with rejection.
On July 9, Susan Wheeler, whose son Jim killed himself at age 19, requested a meeting with the junior senator from her state to watch with him the documentary film Jim in Bold, which combines the story of Jim Wheeler's life with profiles of other gay and lesbian youths across the United States. In a visit to Santorum's office, she met Michael Hershey, the senator's chief of staff, who declined to set up the screening on the grounds that the Wheeler family could mischaracterize to the press the senator's words and demeanor, Wheeler said. Before leaving the senator's office, she offered in writing to make no statement other than confirm that the senator had watched the film with her and members of her family.
Susan Wheeler said Hershey called her days later to again decline the invitation, saying, "Senator Santorum has a busy schedule. A meeting to watch Jim in Bold with your family is not one of the Senator's priorities."
Earlier this week Wheeler issued a statement responding to the senator's declining her invitation. "My family and I are people of faith," she said. "We believe in hope, love, and redemption. We believed that Senator Santorum's heart could be changed by watching Jim in Bold. We had hoped to appeal to Senator Santorum's humanity.... As our highest elected federal official in Pennsylvania, Senator Santorum's statements legitimize calling gays names and treating gay Americans with disrespect."