U.S. senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, who sparked controversy with his comments that openly gay people and unmarried sexually active women should not be allowed to teach, announced he will step down this January to become president of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.
DeMint, a Republican elected in 2004, told The Wall Street Journal his new role would help communicate conservative ideas to the public in this “urgent time” following his party’s weak performance in the recent elections. He had previously said he would not seek a third term.
Gov. Nikki Haley, a Republican, will name a successor to DeMint. That person will have to run in a special election in 2014.
DeMint, a favorite of the Tea Party, said in 2004 that gay people and unwed single mothers should not be teachers. He apologized, but he repeated the opinion in 2010 and claimed it was an example of how religious people are attacked for their beliefs.
An antibullying group used DeMint’s comments in ads that ran in South Carolina this year.