Howard Dean joins Santorum critics

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com April 22 2003 12:00 AM ET

Former Vermont governor Howard Dean, who is running for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination, came out Tuesday against a statement made by U.S. senator Rick Santorum, a Pennsylvania Republican, comparing homosexuality to bigamy, polygamy, incest, and adultery.

Santorum's comments were made to the Associated Press during an interview in which he was 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."

Dean, who passed the pro-gay civil unions law when he was Vermont's governor, said he was outraged by the comments made by Santorum, who is the third-ranking member of the Republican Party. "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."

On Monday the gay rights group Human Rights Campaign, along with gay rights advocates in Pennsylvania, urged Republican officials to remove Santorum from his leadership position in light of his comments. "Senator Santorum's remarks are deeply hurtful and play on deep-seated fears that fly in the face of scientific evidence, common sense, and basic decency," said Winnie Stachelberg, political director of the Washington, D.C.-based HRC. "Clearly there is no compassion in his conservatism. 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."