By Trudy Ring
Originally published on Advocate.com January 23 2014 5:15 PM ET
An Illinois Republican congressional candidate has blamed LGBT people for natural disasters and disease — and now party leaders are asking her to withdraw from the race.
Susanne Atanus, who made the remarks in a meeting Monday with the editorial board of the Daily Herald, a newspaper in the Chicago suburbs, told the paper today that she will not quit the race for the Republican nomination in the Ninth Congressional District of Illinois. “I don’t know why [Republican leaders] are not standing behind me,” she said.
In her Monday meeting with the Herald, she said gay activism and legalized abortion are responsible for phenomena including tornadoes, dementia, and autism because they have aroused God’s wrath.
“God is angry. We are provoking him with abortions and same-sex marriage and civil unions,“ Atanus said. “Same-sex activity is going to increase AIDS. If it’s in our military, it will weaken our military. We need to respect God.”
Jack Dorgan, chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, issued a statement today saying, “The offensive statements by Susanne Atanus have no place in the modern political debate, and she has no place on the ballot as a Republican. Her candidacy is neither supported nor endorsed by the leaders of our party, and she should withdraw from the race immediately.”
Adam Robinson, chairman of the Chicago Republican Party, also distanced himself from Atanus, the Herald reports. “Atanus is not in any way affiliated with any of our efforts in the Chicago GOP, nor have we ever supported, endorsed, or assisted her in any way at any time,” Robinson said.
Neither Dorgan nor Robinson had spoken directly to Atanus as of this afternoon, and the candidate said they should contact her, but she stands by her comments. “I am a Christian,” she told the Herald today. “I care a lot about the world and I care a lot about my obedience to serve God the right way. I can’t turn my eye and look the other way when I know that abortions, gay rights, and civil unions are making God very angry.”
Her chief rival for the nomination, David Earl Williams III, was also present in the Herald meeting and took a more moderate approach. He said AIDS is the result of unsafe sex by both gay and straight people, and that as a veteran he took exception to her comments about gays in the military. “I’ve served with people who were gay during ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ and you aren’t worrying about if someone is gay or not, you’re worrying about if you’re going to live the next day,” he said.
Williams, a former Democrat, has a liability in the form of a domestic violence order of protection obtained by a former girlfriend who says he tried to have her “fired from her job and kicked out of school by impersonating her online,” the Herald reports. Williams’s campaign manager said the claims are false and that the woman sought the order, which he is appealing, in revenge for their breakup. The candidate has also declined to say where he works because he has not yet told his employer that he is running for Congress.
Whether Atanus or Williams wins the Republican nomination in the March 18 primary, the Ninth District seat is likely to remain in Democratic hands. Popular incumbent and strong LGBT ally Jan Schakowsky is seeking her ninth term in the heavily Democratic district, which includes much of Chicago’s north lakefront area and several northern suburbs.
Watch video of Atanus and Williams below.