Santorum slammed for anti-gay bigotry

A firestorm of protest continues to hover around Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Penn.) for remarks bashing gays and lesbians.

In a long interview with the Associated Press, April 21, Santorum, commenting on a case before the U.S. Supreme Court, said, “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.” He continued with slurs on feminists and non-traditional families.

Calling Santorum’s remarks “stunning,” the National Organization for Women demanded his resignation from Senate leadership and an apology. “Rick Santorum is afflicted with the same condition as Trent Lott – a small mind but a big mouth,” said NOW President Kim Gandy.

“He has refused to apologize and Republican leaders have either supported or ignored Santorum’s rants blaming societal ills on feminists, liberals and particularly gays and lesbians. Far from being a compassionate conservative, Santorum’s lengthy and specific comments expose him as abusive, intolerant and downright paranoid – a poor combination for a top Senate leader,” she said.

Congressman Barney Frank (D-Mass.), the only openly-gay member on the Hill, was not shocked. “The only surprise is he’s being honest about it,” Frank said. “This kind of gay bashing is perfectly acceptable in the Republican Party.”

Going into “damage control” mode, Republican Sens. Olympia Snow of Maine, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and Gordon Smith of Oregon quickly distanced themselves from the third-ranking Republican leader’s statements, but did not call for his resignation.

“Discrimination and bigotry have no place in our society and I believe Senator Santorum’s remarks undermine Republican principles of inclusion and opportunity,” Snow said. Chafee worried about privacy rights, saying, “I thought his [Santorum’s] choice of comparisons was unfortunate and the premise that the right of privacy does not exist … just plain wrong.” Gordon condemned the statements as “hurtful.”

The Democratic Party Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) demanded that Santorum resign his position as Senate Republican Conference chairman. A DSCC spokesman said, “Senator Santorum’s words are divisive, hurtful and reckless and are completely out of bounds for someone who is supposed to be a leader in the United States Senate.”

After a three-day silence, President Bush defended Santorum. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) issued a statement criticizing Bush.

“President Bush is awfully selective in which American values he chooses to comment on,” said DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe. “Rick Santorum disparaged and demeaned a whole segment of Americans and for that President Bush praises him. Three young women in the music business expressed their views and it warrants presidential action. I would suggest that rather than scold the Dixie Chicks, President Bush would best serve America by taking Rick Santorum to the woodshed.”

Winnie Stachelberg, political director for the Human Rights Campaign, the largest gay rights advocacy group in the U.S., charged that Santorum’s remarks “fly in the face of scientific evidence, common sense and basic decency.”

Meanwhile, Santorum is avoiding large public gatherings and the media, speaking to only ten constituents outside of Williamsport, Penn., on April 28.