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Storm over Santorum. (Politics).

The reaction was fast and furious. After Rick Santorum, the third-ranking Republican in the U.S. Senate, compared homosexuality to bigamy, polygamy, incest, and adultery in an interview published April 21, Democratic political leaders competed for the most strident denunciation.

Former Vermont governor and presidential aspirant Howard Dean denounced the remarks as "deeply offensive" and "immoral." Massachusetts senator John Kerry, also a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, wasted no time in declaring that "these comments take us backwards in America" Not to be outdone, Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, yet another Democrat taking the presidential plunge, called them "disturbing and inappropriate."

One the other side of the aisle, the reaction could hardly have been more muted. After failing to address the remarks for four days, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said, "the president believes the senator is an inclusive man." Republican senator Arlen Specter, a gay rights supporter, termed his Pennsylvania counterpart "not a bigot."

Santorum, one of the Senate's most strident social conservatives, made the comments in the context of the Supreme Court's consideration of Lawrence v. Texas, a challenge to the state's same-sex-only sodomy law. After making the remark in the interview, he added, "In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That's not to pick on homosexuality. It's not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be."

Asked for an apology, Santorum refused, calling his comments "a legitimate public policy discussion" about sodomy laws.

Even though President Bush has tried to hew closely to the political center on social issues, extending an olive branch to gay Republican groups, Santorum's antigay remarks once again exposed the gap between the two parties on gay- and lesbian-related issues.

"Sure, there's been progress in the Republican Party on gay issues over the last few years," says Hastings Wyman, publisher of the newsletter Southern Political Report. "But the reality is that it's kind of a two steps forward, one step back proposition. There's still that religious right base that party leaders have to worry about. The reality is that the gay vote does not have nearly as much clout."

Indeed, Santorum's comments were made public the day after the president of the Family Research Council, a religious right group with considerable clout among Republicans, attacked Marc Racicot, chairman of the Republican National Committee, for holding "secret meetings with the homosexual lobby."

Racicot, a moderate, had met March 7 with leaders of the Human Rights Campaign, a Washington, D.C., gay rights group. Asked why religious conservative leaders regularly inveigh against gays and lesbians, Racicot told HRC, "They probably don't know gay people. People fear to educate them. [They have] their own fear and lots of misinformation and disinformation, which some do for political expediency."

Racicot, who has considerable influence over the party's fund-raising apparatus at the RNC, may now want to have a similar chat with Rick Santorum.
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Title Annotation:reaction to Senator Rick Santorum's views on homosexuality
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 27, 2003
Words:491
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