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Sen. Santorum Defends Remarks in Gay Court Case Tue Apr 22, 7:20 PM ET Add Top Stories - Reuters to My Yahoo!
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania on Tuesday ignored calls that he apologize and resign from his Senate leadership post as he defended comments he made comparing homosexuality to bigamy, polygamy, incest and adultery.
"My comments should not be misconstrued in any way as a statement on individual lifestyles," Santorum said in a brief news release issued by his office.
In an interview with the Associated Press published on Monday, Santorum, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, discussed a Texas sodomy law now being challenged before the U.S. Supreme Court (news - web sites).
"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," Santorum was quoted as saying. "You have the right to anything."
The court is considering if the Texas law violates privacy rights and unfairly targets same-sex couples or if the state has a legitimate interest in setting moral standards (news - web sites).
In his statement on Tuesday, Santorum said: "When discussing the pending Supreme Court Case Lawrence v. Texas, my comments were specific to the right to privacy and the broader implications of a ruling on other state privacy laws."
"In the interview, I expressed the same concern as many constitutional scholars, and discussed arguments put forward by the State of Texas, as well as Supreme Court justices. If such a law restricting personal conduct is held unconstitutional, so could other existing state laws," Santorum said.
"My discussion ... was about the Supreme Court privacy case, the constitutional right to privacy in general, and in context of the impact on the family. I am a firm believer that all are equal under the Constitution," Santorum said.
His comments on Monday ignited a firestorm of criticism from some Democrats as well as gay rights groups, a number of whom demanded an apology.
In addition, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) called on Santorum on Tuesday to step down as chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, the No. 3 job in the party's leadership. A DSCC spokesman called his comments "divisive, hurtful and reckless."
In an interview with the Fox news channel, Santorum said he would not step down.
"I didn't say anything that needs to be apologized for," Santorum said. "I talk a lot about this issue of activism in the courts. I talk about the issue of privacy and the extension of the right of privacy to a variety of different areas that I think would be injurious to our country."
The flap comes four months after Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi was forced to step down as Senate Republican leader for racially charged remarks.
At the White House, press secretary Ari Fleischer (news - web sites) had no comment on the matter.
Sen. Arlen Specter, a fellow Pennsylvania Republican, said he accepted Santorum's statement that his comment should not be misconstrued as a statement on individual lifestyles.
"I have known Rick Santorum for the better part of two decades and I can say with certainty he is not a bigot," Specter said in a statement.
-------------------- "A study of the history of opinion is a necessary preliminary to the emancipation of the mind. I do not know which makes a man more conservative-to know nothing but the present, or nothing but the past." -John Maynard Keynes
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