- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Republican leaders rallied behind Sen. Rick Santorum yesterday and said his recent comments about privacy and homosexual rights will not cost him his Senate leadership post.
"Absolutely he will remain in leadership," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican. "He has the full, 100 percent confidence of the Republican leadership in the United States Senate."
In an Associated Press interview April 7, Mr. Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican, commented on a case before the U.S. Supreme Court concerning a Texas law against homosexual sodomy. He said the court's ruling could have implications beyond the Texas law.
"If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual 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 said.
Homosexual advocacy groups and many Democratic lawmakers called on Republicans to repudiate Mr. Santorum's remarks and force him out of leadership. Several Republican senators also distanced themselves from his remarks, though none of them asked him to step down.
Yesterday several of them said that though they disagree with the comments, Mr. Santorum should keep his slot, and Republican leaders said the issue is behind them.
"A variety of us have said in one way or another we know Rick Santorum, we know he's not a bigot. He's an inclusive senator," said Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican.
Mr. Santorum is the Republican Conference Chairman in the Senate, the third-ranking position, behind Mr. Frist and Mr. McConnell.
He has said his remarks shouldn't be taken as disparaging individual lifestyles but were instead a statement about the implications if the Supreme Court strikes down the Texas law.
Conservatives strongly supported Mr. Santorum, including House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, who said yesterday that he is "very proud" of Mr. Santorum for standing on principle.
"I think Senator Santorum took a very courageous and moral position based upon his principles and moral view," Mr. DeLay said. "I think it's unfortunate the other side can't debate the moral issue without trying to destroy somebody."
Mr. Santorum spoke to senators in the conference meeting, though he did not appear with other Republican leaders at their post-meeting news conference. He was at the White House with President Bush, who was pushing for Congress to enact his global anti-AIDS initiative.
The White House has remained silent on Mr. Santorum's remarks.
Homosexual activists have urged Republicans to pass legislation to prove themselves inclusive. Along those lines, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, joined by several other Democrats and one Republican senator, plan to introduce a bill that would extend the definition of hate crime to include crimes committed based on a person's sexual orientation.
But similar bills have stalled in recent Congresses, and yesterday Mr. Frist said there are no plans from Republicans to push legislation to prove their credentials on being inclusive.
"I think you have to be very careful in this body in trying to demonstrate commitment or inclusiveness or in principles by riding a bill or bringing a bill to the floor as a knee-jerk response," he said.



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