April 5, 2015 at 3:56 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
Santorum quotes gay slur to defend anti-LGBT discrimination

Rick Santorum, Values Voter Summit, gay news, Washington Blade

Rick Santorum quoted a gay slur to defend anti-LGBT discrimination on “Face the Nation.” (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum invoked on Sunday the “God Hates Fags” slogans on signs from the virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church to defend the right of businesses to deny services in public accommodations.

“If you’re a print shop, and you are a gay man, should you forced to print ‘God Hates Fags’ for the Westboro Baptist Church because they hold those signs up,” Santorum said. “And this is really the case here: Should the government force you to do that? And that’s what these cases are all about. Because this is about the government coming in and saying, ‘No we’re going to make you do this.’ And this is where I think we just need some space to say, ‘Let’s have some tolerance be a two-way street.'”

During an appearance on CBS News “Face the Nation,” Santorum drew on the example of the Westboro Baptist Church signs when questioned about the controversial Indiana religious freedom law to make the case tolerance should be a “two-way street” between LGBT people and social conservatives.

“No business should discriminate against someone because of who you are, but it should have the ability to say we’re not going to participate in certain activities that we disagree with from a religious point of view,” Santorum said.

Santorum said he wished Gov. Mike Pence hadn’t signed into law a “fix” for the Indiana law that clarified the measure couldn’t be used by businesses to deny services, housing or employment on the basis of certain classes of people, including sexual orientation and gender identity.

“I was hoping he wouldn’t,” Santorum said. “I think that the language that he had is better language. This is acceptable language. I’ve voted for this language. I certainly can’t say that’s a bad bill; it’s a good bill.”

Arguing lawmakers should provide more protections as “religious liberty is now being pushed harder,” Santorum said the law as it currently stands in Indiana “doesn’t do that.”

Santorum’s invocation of the anti-gay slur came to consternation of D.C. area news reporter for ABC 7 News Mike Conneen, who took both Santorum and “Face the Nation” to task on Twitter.

In a separate segment on “Face the Nation,” Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign, maintained the Indiana law had nothing do with religious freedom, but instead threatened civil rights for LGBT people and other minorities.

“It explicitly allowed individuals to use their religious beliefs to underline other types of laws not only against gay, lesbian and transgender people, but against other religious minorities and in some instances African-Americans and Asian Americans as well,” Warbelow said, according to CBS News.

Santorum has a notoriously anti-LGBT reputation and made opposition to same-sex marriage part of the 2012 presidential campaign, explaining at one point that legalization of gay nuptials is like “saying this glass of water is a glass of beer.” Since his campaign, Santorum came out in favor of a similar religious freedom bill in Arizona that was vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer and spoke at a D.C. rally for the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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