Utah Senator Orrin Hatch says he
admires the LGBT community for their devotion to politics and did not
mean to imply that gay people are faithless.
The seventy-six-year-old Republican
found himself under fire from gay rights groups after he told a group
of about 300 people on the campus of the Dixie State University in
St. George, Utah that “Gays and lesbians don't pay tithing, their
religion is politics.” He made the comment while discussing how to
end the Democrat's “tax-and-spend” policies, saying Republicans
need to emulate the tactics of unions, environmentalist, personal
injury lawyers and gay rights activists in supporting Democratic
“Many gay people are vociferous
Democrats who are willing to pony up money for politics. That's
something I admire,” Hatch told the Salt Lake Tribune last
week. “I don't know how I could have been much more complimentary
the way I said it.”
The comment had drawn harsh criticism
from one of the nation's largest gay advocates.
“This rhetoric is highly insulting
and offensive to lesbian and gay people, particularly to devout
followers of a wide range of faith traditions,” Jarrett Barrios,
president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation
(GLAAD), said in a statement.
Hatch, however, insisted that he was
not suggesting that gay people aren't religious.
“There are some very, very good gay
people who are very religious who undoubtedly pay tithing,” he
One gay activist in Utah said Hatch
might have been pandering to the conservative audience.
David Melson, executive director of
Affirmation, a support group for LGBT members of the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons), told the paper: “I doubt
very much he would have made the same comment if he were speaking in
[more liberal] Salt Lake City.”
During his speech, Hatch, a Mormon,
also complained about the Tea Party's emotional “Throw the bums
out” anthem, saying experience matters on Capitol Hill. Utah
Republicans booted three-term Senator Bob Bennett last month and
polling suggests Hatch, who was first elected to the chamber in 1977,
could face a similar fate in 2012.