Various groups respond to Lott's comments on homosexuality

Rebecca Isaacs, NGLTF political director:

"To have the leader of the U.S. Senate engaging in this kind of scapegoating and hate mongering is a moral outrage. The seriousness of this rhetoric cannot be overstated. Senator Lott is obviously deep in the pocket of the extremist right.

"We are not mollified by Senator Lott couching his hate in the context of the Bible and claiming people should still 'love the sinner.' This is hateful rhetoric, and we believe most Americans will see it for what it is."

Rev. Troy D. Perry, moderator of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (UFMCC):

"Senator Lott owes an apology to the millions of American citizens who are gay or lesbian. His statements this week are a sobering reminder of our nation's unfinished work in the fight against ignorance and prejudice.

"I'd welcome an opportunity to introduce the Senator to the hundreds of thousands of gays and lesbians with whom I've worked over the past 30 years who live in stable family relationships, who work hard at their jobs, who pay their taxes, who have parented children and who contribute their time and energy to local and civic organizations. And I'd like to introduce him to the legions of gay Americans who believe in and love God and who actively participate in the life of their local churches, synagogues and other houses of worship.

"For the past three decades, I have joined hands with clergy of every faith to affirm the spirituality of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered persons with this message: God loves all people unconditionally.

"Name calling and accusations never elevate public debate," said Perry, noting that the gay community has long been the subject of such attacks. "The capitalists called us communists. The communists called us decadent. The psychiatrists called us sick. And the churches called us sinful. Well, it's a lie. Homosexuality is not a sin, and it's not a sickness.

"I respectfully suggest the Senator spend less time judging the gay community, and spend more time working for legislation which will protect the equal rights of all Americans."

Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chair Steve Grossman:

"I am appalled but not surprised by Senator Lott's offensive comments. Mr. Lott and his Republican colleagues seem more focused on degrading the personal lives of individual Americans rather than working to solve the problems facing this country.\

DNC Chair Governor Roy Romer:

"Once again, the GOP has proven that all they care about is the extreme right and have no interest in including or respecting all Americans. Mr. Lott's remarks are simply unacceptable and I call upon him and his party to offer an apology."

DNC Director of Gay and Lesbian Outreach Mark Spengler:

"The recent remarks made by Sen. Lott serve again as another example of how the Republican Party is extreme and out of touch with the American people. Our Party and our Democratic leadership including President Clinton and the DNC Chairs, have a record of respect, inclusion and non-discrimination for gay and lesbian Americans."

American Jewish Congress President Jack Rosen and Executive Director Phil Baum released a letter sent June 22 to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) registering concern over his widely-reported remarks about homosexuality, and demanding that the full Senate be given the opportunity to vote on the nomination of James Hormel:

On behalf of the nationwide membership of the American Jewish Congress, we write to you today to register our concern over your recent comments regarding homosexuality, and especially to urge you to allow other members of the Senate to express their reaction to your comments by scheduling a vote on the Senate floor on the nomination of James Hormel to serve as Ambassador to Luxembourg.

We understand the delicate balance of interests you must maintain in your role as Majority Leader. Nonetheless, we must object to your widely-reported remarks on a recently-taped episode of "The Armstrong Williams Show," in which you declared homosexuality to be a problem akin to such ills as alcoholism, sexual addiction and kleptomania. Your comments directly conflict with the findings of the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association, which declared -- more than twenty years ago -- that they no longer considered homosexuality to be an emotional or personality disorder, as you suggested in your remarks. While we would not deny any American his or her right to assert their religious convictions as to the morality of homosexuality, we believe that such religious convictions cannot be the sole basis for sound public policy, and indeed must not be the grounds for discrimination.

In the case of the nomination of Mr. Hormel, we can find no basis for failing to schedule a Senate floor vote on his nomination other than the practice of such discrimination. Mr. Majority Leader, as you know, Mr. Hormel's nomination was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in November, and his nomination has received the support of a number of distinguished Senators from your party, including Senators Orrin Hatch and Gordon Smith. Indeed, more than 60 Senators agree that Mr. Hormel's demonstrated dedication to public service and his diplomatic experience -- combined with his written assurances that his only function will be to carry out the foreign policy of the United States -- appear to make Mr. Hormel an unusually well-qualified nominee.

It is unacceptable that the full Senate is being denied the right to even consider the nomination of so eminently qualified a candidate solely on the grounds of his sexual orientation. Particularly to help correct the disturbing impression left by your recent comments, we strongly urge you to let the members of the Senate demonstrate by their votes the degree to which they have confidence in Mr. Hormel's integrity and his capacity to carry out -- with honor and distinction -- his duties as an Ambassador of the United States.

Press Briefing by Mike McCurry, White House Press Secretary:

Q Your comments yesterday about his backward thinking on homosexual relations, do you think that played any part in the -- MR. MCCURRY: I can't imagine that, on an issue so fundamentally important as the public health of children in America, that the Majority Leader would take, you know, whatever anger he felt toward me and use that as something that would affect the scheduling on this.

Q Did he call you at all?

MR. MCCURRY: No, his office put out a statement in which they incorrectly said that I was trying to judge right and wrong. Judgment of right and wrong is done, you know, in my mind, by someone else. (Laughter.) And that's not what this was about.

Q But you were saying he was wrong.

MR. MCCURRY: No, I said that he was incorrect when he said that homosexuality is a disease. It is not. And that's all I said. I did not comment on theology, nor would I, because he's entitled to have whatever personal belief of conscience that he wants to have, as is any American.

Q Do you think it was wise of him to have and express that belief?

MR. MCCURRY: I think it's unwise when people, in saying something that is not true, in saying something that reflects misconceptions that are now decades old, when those -- when leadership -- people in leadership positions repeat that kind of thinking, it lends support to those who are trying to be divisive and who are trying to set individual groups of Americans against each other. And I think that's unfortunate when that happens.

Q He apparently believes it. I mean, at one point Pat Buchanan believed --

MR. MCCURRY: I'm sure he believes it. And I'm sure, you know, many of us know exactly what Saint Paul wrote to the church of Corinth, too. And I understand that and I respect that, but that's not the issue that I addressed yesterday. I addressed a different question, which is, do you compare homosexuality to a disease, like alcoholism, or kleptomania. And I thought that was very unfortunate that the Majority Leader did that. And I still do today, regardless of what his office said.

Q So that was ignorant of him?

MR. MCCURRY: It was ignorant. And ignorance sometimes is the foundation of prejudice.

Q What did the President say about your response?

MR. MCCURRY: I think the President knows exactly what I said yesterday.

Q What does he think?

MR. MCCURRY: He probably would wish that we not have this kind of back and forth on that issue, but at the same time, you know, he understands why people feel strongly about it and he -- he wanted to make sure that I did not cast any aspersions on the Majority Leader's religious thinking. And I didn't and I wouldn't.

Q Mike, what -- you connected this -- these kind of views to why the State Department authorization bill is being held up?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, no, you asked me a question like, is this going to affect any other bills, and off the top of my head, I thought of one and there may be others. I didn't -- you asked me a question.

Q Right, and I asked you to give me an example and you gave me -- I'm just wondering what abortion has to do with this.

MR. MCCURRY: Well, I think there is extreme pressure on the Republican leadership in Congress to hew to a certain line. And it's being forced on them by Mr. Bauer, Mr. Dobson, and others. In fact, they're very proud of the fact that they are moving the Republican Party in that direction. Mr. Bauer raises money based on his own strong criticism of the Republican Party for not being anti-gay enough. And that's a very divisive thing. And it's some commentary on the state of affairs in that party when you see their leadership bend so directly to the admonitions of those who are making those arguments. And you see that reflected in the way they've addressed a lot of legislative issues, if I'm not mistaken.

Q Do you see any inconsistency in the position you're taking and the position of the administration on homosexuals in the military?

MR. MCCURRY: No, because that is a policy-related issue and it doesn't have anything to do with how you view homosexuality, whether or not it is a trait that defines one's sexuality. I mean, that's the question that is fundamental about what the Majority Leader had to say and it has nothing to do with policy. The Majority Leader would be perfectly within bounds if he criticized our policy on gays in the military or anything. That's a matter of substance, a matter of policy.

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