Santorum Visits Tenn. College After Changing in Its LGBT Policies
The ultra-conservative presidential GOP candidate Rick Santorum recently visited Nashville's Belmont University -- a year after a scandal rocked the school, causing it to change its nondiscrimination policies to include sexual orientation, the Tennessean reported.
Lisa Howe, who was the college's soccer coach, was fired in December of 2010, after she told team members and staff that she and her partner were having a baby. After an outcry from students and suspicion that Howe had been fired because she is a lesbian, the university eventually added sexual orientation to its nondiscrimination policy.
Additionally, the Metropolitan Council, the legislative body of the consolidated city-county government of Nashville and Davidson County, passed a bill that prohibits contractors from discriminating based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The State Legislature, however, nullified the law because it would "hurt businesses by creating different standards in different places."
Howe and others have sued Tennessee in order to overturn the legislature's decision.
Santorum, who has been vocal about his anti-gay views, dropped by Belmont's Curb Event Center where more than 500 people were waiting for him. Not everyone was a Santorum supporter as he received boos from the audience when he mentioned the Tea Party "rising up." Nevertheless, the majority of the crowd backed the former Pennsylvania Senator.
"He loves the Lord, and he's honest," Steve Mastro, a Nashville entertainer, said. "He had to pass some things that he didn't want to pass -- that were piggybacked on other bills -- and he went back and tried to counteract them."
Tennessee does not recognize gay marriage or any type of legal partnership between same-sex couples. The state does not punish individuals who discriminate or commit a hate crime based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Additionally, Tennessee is in the process of approving a controversial bill that would further limit LGBT citizens' rights as it would prohibit teachers from discussing LGBT issues in the classroom.
The U.K. newspaper the Guardian points out that Representative Joey Hensley (R), who supports Tennessee's "Don't Say Gay" bill, plans to delay the measure for up to three weeks because he needs to work on the law's language.
The legislation would prohibit Tennessee elementary and middle school teachers from discussing LGBT issues, such as gay marriage. The law, which was created by Republican state senator Stacey Campfield, also says that teachers can only educate students on "natural human reproduction science."
When the State Senate passed the law in early February, a number of students from Nashville high schools protested the bill.
"To me, they're sending a message that in society gay people aren't really equal," said Thomas Kibby, a student from Hume-Fogg High School. "This law would be kind of moving backwards."