COLUMBIA --- National gay and women's rights groups Tuesday called on U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint to apologize for referencing his six-year-old comments that homosexuals and some unmarried pregnant women should not teach in the state's public schools.
"It is salt in the wound in our community," said Rea Carey, the executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "It's irresponsible for Sen. DeMint to reassert this position in this day and age. I would ask him to apologize."
Carey was reacting to DeMint's remarks Friday at a Spartanburg rally, where the Republican referenced the public backlash and quiet support that followed his 2004 comments that homosexuals and unmarried pregnant women with live-in boyfriends should not teach in public schools.
"No one came to my defense. But everyone would come to me and whisper that I shouldn't back down," DeMint said at the Greater Freedom Rally, according to a published report in the Herald-Journal of Spartanburg.
DeMint first addressed the issue in October 2004 during a televised debate with state Education Superintendent Inez Tenenbaum weeks before the election to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings, D-S.C. The candidates were questioned about a state Republican Party platform item saying gays should not teach in public schools.
"I don't think they should," DeMint said then, adding that government should not endorse particular behaviors. "We need the folks that are teaching in schools to represent our values."
Tenenbaum replied by calling that stance "un-American."
Gay groups demanded an apology from DeMint, then a third-term congressman. During an interview with the Aiken Standard newspaper two days after the debate, DeMint expanded the list of people whom he thought should not teach in public schools.
"I would have given the same answer when asked if a single woman, who was pregnant and living with her boyfriend, should be hired to teach my third grade children," said DeMint, who apologized a day later for that particular remark. "I just think the moral decisions are different with a teacher."