Colorado GOP lawmaker’s comments on HIV cause uproar
Rocky Mountain News
Denver, CO Colorado
DENVER, Colorado ” For the second time in three days at the state Capitol, a Republican senator’s remarks about sexuality have offended Democratic lawmakers.
Today it was Sen. Dave Schultheis, R-Colorado Springs, who opposed a bill requiring all pregnant women to be tested for HIV so that if they are infected their babies can be treated to prevent the transfer of the virus.
“This stems from sexual promiscuity for the most part and I just can’t go there,” he said. “We do things continually to remove the consequences of poor behavior, unacceptable behavior, quite frankly.”
On Monday, Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley, used biblical references when he linked murder and homosexuality during debate on a bill to extend health care benefits to the partners of gay and lesbian state workers.
“Where is the Republican leadership on all this?” Sen. Jennifer Veiga, D-Denver, demanded.
Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry said he’s not going to muzzle his caucus.
“People are entitled to their opinions,” the Grand Junction Republican said. “It’s not my job to go around and censure people and tell them what to say.”
He added that he thought Democrats were trying to “gin up the outrage machine” and said their hands aren’t clean when it comes to questionable comments.
But lobbyists were abuzz today about Schultheis’ remarks. And Ari Armstrong, a conservative blogger, said Renfroe should resign or the Republican Party should condemn his comments.
Several GOP lawmakers have privately expressed dismay over Renfroe’s and Schultheis’ comments, but they have not spoken publicly.
Schultheis later today said accused Democrats of “speaking out of two sides of their mouths.”
“They go to extreme lengths to try to protect the fetus,” he said. “On the other hand they’re willing to pass laws that allow abortions or will not reduce abortions.”
He defended his vote.
“What I’m hoping is that, yes, that person may have AIDS, have it seriously as a baby and when they grow up, but the mother will begin to feel guilt as a result of that,” he said. “The family will see the negative consequences of that promiscuity and it may make a number of people over the coming years begin to realize that there are negative consequences and maybe they should adjust their behavior.”
Sen. Lois Tochtrop, D-Adams County, pointed out that not everyone who is HIV positive got it through sexual contact.
Tochtrop, who is a nurse, said the risk of transferring the disease from mother to baby can be reduced from 25 percent to 2 percent with medication.
She said the bill allows mothers to opt out, and doctors will note that in their records.
Armstrong said he believes Renfroe’s remarks are why GOP is in the minority.
“The proper purpose of government is to protect individual rights, not enforce religious dogma, whether or not the majority agrees with it,” he blogged. “Murder and theft are properly illegal because they violate individual rights. Homosexuality between consenting adults does not.”
Renfroe said today he’s not stepping down for exercising his First Amendment rights.
“I don’t mean to be hateful. I don’t think I’m hateful. People have accused me of that,” he said. “I’m just voicing my opinions on what I believe and trying to speak what I think is the truth.”
During the debate he quoted two passages in Leviticus, one calling homosexuality “an abomination,” and another that said homosexuals “shall surely be put to death.”
“I wasn’t probably eloquent enough in saying that all people sin and there are many different sins and they are all the same in the eyes of God,” he said.
“But to make laws to make sins legal is where I think it crosses the line and we shouldn’t go there. That’s the destruction of society in my opinion.”