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Saturday, August 14, 1999 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Hatch: Gay Comment Not Prejudicial

AP

SALT LAKE CITY - Sen. Orrin Hatch says that when he told fellow Republicans at their state convention two months ago they should be proud of their party because "we don't have the gays and lesbians with us," he didn't intend the comment to sound prejudicial.

The Utah lawmaker was just pointing out that "gays and lesbians, by and large, are very intelligent, highly educated, high-earning people, who support mainly Democrats," he told The Salt Lake Tribune in a story published yesterday.

"You can sum it up in one sentence: that Orrin Hatch is tolerant of all people, and that he doesn't try to tell people how to live unless they ask him," said Hatch, who is a GOP presidential candidate.

Hatch has drawn fire from gay-rights groups in the past for what they considered insensitive statements.

In 1988, he called the Democratic Party "the party of homosexuals; they are the party of abortion."

Hatch said he is tolerant of all people, but he does believe that homosexuality is contrary to the Bible.

"It's a religious belief to me that homosexuality flies in the face of biblical teachings," he said, noting he can't determine "whether it's a genetic predisposition or whether it is a choice."

To demonstrate his tolerance, Hatch cited his compromises with Democrats on federal legislation affecting AIDS and hate crimes, his help in fund raising to combat pediatric AIDS and his support of the appointment of gay San Francisco philanthropist James Hormel as

ambassador to Luxembourg.

David Smith, spokesman for the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay and lesbian political organization, said Hatch has a "very poor voting record on issues that are important to us," but he should be applauded for being a champion of AIDS funding.

Copyright (c) 1999 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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