DES MOINES - A Republican senator from northern Iowa said Wednesday that homosexual lifestyles pose a health risk to him and his family in comments that drew a sharp rebuke from an openly gay Democratic senator.
In a speech on the Senate floor, Sen. Dennis Guth, of Klemme said the media has "bamboozled" the public into a growing acceptance of gay relationships and argued his family faces "health risks" because of "sexually transmitted infections that this lifestyle invites."
"Just as there are multiple ways that your smoking hurts me, such as secondhand smoke, increased insurance costs, cost to society of days lost for poor health, so it is with same-sex relationships," said Guth, a freshman lawmaker. "There are health risks that my family incurs because of the increase in sexually transmitted infections that this lifestyle invites. For example there are more and more medical tests required before giving blood or giving birth."
Guth's comments were quickly condemned by Sen. Matt McCoy, of Des Moines, who said Guth was using "warmed over rhetoric that has been invented by the Christian-right extremist groups."
"While somebody cannot choose to be gay, you certainly can choose to be ignorant," McCoy said.
Guth said later that he stood by his comments. He said his remarks were inspired by a national event organized by conservative Christian group Focus on the Family scheduled for Thursday. Called the "Day of Dialogue," the event is billed as a way to discuss sexuality and marriage. It was created in response to the national "Day of Silence" established by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, during which students pledge not to talk for a day to protest the bullying of gay students.
"The Day of Dialogue has been scheduled as the day before that so that we can have a more open dialogue about all types of relationships and the consequences," said Guth, who said gay relationships had more health risks and negative emotional consequences than heterosexual relationships.
Through a spokesman, Senate Republican Leader Bill Dix declined comment. Guth said he had alerted fellow Republicans that he planned to speak, though he had not provided a copy of his remarks.
Guth's remarks drew criticism from the Iowa Democratic Party and One Iowa, the state's largest gay advocacy group.
Earlier in the legislative session, Guth proposed a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage. The measure, which would require approval twice in the Iowa Assembly before it went to a statewide vote, did not advance.
Gay marriage has been legal in Iowa since a unanimous 2009 state Supreme Court ruling, which found that a law limiting marriage to between a man and woman violated the state constitution's equal-protection clause.