LGBT supporters voice their opinions on Santorum

Supporters+of+the+LGBT+community+lined+up+in+protest+of+hate+politics+at+the+Rick+Santorum+dinner+on+Saturday%2C+Feb.+19.+Ayla+Hartung%2C+of+Akron%2C+speaks+with+an+anti-gay+Santorum+supporter+during+the+rally.+Photo+by+Philip+Botta.

Supporters of the LGBT community lined up in protest of hate politics at the Rick Santorum dinner on Saturday, Feb. 19. Ayla Hartung, of Akron, speaks with an anti-gay Santorum supporter during the rally. Photo by Philip Botta.

Maura Zurick

Nearly 40 protesters came out Saturday despite the cold weather to show their support for equality at the University of Akron. They weren’t there to protest Republicans or Democrats but instead to make a stand against hate politics.

Rick Santorum, the keynote speaker of the Lincoln Day dinner — a Summit County Republican voter event hosted by the university — also contributed to the protest. Santorum was there to gain support of Ohio voters for the upcoming primary.

Recently, Santorum’s speeches have made him overtly controversial and unpopular with minority groups such as the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

One of Santorum’s supporters crossed the street and shouted biblical quotes and told the LGBT rights supporters that they were going to hell. In response to the man, the group sang “Amazing Grace.” One of those protesters involved in the confrontation was Jennifer Patterson, a senior interdisciplinary anthropology and French major at the University of Akron.

“I’m here to protest against people who do not appreciate equality,” Patterson said. “I’m not here representing a political party. I’m here representing love and equality.”

The group of protesters was comprised of Ron Paul supporters, women’s rights advocates and LGBT rights supporters. They all wanted their voices to be heard by Santorum’s supporters who waited in line for the dinner.

Protesters chanted things like, “LGBT equal rights for you and me” and “Gay, straight, black, white marriage is a civil right.” They were a colorful group, literally. They wore things like rainbow scarves and painted their faces and held signs that read sayings like, “love makes a family” and “people of quality don’t fear equality.”

Joe Barbicas, a junior nursing major at the University of Akron, is the vice president of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Union, one of the groups that organized and hosted the protest. Barbicas came up with the idea of the protest being directed toward anti-gay politics and anti-hate politics and not just about republicans or democrats.

“I want to make this a broad protest against hate politics in general because Santorum’s platform isn’t just against gays,” Barbicas said. “It’s also against women and Muslims, and basically anything that’s not the majority. It’s pretty awful.”

Barbicas said the people who have gone to LGBTU meetings wanted to do something with social activism, and they were informed about the event by the University of Akron College Republicans, whom he said are good friends. He said their goal for the protest was to send a clear message to Santorum that his platform of hate politics is wrong.

“Hate politics trickle down into hate crimes and hate killings,” Barbicas said. “He’s contributing to that in a big way. He’s giving people license to act in those ways. It’s not right that he’s in the

public eye with the type of opinions that he has.”

He said LGBT rights are limited and being ignored by most politicians in Ohio, and Santorum is also contributing to that.

“Santorum is in the lead currently in Ohio,” Barbicas said. “So obviously his politics will effect the LGBT community just based on his stance, which is ridiculous.”

Dan Tudor, a freshman computer science major at Kent State, went to the protest to show his support for the LGTB community.

“I’m here because I support equal rights,” Tudor said. “I think that Rick Santorum has an unrealistic view of the world beyond the wealthy class.”

Some of the protesters had a stronger opinion on Santorum’s views LGBT rights.

Tim Shallahamer, a senior computer information systems major at the University of Akron, chanted, “I am somebody. I am somebody. I deserve full equality. Right here, right now,” with the group.

He said he was also there to stand up for his rights.

“Just because I’m gay doesn’t mean I don’t deserve equal rights, and just because somebody is republican doesn’t mean they’re against equal rights,” Shallahmer said “Rick Santorum is a vile human being, who doesn’t want to limit just our rights but women’s rights too. I mean, he’s so off base with not just Americans but his own party.”

Contact Maura Zurick at [email protected].