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Rick Santorum: ‘Love and accept’ Bruce Jenner

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WASHINGTON — Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is clarifying — but not stepping back from — surprising comments this weekend in support of former Olympian Bruce Jenner’s decision to come out as a transgender woman.

“If he says he’s a woman, then he’s a woman,” Santorum told BuzzFeed during a roundtable discussion in South Carolina on Saturday.

Santorum continued: “My responsibility as a human being is to love and accept everybody. Not to criticize people for who they are.”

The potential Republican presidential contender said while he believes it’s fine to criticize people “for their behavior…as far as for who they are, you have to respect everybody.”

“These are obviously complex issues for businesses, for society, and I think we have to look at it in a way that is compassionate and respectful of everybody,” he added.

Jenner spoke out publicly on his transition from male to female in an interview with Diane Sawyer last month.

Santorum’s comments marked an unexpected show of support for the former Olympian decathlete from a candidate who emerged as the favorite of social conservatives during the 2012 presidential race, and once likened homosexuality to beastiality. As recently as last month, he said he wouldn’t attend a gay wedding for a family member or loved one.

But shortly after his comments on Jenner drew widespread media attention, Santorum took to Facebook to clarify that he wasn’t proposing any policy changes to accommodate transgender individuals.

“Many of you may have read a story published by the website BuzzFeed where I was asked for my thoughts regarding Bruce Jenner. My comment affirmed Jenner as a person, made by God in His likeness as we all are. It was meant to express empathy not a change in public policy. #‎compassion” Santorum wrote.

At the federal level, those laws include the military’s ban on transgender individuals, and a number of state legislatures are battling over measures that would require individuals to use the bathroom that corresponds with their biological sex, as listed on their birth certificate.

By Alexandra Jaffe