Urban Outfitters denies chairman has homophobic views

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The chairman of high street retailer Urban Outfitters has donated thousands of dollars to a homophobic US Senator.

Speaking in 2003, company chairman Richard Hayne told The Philadelphia Weekly: “As a company, we don’t contribute to any cause except non-controversial things like a breast cancer walk. I don’t know anyone who is for breast cancer.”

However, Hayne has personally contributed money to various Republican politicians and committees (information freely available from the Centre of Responsible Politics).

Over the last decade, Hayne’s contributions include $8,500 (£4,370) to the Republican Federal Committee of Pennsylvania and $2,000 to Republican senator Arlen Specter.

However, the biggest contribution has been towards Rick Santorum and affiliated projects.

Hayne has contributed a total of $13,150 to Santorum, who was recently voted out of office – largely due to his extremist right-wing views.

In the past, Santorum has made strong anti-gay comments, including equating homosexuality with incest, bestiality and paedophilia.

Of a scandal in the Catholic church, Santorum said “we’re talking about a basic homosexual relationship.”

In the same interview, Santorum told Associated Press that he has “no problem with homosexuality. I have a problem with homosexual acts … The question is, do you act upon those orientations?

“If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery.”

More recently, in his column in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Santorum called the decision to allow same-sex marriage in California “distressing.” The column was titled “A wake-up call on gay marriage after ’03 alarm went unheeded.”

He went on to write: “Is anyone saying same-sex couples can’t love each other? I love my children. I love my friends, my brother. Heck, I even love my mother-in-law. Should we call these relationships marriage, too?”

Santorum is also against what ‘Housing Works’ call “reality-based” HIV prevention strategies.

He is against clean needles for drug users, and against condoms as a method of HIV prevention. Santorum supports the ‘abstinence-only’ method of prevention.

George Bush has repeatedly praised Santorum, often calling him a “man of compassion.”

Urban Outfitter’s Richard Hayne has always been reluctant to disclose how much his own views on the subject align with Santorum’s.

In the Philadelphia Weekly interview, he initially denied his financial support of Santorum, and then said:

“I don’t want to mislead you. Like many people, I have some affinity for Rick Santorum, and I have problems with some of his positions.”

When asked what his own views were about homosexuality, Hayne responded: “I’m not going to comment on it.

“I have my own opinion, but I am not going to share it. Our job as a business is not to promote a political agenda. That’s not what we do.

“There are all kinds of political views held by my employees. Some would be horrified to learn that we contributed to Santorum’s campaign, and others would be fine with it.

“We openly discuss and joke about our political differences.”

Glen Senk, the company’s openly gay chief executive of business, told the Pink Paper: “There is nothing homophobic about Dick Hayne.”

“When he made these donations I said to him: ‘I’m personally offended by the fact that you would support this guy. If he had his way I’d be in jail.’ And he said to me: ‘You’re right, I hate his views regarding homosexuality, but I’m not a one-issue voter’.”

Urban Outfitters was founded by Hayne and his wife in 1970. Hayne now owns more than 200 Urban Outfitters, Free People and Anthropologie stores.

The company recently opened a new store in Leeds, its ninth in the UK.

The Santorum connection is not the only controversy that the company, which has quarterly profits of more than $53 million, has attracted.

In 2003, a t-shirt with the phrase “Everyone loves a Jewish girl” surrounded by dollar signs was repeatedly condemned.

In 2006, sparkly handgun shaped Christmas decorations went on sale in Philadelphia – a city that had seen more than 300 gun-related murders that year.