DECORAH, Iowa - A 14-year-old openly bisexual girl collared Texas Gov. Rick Perry after his town hall here and challenged him to explain the reasoning behind his belief that gays should not serve openly in the military.
"I just want to know why you're so opposed to gays serving openly in the military, why you want to deny them that freedom when they're fighting and dying for your right to run for president," Rebecka Green, a high school student from Decorah, asked the Texas governor.
"Here's my issue. This is about my faith, and I happen to think, you know, there are a whole hosts of sins. Homosexuality being one of them, and I'm a sinner and so I'm not going to be the first one to throw a stone," Perry said. "I don't agree that openly gays should be serving in the military. 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' was working and my position is just like I told a guy yesterday, he said, 'How would you feel if one of your children was gay?' I said I'd feel the same way. I hate the sin, but I love the sinner, but having them openly serve in the military, I happen to think as a commander in chief of some 20,000 plus people in the military is not good public policy, and this president was forced by his base to change that policy and I don't think it was good policy, and I don't think people in the military thought it was good policy."
After her confrontation with Perry at the Winnishiek Hotel, Green told reporters she disagrees with the governor's position on the issue.
"I'm openly bisexual and I don't want to be told that if I wanted to serve in the military that I couldn't, and I just think that policy is completely ridiculous that he thinks that. I just don't like it," Green said. "Him or nobody should be able to tell somebody who they can or can't love."
Perry was unaware that she was bisexual when she approached him with the question.
Rebecka's father, Todd Green, a Democrat and professor of religion at Luther College, expressed disappointment in Perry's response to his daughter.
"For a group of women and men to fight for the freedom to run for president, to gather here peacefully and assemble here peacefully in a place like Decorah, but not for them to have the freedom to be open about who they are but he can be free to be open about who he is, to me it seems to be a major contradiction and very hypocritical," Todd Green said.
"He acknowledged being a sinner as well and then labels an entire group of other people sinners, but now he's making the same the distinction between certain sinners who can't serve openly in the military in terms of being gay and others who can," he said. "To me, this is all a contradiction and I'm very disappointed in this position, and I hope whoever our next president is, GOP or Democratic party, that they will continue along the path allowing people to serve openly lesbian and gays, bisexual, transgender persons in the military."
The father and daughter attended Perry's townhall Sunday evening because she was angered by one of Perry's ads running in Iowa, he said.
"My daughter Rebecka particularly was very incensed by the ad Governor Perry ran a week or two ago here in Iowa where he complained about the problem of gays serving openly in the military but Christians not being able to celebrate Christmas openly. He seemed to get that backwards," Todd Green said.
"It takes no courage to come out of the closet to be a Christian and run for president of the United States," he said. "I'd be more impressed if you were Muslim or an atheist and coming out like that, but to come out as though this was an act of courage for him to proclaim his Christian faith, but he also wants to take the stand against gays in the military. This is someone who's in the position of power and privilege and he's abusing it."
Titled "Strong," Perry's ad created a firestorm upon its release two weeks ago, even causing tension within his own campaign after reports emerged that a top aide strongly objected to the ad.
Asked what he thought of the governor's explanation that he "hates the sin" but "loves the sinner," Todd Green said, "I have always hated that phrase. I think it's impossible and you show it by action. If you love the sinner, whatever that means, your policy should reflect that I think, but in the end, I don't understand the logic behind that at all."