WASHINGTON -- Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) mocked former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) on the House floor Thursday for his statements on abortion rights, saying the candidate has the same authority to act as spokesman for Catholics as the 5-foot-6-inch congressman does to speak for tall people -- that is, not much.
"I'm pleased to announce today that if Newt Gingrich can speak for all Catholics, I'm going to start speaking for all tall people," Gutierrez said. "That's right: 5-foot-6 Congressman Luis Gutierrez, President of the National Association of Extremely Tall Americans."
"I'm no expert on being tall, but then again, Newt doesn't really seem expert on the rules of the Catholic Church either. So what's going to stop me?" he continued.
Gingrich, like other Republicans, has taken up the mantle of the Catholic Church in the past few weeks after controversy over President Barack Obama's contraception rule, which requires all employers -- including religious-affiliated ones -- to provide insurance that covers birth control.
The Catholic Church forbids the use of birth control, though studies have shown that up to 98 percent of Catholic women use birth control and a recent CBS News/New York Times poll showed over 60 percent of Catholics in favor of the Obama administration's decision. Republicans say the move by Democrats is violating the First Amendment right to freedom of religion. The White House recently rolled out a compromise, where insurance companies would have to pick up the cost of the contraception if an organization determined the requirement violated its religious sensibilities -- but the attempted compromise hasn't stopped the controversy.
Gutierrez's speech came on the same day as a House Oversight Committee meeting on the president's ruling, where some House Democrats walked out to protest the dearth of female voices among witnesses.
Gutierrez, who is pro-abortion rights, acknowledged that he does not "see eye-to-eye" with the church on the issue of contraception. But he also said he doesn't think Gingrich should speak for all Catholics given the candidate's own transgressions, alluding to infidelity with two of his three wives and his ethics violation as Speaker.
"Frankly, I think his personal life is none of our business," Gutierrez said. "But when he wants to dictate morality to the rest of America, when he accuses our president of engaging in religious persecution, when he demands that his personal values be shared by all American women -- he makes his personal life part of the public discourse."
Watch the full speech:
More:Obama Birth Control Catholic Church Catholic Church Contraception Newt Gingrich 2012 Luis Gutierrez
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