Rick Santorum in the Hot Seat Again for Gay Marriage Stance

Jan 6, 2012 1:47pm
gty rick santorum 2 ll 120106 wblog Rick Santorum in the Hot Seat Again for Gay Marriage Stance

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Rick Santorum became an internet sensation — and the subject of many jabs — when a website mocking him turned up at the top of every google search.

The website, launched by sex commentator and gay activist Dan Savage, was prompted by Santorum’s comments in 2003 talking “man on dog” relationships when explaining his views on same-sex marriage.

Now the former senator from Pennsylvania is once again in the hot seat as he campaigns in socially liberal New Hampshire.

For the second day in a row, Santorum was booed today after an exchange with an older gentleman about same-sex marriage. This came a day after the former senator from Pennsylvania tried to explain his logic — unsuccessfully — to a group of students in New Hampshire and compared homosexual union to polygamy.

This is not the first time Santorum’s choice of words has gotten him into hot water.

Speaking to The Associated Press in a 2003 interview, Santorum said he doesn’t have a problem with homosexuality itself, but with homosexual acts. Cue the confusion.

“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. You have the right to anything. Does that undermine the fabric of our society? I would argue, yes, it does,” he said, referring to a Supreme Court case, Lawrence v. Texas, that struck down a sodomy law in the Lone Star state. “This right to privacy that doesn’t exist in my opinion in the United States Constitution.”

“Every society in the history of man has upheld the institution of marriage as a bond between a man and a woman. Why? Because society is based on one thing: that society is based on the future of the society. And that’s what? Children. Monogamous relationships,” continued Santorum, then the Republican Conference chairman. “In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That’s not to pick on homosexuality. It’s not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing.”

The comments drew a sharp rebuke even from conservatives. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, assailed his explanation as “regrettable” and “wrong” while then Sen. Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I., said Santorum’s “premise that the right of privacy does not exist [is] just plain wrong.”

Santorum’s comments sparked the birth of spreadingsantorum.com, Savage’s website mocking the senator. At one point, it drew more visitors than Santorum’s official campaign website.

Yet Santorum continues to unapologetically explain his views on the campaign trail.

“Religious liberty is now trumped because … the courts have created a ‘super’ right that’s above a right that’s actually in the Constitution, and that’s of sexual liberty. And I think that’s a wrong, that’s a destructive element,” he said in an editorial board interview with the Des Moines Register in August.

On Thursday, he continued that line of argument, comparing gay marriage to polygamy.

“So anyone can marry anybody else? So if that’s the case, then everyone can marry several people … so you can be married to five people. Is that O.K.?” Santorum questioned a student in Concord, N.H.

Santorum was loudly booed at the end of that event.

Santorum’s sentiments on homosexuality have also often contradicted his own statements. He has spoken in favor of personal freedoms, opposing the McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill in 2002 on the grounds that it was an “affront to personal freedom and liberty.” But at the same time, he argues that states do have a right to “limit individuals’ wants and passions.”

His views didn’t affect Santorum in Iowa, where evangelical Christians make up a large part of the Republican electorate. The religious groups voted heavily in his favor and helped propel him to top status just days before the Iowa caucus.

But the story is different in New Hampshire, a state where gay marriage is legal and which boasts a much more moderate set of Republicans. Santorum’s views could be problematic for him there, if recent events are any evidence.

He is likely to receive a more friendly reception in South Carolina, but nationally, Santorum’s views could come back to haunt him.

One of his former aides who is openly gay recently jumped to Santorum’s defense, saying the former senator is not homophobic but simply opposes gay marriage.

“From a legal standpoint, he’s kind of right. The word privacy is nowhere in the Constitution,” Robert Traynham, who worked for Santorum when he was a senator, said in an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews. He’s now the Washington bureau chief for Comcast.

When asked if Santorum is against the idea of homosexuality, Traynham testily responded, “I worked for him for 10 years. I was openly out to him. I never ever heard him say anything remotely like that at all.  If I ever thought he thought that, I would have never worked for him.”

Santorum has also received heavy criticism for his opinions against birth control and abortion. He supports outlawing abortion in all cases, even rape and incest, and supports criminal prosecution for doctors who perform abortions.

ABC News’ Shushannah Walshe contributed to this report.

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