Rick Santorum: A Straight Dad In Prison Is Better Than Two Gay Dads Who Aren’t

Rick Santorum returns to his old ways when asked about same-sex marriage.

Rick Santorum’s crusade against people whose private affairs he does not approve of leads him to the most interesting logical quandaries at times:

For the second time in as many days, Rick Santorum waded into the issue of gay marriage, suggesting it was so important for children to have both a father and mother that an imprisoned father was preferable to a same-sex parent.

Citing the work of one anti-poverty expert, Santorum said, “He found that even fathers in jail who had abandoned their kids were still better than no father at all to have in their children’s lives.”

Allowing gays to marry and raise children, Santorum said, amounts to “robbing children of something they need, they deserve, they have a right to. You may rationalize that that isn’t true, but in your own life and in your own heart, you know it’s true.”

At a private boarding school Friday, the Republican presidential candidate’s voice grew emotional as he argued that only a man and woman should be able to marry. “Marriage is not a right,” Santorum said. “It’s a privilege that is given to society by society for a reason…. We want to encourage what is the best for children.”

The audience, half students and half local residents, reacted with snorts and applause.

This was the second time in as many days that Santorum’s opinions on same-sex marriage got him into a debate with a hostile audience. The same thing happened Thursday when he spoke before a college audience:

CONCORD, N.H. — Rick Santorum engaged in an extended and sometimes testy exchange over same-sex marriage with a group of college students during a campaign appearance on Thursday.

Mr. Santorum was speaking at the College Convention 2012, a forum organized by New England College and open to students from all over the state, regardless of political party. A press release from the college describes it as “a unique opportunity for students to participate in this important dialogue.”

One student started the conversation by asking Mr. Santorum — a fervent opponent of same-sex marriage — why he did not think that equality required allowing members of the same gender to marry.

Instead of offering a quick answer and moving on to another subject, Mr. Santorum began a Socratic lecture about changing the laws on marriage, repeatedly asking the students questions.

“Don’t you have to make the positive argument why the law should be changed?” he asked several of them.

As the students pressed him on the morality of letting gay men and lesbians marry, Mr. Santorum engaged them even further.

First, he compared changing marriage laws to building a bridge. You have to have a reason to build the bridge, he said. He then said that many of the things that same-sex marriage advocates want — like the ability to visit loved ones in hospitals — can be accomplish through contract law.

“Can that right be legally done right now through contract?” he asked. “Yes it can.”

But the testiest part of the exchange came when an audience member suggested that gay people should be allowed to marry because they have a right to happiness.

In response, Mr. Santorum asked whether she thought that more than two people should be allowed to marry, apparently trying to suggest that the questioner was advocating an extreme position.

Here’s the video of that particular part of the exchange, for which Santorum has received praise from many on the right for making what they think is a good point but which ended with Santorum receiving boos as he walked off the stage:

Santorum is no stranger to controversial comments about same-sex marriage, of course. Back in 2003, he infamously compared homosexuality to “man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be.”  In fact, it was this comment of Santorum’s that set Dan Savage off on the campaign that led to Santorum’s “Google Problem.”

It’s the kind of rhetoric that Santorum has become well-known for over the years, but it’s also something he has seemingly shied away from during this campaign, choosing instead to concentrate on issues like the economy and the middle-class populism that he rode to a seat in Congress and then a two terms in the United States Senate. In New Hampshire in particular, it seems incredibly unlikely that it would be helpful for him. New Hampshire, after all, is one of the states where same-sex marriage is legal, thanks not to a court decision but to a law passed by the state legislature and signed into law by the Governor. While there is apparently some effort to attempt to repeal the law and return to civil unions, it’s also quite apparent that the anti-gay attitude that people like Santorum project so easily is going to play well in the Granite State.

As for Santorum’s comments themselves, I think Andrew Sullivan has the best response:

That Santorum has regurgitated the polygamy point reveals, it seems to me, the weakness of his thinking on this issue. Gay people are not seeking the right to marry anyone. They are seeking the right merely to marry someone. Currently we are denied that basic civil right that every heterosexual takes completely for granted, in most states. The issue of polygamy is completely different and separate. Currently, no straight people have a right to a three-way marriage, let alone gay ones. I think there are very good social reasons for that, although it’s certainly worth debating. But it’s another debate. The only way Santorum’s argument works is with the premise that gays denied any right to marry are denied no right at all. They are not in the same category as heterosexuals, and their relationships, and the benefits they bring, are inherently inferior, indeed morally repugnant.

That’s Santorum’s view. It’s his view that private gay sex can and should be regulated by the government to prevent the evil of sodomy from destroying society. And sodomy, remember, means any non-procreative sex act: oral sex, masturbation and, worst of all, contraception: a deliberate flouting of natural law. If this is the position of the GOP, it is essentially turning itself into an irrelevance for the vast majority of those under 40, and hefty proportion of everyone above.

That last part is the most important point, I think. The view that Santorum and his cohorts hold may be a popular one among evangelicals in places like Iowa and in the South, but it’s fairly apparent that it is completely out of step with the manner in which this issue is viewed by the American public, especially younger Americans. Poll after poll over the past several years has shown increased public acceptance of homosexuality in general and same-sex marriage in particular (see here, here, and here). It is quite an extraordinary shift in public opinion on an issue that had not to long ago been considered barely acceptable to talk about in public, perhaps second only to the shifts in public attitudes that we saw in the wake of the Civil Rights movement (although even there it’s worth noting that it wasn’t until 30 years after Loving v. Virginia that a majority of Americans supported interracial marriage). It’s the younger generations that area leading the change on this issue and, within a decade or so, I have no doubt that many people will look back on the past and wonder how we could have held such views about our fellow human beings.

Santorum may only be in his 50s but he represents the past. If the GOP wants to win the future, to borrow a phrase, hitching its wagon to his hateful rhetoric is precisely the wrong way to do it.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Commonist says:

    A white dad in prison is better than a black dad who isn’t.

    A Jewish dad in prison is better than a goyim dad who isn’t.

    If Santorum had said either of those things, he wouldn’t be eligible for being put in charge of a public restroom. But a Christian telling people that gays are subhuman? Well that’s par for the course.

    It’s telling how political correctness and bias protects religiously motivated bigotry in the US.

  2. Tano says:

    The only good that is to come of all this is that the inevitable rejection of Santorum, by Republican voters, will be explainable as a rejection of these views.

    To the extent that social progress is never complete and secure until the conservatives finally acquiesce, the defeat of Santorum may just signal the closing of this chapter.

  3. steve says:

    He lost by 17% in Pennsylvania. There was a reason for that.

    Steve

  4. Ernieyeball says:

    Christians like Ricky Dink and his ilk make me proud to be an Atheist!

  5. Ben says:

    The first thing that comes to mind is medical issues. In the event of a catastrophic accident, a person’s married partner decides the course of action with regard to care. If you allow a third party, then you give rise to the possibilities of discourse between the two. Which one then speaks on your behalf? Both? What if they disagree?

    Also, by allowing more than two, you give rise to the possibility of a group of people getting “married” to each other to evade taxes, or to take advantage of military healthcare or to legalize illegal immigrants. These things still happen, but if you allow groups to start doing it then it becomes a much more widespread problem.

    The government should acknowledge two, because two is a partnership. There is a smaller likelihood they are doing it for tangible gain and a much greater likelihood they are doing it for altruistic purposes.

    If you allow the argument to degenerate to anything other than consenting adults (chickens, toasters, children), then its simply a matter of being able to enter into a contractual agreement. Toasters, chickens and children can’t do that, so they are off the table.

    This argument is just Christian Ultra Conservative babble to prevent homosexuals from doing as they please.

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Ben:

    There is a smaller likelihood they are doing it for tangible gain and a much greater likelihood they are doing it for altruistic purposes.

    I got married (the 2nd time) for tangible gain. If I had died before we got married, my pension would have gone back to my union. Now it goes to my wife. I figured, having put up with me for 5 years (now 8) she deserved that much.

    Sadly, I think she will be way under-compensated.

  7. Bleev K says:

    It’s better to have a criminal dad, than a catholic one –less chance to be rapped.

  8. Robert in SF says:

    @Ben: To build on your statements here, I point to a comment I made in another blog post on this fine website. 🙂

    https://www.outsidethebeltway.com/can-government-get-out-of-the-marriage-business/#comment-1418161

    I think that marriage is a unique legal contract that is restricted by all interpretations legally to be between 2 persons. That is, it is a unique contract that specifies an equal partnership in legal responsibilities and benefits without any negotiation between remaining parties in the event that there is a situation that shifts the authority away from one person.

    In other words, a marriage splits the decision making authority to two persons equally, and as such, if one person becomes incapacitated from making decisions (death, sickness, mental deficiency, etc.), then the authority shifts 100% to the other person. This also applies to benefits such as social security, pensions, inheritance, etc.

    If there were 3 or more people in the marriage, and one becomes sick, how could the remaining spouses decide how to handle the lack of a “living will” of the sick one, if they disagree? And then the handling of the kids or property should they die. That’s the more complex example I have of the complications that arise from the slippery slope argument against recognizing same-gender marriages.

    Marriage is good for the persons, good for the community, and good for the country. It brings a lot of benefits and little cost, and as such should be encouraged as it were, by providing those benefits provided by the government.

    Disclosure: I am gay (duh!)….but no getting my opinion invalidated! 🙂

  9. anjin-san says:

    “Marriage is not a right,” Santorum said. “It’s a privilege that is given to society by society for a reason its the property of politicians such as myself. Accept the fact that we control your fate.

    FTFY Rick

  10. Gustopher says:

    There’s every chance that the straight dad in prison is engaging in as much sodomy ad the gay dads out of prison.

    What about a straight dad in prison who is engaging in moderate amounts of sodomy for protection from larger amounts of forced sodomy? Is that better than two gay dads out of prison?

    There are so many levels of nuance here that Santorum needs to explain before we know exactly how offensive his comments are.

  11. D. Steinmetz says:

    An imprisoned father is better than and gay father?? A good, gay parent is worse than an irresponsible, corrupt person??? Your bigotry and hatred have made you incapable of good judgement and the reason you were over-whelmingly voted out of PA. You are not fit for any politcal office as it is necessary to represent all the people of the country. You are a hate-monger. The last thing this country needs is internal hatred against it’s citizens.

  12. signalfire says:

    Gary Johnson for President. Because he’s the exact opposite of Santorum.

  13. Kevin Lyons says:

    Folks, all self-justified hatred aside, as it is evidenced in the majority of above comments, “marriage” does in fact have a definition — whether you like it or not — one based on over 3,000 years of continual useage, and we do not have any inherent right to change the established meaning because it makes someone happy.

    Others are discriminated against by standing statutory laws in more direct ways than by what is represented here, for example when children and their responsible parent are denied access to each other by court order, sometimes permanently, simply because the other parent was irresponsible in regard to their marital obligation and invited a court to forcibly-separate the family members — children from parent and parent from children. This is the reality of life for thousands today in the USA and various western countries.

    Life is not always fair. Find the means to be happy nonetheless — we all have a responsibility to be happy, at least when interacting with others. Have a fantastic day.