Santorum Draws Boos Opposing Gay Marriage Before College Crowd9:45 pm - 01/05/2012
(Bloomberg) -- By Rick Santorum’s own admission, the Concord, New Hampshire, crowd he was addressing probably wasn’t going to be receptive to his conservative view on social issues.
“I’m surprised I got a gay marriage question at a college crowd; really that’s a shock to me,” he joked.
For the most part, his audience was booing, not laughing.
The issue sparked what was, at several points over the course of an almost hour-long question and answer session, a contentious back and forth between Santorum and New Hampshire college students on social issues.
“Well what about three men?,” Santorum responded to a female student who asked him about his position on gay marriage. “If reason says that if you think it’s OK for two, then you have to differentiate with me as to why it’s not okay for three.”
Santorum initially welcomed the exchanges with several students. Then he tried to move on to other subjects as the audience interrupted and cheered the questioners rather than the candidate. The former Pennsylvania senator said he welcomed the state’s legalization of same-sex marriage because it was decided by the legislature.
Still, he defended his position to keep marriage a union between a man and a woman: “Because I believe we are made the way God made man and woman and man and woman come together to have a union to produce children which keeps civilization going and provide the best environment for children to be raised,” Santorum said. “I think that is something society should value and should give privileged status over a group of people who want to have a relationship together.”
The reception was an anomaly of sorts for Santorum, who arrived in New Hampshire last night to large and receptive crowds fresh off his second-place finish in the Iowa caucuses.
At his other events today, Santorum connected with his audiences, focusing on his economic prescriptions and his personal narrative of coming from a Catholic, working-class family with immigrant grandparents. So, it seemed an odd choice to address a crowd of students speaking about American exceptionalism and focusing on conservative social values.
About 40 minutes into the questions, the audience clapped when another student asked Santorum whether, as president, he would allow state gay marriage and medical marijuana laws to operate without federal government interference.
“I don’t believe that we can have 50 definitions of marriage,” Santorum said. “Just to say that we should have 50 definitions of what life is. I don’t think that works either. I think there are certain things that are essential elements of society upon which society rests that we have to have a consensus.”
Pressed on his stance on medical marijuana, Santorum mistakenly identified the drug as a narcotic before being corrected by the audience.
“I don’t know my medical marijuana laws very well,” he joked. Still, he called the drug a hazard to society, and when someone shouted a question asking him how he formed that opinion, Santorum said: “I form that opinion from my own life experiences and having experiences, I went to college, too.”
The reference to what he may or may not have done during his days at Pennsylvania State University didn’t quell the majority of those in the audience, whose boos trumped any applause Santorum received at the end.
The New York Times describes the incident:
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.
"If you're not happy unless you're married to five other people, is that OK?" he asked.
That angered the audience, which booed his answer.
"I'm happy to engage in a discussion," he continued, saying that he wanted to "give people a chance to answer, but we're going to have a civil discussion."
The woman who had asked the first question then persisted, saying that the question about bigamy was "irrelevant."
"In my personal opinion, go for it," she said. "But when two men want to marry ..."
Mr. Santorum interrupted, "What about three men?"
"That's not what I'm talking about," the woman said to Mr. Santorum, who spent close to an hour and a half before the crowd.
The session ended with many of the students booing Mr. Santorum as he left for his next event.
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