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Op-Ed: Why Rick Santorum's Presidential Bid Could Benefit The LGBT Community

Santorum LGBT

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty

Rick Santorum is not a friend of the gay community. After announcing his candidacy last week, he's become the most virulently socially conservative candidate in the 2016 presidential race.

Santorum has made gay marriage and the LGBT community his special target since the early 2000s, in his days in the U.S. Senate. A few choice words, to refresh your memory: 

When Santorum compared homosexuality to bestiality and child molestation in 2003:

“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. And when you destroy that you have a dramatic impact on the quality.” 

Taking “government in the bedroom” to frightening degree of literalness, also in 2003:

“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.”

Again, making us feel uncomfortable in 2008

“Is anyone saying same-sex couples can’t love each other? I love my children. I love my friends, my brother. Heck, I even love my mother-in-law. Should we call these relationships marriage, too?”

 

Now that a child-abuse scandal is enveloping Santorum allies Jim and Michelle Duggar, homophobia and sex-shaming seems to be their last resort in a country where 27 more states are now granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples. With two favorable Supreme Court decisions to boot, Santorum’s attacks come across more like a hopeless, last-ditch effort to attract voters.

According to a just-released Buzzfeed/Ipsos survey, 68% of Americans support same-sex marriage (an all-time high), indicating that Santorum isn’t just in the minority, but what Theodore Roosevelt called the “lunatic fringe.” 

All this looms over this year’s Republican Party presidential primaries, where GOP candidates will vie for the most crowd-pleasing, radically-right one-liners to attract primary voters, who tend to be more conservative than average. In the past, John McCain and Mitt Romney’s successive failures to convince moderate voters of their bona fide suggest that this strategy is a "Catch 22" for the Republican Party. 

Either all the GOP candidates will be forced (by Santorum’s stance on “family values”) to drive a hard course right in the primaries, and risk losing the White House to a Democrat. Or, a Republican candidate will risk rejection at the primaries by disagreeing with Santorum’s views on homosexuality. A self-avowed moderate like Jeb Bush could conceivably come out in favor of gay marriage or LGBT workplace discrimination laws, definitively splitting his party and dragging the GOP back to the socially moderate center, like a stubborn elephant.

Both of these outcomes would benefit the LGBT community: They would prove in our rapidly-changing country that homophobes like Santorum have no electability, and that one of America’s two major political parties must adjust its views on sexuality -- or gasp its last, baleful breaths. 

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