When questioned about rights for gays and lesbians, Rick Santorum told Fox New's Mike Wallace:
"Well, sure. I mean there are all sorts of contractual benefits that anybody can contract for. But the question is whether we should institutionalize that in public policy? My feeling is that people can live their lives however they want to live it," Santorum explained.
"The question is: what are you going to do to try to impact public policy to recognize particular relationships?" he continued. "My feeling is the relationship that should be recognized in public policy that provides exceptional benefit, unusual unique benefits to society is marriage. Marriage between a man and a woman who are there to join together for the purpose of continuing society, which is having children and raising the children in a home with a mom and a dad."
"But you wouldn't give them any rights as a matter of public policy?" Wallace wondered.
"It depends what you mean by 'rights.' Are you talking benefits as far as rights? They have the right to be able to -- employment. I don't know what you mean by rights. What I'm talking about are privileges. Privileges of marriage, privileges of government benefits is a different thing than basic right to live their lives as they well should and can as free Americans," Santorum replied.
Rick Santorum's new tone is not only dangerous because it is wrong, but because to a passive center-right independent it almost sounds reasonable.
Santorum tried to frame the very basic rights gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender, and transsexual people strive for as "privilege" - a loaded word to say the least.
For years our community has made a steady and accurate argument that what we seek are basic inalienable rights; however in Rick Santorum's opinion, those rights should only go to a "privileged" class of heterosexual men and women who intend to breed.
Santorum further confuses the issue by suggesting contracts between two adults are enough to protect families. You need to look no further than Janice Langbehn's story to see how false that is. She and her partner had a legal domestic partnership, all the contracts available between two people granting one another medical power of attorney and more, and yet the hospital still refused to recognize their relationship.
Santorum suggested in his statement that LGBT people have a right to employment, while he knew full well they don't have that right in more than half this country. He and his allies fought us at every turn to prevent the Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA) from becoming law. Consquently it is still legal to fire someone based on sexual orientation or gender identity in more than 30 states.
By creating two classes, a "privileged" class and one for everyone else that includes the LGBT community, our public policy will only help increase the division and harm for LGBT people.
I have no doubt Santorum realized this, but in his attempt to become more mainstream for a presidential run, he dropped the polarizing rhetoric equating us to animal lovers and pedophiles - at least for now.
Instead he confused the argument in subtle and digestible ways. "Well if they have contracts and work, that seems like enough," someone could easily and falsely conclude.
Let's be clear, Rick Santorum is not a friend to the LGBT community and I doubt he ever will be. He made a career out of beating us up politically, and if he were ever in the White House life for our community would be awful. Every advance we made would be undone, and he would do everything in his power to make life even more difficult than it was before our recent limited gains.