Posted at 06:29 PM ET, 01/05/2012

Rick Santorum compares same-sex marriage to polygamy, in spirited exchange at N.H. college

DURHAM, N.H. - Rick Santorum took on a restive audience Thursday night over the issue of same-sex marriage, which the former Pennsylvania senator vociferously opposes.


Republican presidential candidate and former Senator Rick Santorum arrives at a campaign stop at the Tilt'n Diner in Tilton, N.H., Jan. 5, 2012. (ERIC THAYER - REUTERS)

Asked by a college student why he opposed the right of same-sex couples to wed, he responded that there was no compelling reason to allow it and suggested that it was akin to legalizing polygamy.

“So, everybody has the right to be happy?” he said. “So, if you’re not happy unless you’re married to five other people, is that OK?”

Santorum’s logic provoked an outcry from the audience, which was made up primarily of local college students but also a number of local conservative voters who were there to support the surging presidential candidate.

It was the first such confrontation over Santorum’s well-documented opposition to gay rights and gay marriage since his surprisingly strong finish in the Iowa caucuses, but it probably won’t be the last. New Hampshire has allowed same-sex marriage since 2010, and voters who were unaware of Santorum’s stance on the issues are likely to hear a great deal about them now that he is emerging as the Christian conservative standard-bearer in the race.

The grilling began almost immediately after Santorum concluded his opening remarks at an event sponsored by the New England College. Student after student challenged him on his stance, especially in light of his earlier remarks about the founding principle that all men were created equal.

Santorum, who is accustomed to this sort of questioning from college students and seems to somewhat relish it, first tried arguing that there was no compelling reason to change the current laws banning same-sex marriage.

“Don’t you have to make a positive argument that the law should be changed?” he asked the crowd. “You, the person who wants do this, tell me, what is the justification? What is the public purpose?”

The comment elicited a chorus of answers, which Santorum tried to quiet. “We’re not shouting out here. Raise your hand, I’ll give you the opportunity.”

Another audience member argued that gay couples would like the right to visit each other in the hospital. Santorum responded that adults may already enter into legal contracts to declare such rights.

Then he made his polygamy comparison.

“If it makes three people happy to get married, based on what you just said, what makes that wrong?” he asked one of the questioners.

“That’s irrelevant,” she responded. “In my opinion, yeah, go for it. But what I’m asking you is how do you justify your beliefs based on these high morals you have about all men being created equal?”

Santorum summed up his position this way: “God made man and woman, and men and women come together to have a union to produce children, which keeps civilization going and provides the best environment for choldren to be raised.”

Santorum then tried to shift the discussion to other topics, but it came up again at the end. When he finally concluded the event, his closing thanks were greeted with a chorus of boos.

Read more on Rick Santorum:

Santorum plays down long history as Washington insider

Santorum experienced major jump in income after leaving Senate

Fact Checker: Santorum’s West Bank whopper

And even more on politics and the presidential race at PostPolitics

By  |  06:29 PM ET, 01/05/2012

 
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