Karen and Rick Santorum
On the campaign trail, it’s an enduring, and growing, motif: antigay candidates playing the victim card for policy positions that have myriad negative consequences for gay and lesbian families.
During a Monday campaign event in South Carolina, GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum and his wife, Karen, took a question from a Greenville, S.C., mother on the former Pennsylvanian senator’s reputation for opposing LGBT rights.
“My youngest son is gay,” the woman explained. “I debated for the longest time how to handle my support of you, because what he’s been hearing is, ‘Oh, Rick Santorum hates gays. … I still have that sense of guilt, because his friends react to what they hear. Help me. How do I deal with that?” (Below, video of the exchange, via C-SPAN.)
Santorum deferred to his wife for her take.
“I think it’s very sad [what] the gay activists have done out there,” she replied. “They vilify him, and it’s so wrong. Rick does not hate anyone. He loves them. What he has simply said is [gay] marriage shouldn’t happen. But as far as hating — it’s very unfortunate that that has happened. A lot of it is backyard bullying.”
Rick Santorum called the issue simply a matter of a “public policy difference.”
“And I think the problem is that some see that public policy difference as a personal assault,” he said.
Over the weekend, Santorum’s campaign received a significant boost with an endorsement by top evangelical leaders, who are rallying to unite social conservative voters behind one candidate in South Carolina — this in an attempt to slow the Romney campaign juggernaut in the state’s Saturday primary.
One influential group backing Santorum, the Family Research Council (designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center), announced Monday the launch of a “Values Voter Bus” tour this week, beginning in Charleston, S.C., and featuring South Carolina governor Nikki Haley. The tour will then head to stops in Florida, where primary voters go to the polls January 31.