Matt Bieber, writing on the Huffington Post
website, reports that while attending the town hall event, he asked Bill Boyd, one of Santorum's spokesmen, about an incident earlier in the day when college students asked Santorum about his views on homosexuality. Bieber reports that Boyd told him Santorum is tolerant of other views and that Santorum wishes Americans would extend Santorum the same courtesy. Bieber said he asked Boyd: "But the senator has compared loving homosexual relationships with bestiality." According to Bieber, Boyd denied it, saying he was not "informed about that quote."
Bieber reports that later at the event, he confronted Santorum with the question, but Santorum also denied he ever compared bestiality with homosexuality, saying to Bieber, "Read the quote."
Bieber reports he was embarrassed, and wondered to himself, "Had I misremembered the quotation? Worse, had I swallowed some leftist propaganda about the guy and then thrown it at his feet?"
Santorum's comment in question was one he made in an interview with Associated Press
reporter Lara Jakes Jordan, April 7, 2003. In the interview published on USA Today
(see excerpts of the interview here
), Santorum was asked for his views on the Roman Catholic Church sex scandal. Santorum replied that the scandal involved priests and post-pubescent men, for which reason, it was wrong to describe it as child sexual abuse. The interviewer then asked Santorum if he felt homosexuality should be outlawed. Santorum cited a U.S. Supreme Court case Lawrence v. Texas, which challenged a Texas sodomy law, and explained that he had no problem with homosexuals, but that he had "a problem with homosexual acts." He said that a right to privacy "doesn't exist in my opinion in the United States Constitution." He argued that sodomy laws properly exist to prevent acts that "undermine the basic tenets of our society and the family."
Jordan then asked Santorum: "Okay, without being too gory or graphic, so if somebody is homosexual, you would argue that they should not have sex?" Santorum then gave his famous response:
"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."
Did Santorum ever equate homosexuality with bestiality?
Bieber refers to a separate recent incident in which Santorum denied he ever equated homosexuality with pedophilia and bestiality. When CNN's
John King referred Santorum to his 2003 statement, he said: "Hold on one second, John. Read the quote. I said it's not. I didn't say it is. I did not connect them. I specifically excluded them."
Bieber comments on the logic underlying Santorum's interpretation (or re-interpretation!) of his statement:
"In other words, Santorum is claiming that the 'it's not' is meant to distinguish homosexuality from 'man on child' and 'man on dog.' He wasn't equating homosexuality with pedophilia or bestiality, he says. He was separating the two. But of course, that's not what he was doing. If you read the whole interview you'll see that he's not shy about his views on homosexuality. In his world, there is one acceptable kind of sex....and everything else is dangerous and unacceptable."
Bieber is evidently right in accusing Santorum of attempting to "re-parse [the] quotation now that he's running for president." A honest reading of Santorum's statement shows that he was saying: "marriage is not man on man, as
it is not man on dog or man on child." He was effectively substituting "man on man" with "man on dog" or "man on child" as though they were equal or directly comparable. For Santorum, marriage is exclusively "man on woman," and all other categories may be lumped together without distinction as equally objectionable.
Santorum had apparently not foreseen at the time he made this statement that he would have to defend it as presidential candidate in a country where sexual attitudes are changing and people are becoming more tolerant of homosexuality. If Santorum really believes, as many "conservatives" do, that homosexuality is evil and deserving of divine judgment, it would be more honorable for him to stand his ground without apologies to anyone. There are enough "conservative" voters who share his intolerant views and would be happy to vote for him as the Iowa caucuses demonstrated. If however he has had the time to re-think his hardline stance and has changed his mind about homosexuality, then he should come out straight. Reinterpreting his 2003 hardline statement as distinguishing homosexuality from bestiality and pedophilia is downright dishonest. Such dishonesty is unworthy of a man aspiring to the highest office in his country.