Rick Santorum, Master Of The Anti-Gay Analogy

August 11, 2011 4:23 pm ET — Kate Conway

Rick Santorum just thought of a great new way to explain why same-sex marriage shouldn't be legal, and he's been proudly showing off his rationale to voters and reporters around the country. Delighted by his newfound discovery of analogies, Santorum has been running around like an SAT practice book, telling anyone who will listen that marriage is like tea, and marriage is like water, and marriage is like a napkin. Just for the record, marriage is definitely not like basketball or beer or paper towels.

Here's an example of Santorum's logical mastery:

SANTORUM: It's like saying this glass of water is a glass of beer. Well, you can call it a glass of beer, but it's not a glass of beer. It's a glass of water. And water is what water is. Marriage is what marriage is.

And another:

SANTORUM: I can say that marriage is what marriage— marriage existed before government existed. This is a napkin. I can call this napkin a paper towel, but it is a napkin. Why? Because it is what it is. Right? You can call it whatever you want, but it doesn't change the character of what it is. Sort of the metaphysical. Right?

And according to MSNBC, Santorum tripled up during an Iowa campaign stop, "saying that calling same-sex marriage a marriage would be like calling a cup of tea a basketball."

Santorum's point in all this is that granting gay people the same rights that straight people already enjoy would constitute a redefinition of an immutable concept. Of course, you only have to look as far as the Old Testament (polygamy!) to realize that marriage has long been an institution in flux, and that strictures placed upon it are heavily dependent on cultural and temporal context.

The "it's always been this way" argument rarely holds water, and illustrating it with imagery of tea and napkins does little to make it more convincing as popular opinion swings ever more in favor of gay marriage.