Which Gay Rights Does Santorum Think Iran Should Protect?

August 12, 2011 4:45 pm ET — Carlos Maza

During last night’s GOP presidential debate in Ames, Iowa, the typically anti-gay Rick Santorum turned some heads when he criticized Iran for trampling on “the rights of gays.Watch:

Considering his long history of extreme social conservatism (as well as his own confusion over what ‘gay rights’ even means), one has to ask: which gay rights does Santorum believe should be protected?

First, let’s get rid of the gay rights we already know Santorum doesn’t care for:

With all of that out of the way, what gay rights does Santorum think shouldn't be trampled on?

The most obvious differences between the treatment of LGBT people in the U.S. and Iran is the fact that Iran still criminalizes homosexual behavior. Iran is notorious for torturing and even executing people who are accused of even private acts of gay sexual activity.

Surely, Santorum opposes this kind of government violation of personal privacy and human dignity, right?

Sort of. Although one can easily imagine Santorum would object to the torture and killing part, he has publicly stated that he supports the criminalization of homosexuality. In a 2003 Associated Press interview, Santorum saidthat he was in favor of laws that criminalized “homosexual acts”:

AP: I mean, should we outlaw homosexuality?

SANTORUM: I have no problem with homosexuality. I have a problem with homosexual acts. As I would with acts of other, what I would consider to be, acts outside of traditional heterosexual relationships… The question is, do you act upon those orientations? So it's not the person, it's the person's actions. And you have to separate the person from their actions.

AP: OK, without being too gory or graphic, so if somebody is homosexual, you would argue that they should not have sex?

SANTORUM: We have laws in states, like the one at the Supreme Court right now, that has sodomy laws and they were there for a purpose. Because, again, I would argue, they undermine the basic tenets of our society and the family. And if the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything. Does that undermine the fabric of our society? I would argue yes, it does.

[…]

AP: I'm sorry, I didn't think I was going to talk about "man on dog" with a United States senator, it's sort of freaking me out.

SANTORUM: And that's sort of where we are in today's world, unfortunately. The idea is that the state doesn't have rights to limit individuals' wants and passions. I disagree with that. I think we absolutely have rights because there are consequences to letting people live out whatever wants or passions they desire. And we're seeing it in our society.

Earlier this year, Santorum said he stood by his 2003 comments, stating that they were “a correct legal argument.”

In other words, Santorum’s view differs from Iran’s only in terms of punishment, not in terms of what kind of behavior should be criminalized. He still believes the government is justified in throwing people who have private, consensual gay sex in jail because such behavior undermines “the fabric of our society.”

So, to recap: no employment protections, no open service in the military, no form of relationship recognition, no same-sex adoption, and the re-criminalization of homosexuality. Quite literally, the biggest difference between Iran and Santorum’s vision for America is that Santorum doesn’t want gay people to be tortured or killed for being gay.

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