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Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney Pressed About Support For Gay Rights During 2012 New Hampshire GOP Debate

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CONCORD, N.H. -- Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum were pressed on their support for gay rights during Sunday morning's GOP debate here, with both men saying that they support respect for the LGBT community but still don't want to see key policy changes -- like marriage equality and same-sex adoption -- put into place.

Romney said that while Massachusetts governor, a member of his cabinet was gay and he appointed judges regardless of sexual orientation, to show that he doesn't discriminate.

"At the same time, from the very beginning in 1994, I said to the gay community, I do not favor same-sex marriage. I oppose same-sex marriage and that has been my view," he added. "If people are looking for someone who will discriminate against gays or will in any way try and suggest that people -- that have different sexual orientation don't have full rights in this country, they won't find that in me."

"When was the last time you stood up and spoke out for increasing gay rights?" asked the moderator.

"Right now," he said to applause. He did not elaborate on what that increase would look like.

When the moderator asked Santorum if he would be a voice for "speaking out for gay rights" in the Republican Party, the former Pennsylvania senator replied, "I would be a voice in speaking out for making sure that every person in America, gay or straight, is treated with respect and dignity and has the equality of opportunity. That does not mean that I would agree with certain things that the gay community would like to do with changing laws, with respect to marriage or respect to adoption or things like that. You can be respectful. ... But just because you don't agree with someone's desire to change the law doesn't mean you don't like them or you hate them or you want to discriminate against them."

He cited his town hall meetings in New Hampshire, where he has been repeatedly questioned about gay rights.

"I listen to the other side, I let them make their arguments and we do so in a very respectful way. And you know what? We may not agree," he said.

When asked what he would do if one of his sons revealed he were gay, Santorum replied, "I would love him as much as I did the second before he said it. And I would try to do everything I can to be as good a father to him as possible."

Many gay rights advocates would no doubt dispute Santorum's characterization of his "respect" for gay men and women. He has said that children raised by same-sex couples will lead to "dysfunction" in society and that the "country will fall" as a result of same-sex marriage.

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