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Santorum Comes Out for Forced Divorce

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With polls a day before the Iowa caucuses showing him getting a late surge as he tries to coalesce the evangelical vote, Rick Santorum is now pushing something we've been told is anathema to conservative values: forcibly breaking up marriages -- plunging families into chaos -- as well as giving "special privileges" to people based on sexual orientation.

But the marriages he's talking about breaking up are the gay ones, and the group to which he wants to give special privileges are heterosexuals.

One-upping the other candidates with whom he's been splitting the evangelical vote in the polls -- Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and Newt Gingrich -- Santorum not only backs a federal ban on future marriages of gay and lesbian couples; he's now calling for all existing marriages of gay couples across America to be made "invalid." Zack Ford notes that Santorum told NBC's Chuck Todd this would be done via a federal amendment or some other means since he does not trust the Supreme Court. It's pretty callous and extreme considering that even after Prop 8 was passed in California in 2008, the 18,000 or so marriages of gay couples which took place in the state that summer (after the California Supreme Court ruling) were kept intact.

Mitt Romney recently told the Boston Herald that a federal marriage amendment, which he supports, would still "keep intact those marriages which had occurred but maintain future plans based on marriage being between a man and woman." That would of course create a complex and wacky three-tiered marriage system throughout the U.S. similar to what now exists in California -- and would surely inspire a rush by gays and lesbians to marriage bureaus should Romney get elected, with people getting in while they can. As Todd noted to Santorum, Romney doesn't believe the couples could be forced to divorce.

What Santorum is pushing, however, is tantamount to forced annulment or divorce -- even though divorce is something he and the Christian right acknowledge is harming marriage -- which would result in thousands of families legally dissolved or broken up in six states where gay and lesbian couples have married. What exactly happens to the kids in many of those families, something that, again, has been an expressed concern of evangelicals with regard to divorce laws, and why would it be a good thing for them and for society if they experienced the government forcibly tearing their parents' marriages apart?

Santorum is also more openly and bluntly claiming that heterosexuals have more rights than gays. Throughout the campaign he's said he's not "against gay people" and believes gays should -- and do -- have the same rights as heterosexuals. As Michele Bachmann told a teen on the campaign trail, gays "can get married" -- to someone of the opposite gender. It was always perverse logic, but the GOP candidates have at least offered lip service to the idea that they're not pushing discrimination even when they are. But now Santorum tells Todd that straights should have "special privileges under the marriage laws."

The antigay mantra of "special rights" has been used by the Christian right to attack just about every right for which gays have fought, from hate crimes laws to marriage. And Santorum himself said back in September that getting rid of "don't ask, don't tell" somehow gives "special privileges" to gays and lesbians. But clearly he thinks "special privileges" are just fine when heterosexuals are getting them.