Has Santorum Slipped On Outlawing Gay Sex?

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Could former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), the culture warrior ex-legislator and now potential presidential candidate, be shifting his position to the left on a key issue he used to speak up about: Whether gay sex should be illegal?

On Monday, Santorum wrote a guest column in the Des Moines Register, lambasting President Obama for “refusing to enforce” the Defense of Marriage Act — in fact, the administration has not stopped enforcing it, they are just no longer defending it in court — as nothing less than a betrayal of the shoeless armies of the American Revolution who fought for religious freedom.

But at one point in the column, Santorum sought to make a distinction between gay people’s private lives, versus the public sanction and recognition that comes with gay marriage:

Let me first define what we are not talking about. I believe if two adults of the same sex want to have a relationship that is their business. But when they ask society to give that relationship special recognition and privileges, then we should be able to have a rational debate about whether that is good public policy.

But hold on a second. Back when he was a senator, Santorum used to say that people’s private sexual lives weren’t just their own business.In a famous interview with the Associated Press in April 2003, Santorum discussed the then-pending Supreme Court case of Lawrence v. Texas, in which the court was widely expected to (and ultimately did) overturn existing state laws against sodomy:

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.

Santorum also made it clear that, beyond the narrow question of whether anti-sodomy laws were a constitutional question or if a state should be able to enact them, he did in fact favor those measures:

I would make the argument that with President, or Senator or Congressman or whoever Santorum, I would put it back to where it is, the democratic process. If New York doesn’t want sodomy laws, if the people of New York want abortion, fine. I mean, I wouldn’t agree with it, but that’s their right. But I don’t agree with the Supreme Court coming in.

TPM asked Santorum’s political action committee for comment on whether he has changed his views on this topic, but we have not received a response.

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