The New York Times reports on a confrontational interaction between Rick Santorum and people who support same-sex marriage:
“If you’re not happy unless you’re married to five other people, is that O.K.?” he asked.
That angered the audience, which booed his answer.
“I’m happy to engage in a discussion,” he continued, saying that he wanted to “give people a chance to answer, but we’re going to have a civil discussion.”
The woman who had asked the first question then persisted, saying that the question about bigamy was “irrelevant.”
“In my personal opinion, go for it,” she said. “But when two men want to marry … ”
Mr. Santorum interrupted, “What about three men?”
“That’s not what I’m talking about,” the woman said to Mr. Santorum, who spent close to an hour and a half before the crowd.
The session ended with many of the students booing Mr. Santorum as he left for his next event.
There are several issues here.
1) Rick Santorum is not a likable person. Even conservatives tend have a negative reaction to his affect.
2) Most moral views emerge through collective consensus, rather than individual introspection.
3) The consensus toward acceptance of gay marriage is such that as a descriptive matter Santorum is on the “wrong side of history.” Even most conservatives who oppose same sex marriage on grounds of principle will acknowledge this empirical reality.
3) But, I think Santorum has a point in response to those who defend same sex marriage as a pure matter of individual utilitarian happiness. If same sex marriage, why not “X” (fill in the blank). On rational grounds one must engage with this, but I don’t see most people doing so (they take it as insulting to make a comparison). I think the most honest path going forward is to shy away from excessively abstract rights or individualist justifications for the right to marry, and make the case of how it coheres with our vision of how a society flourishes, no matter sexual orientation. Santorum has a clear vision, and his detractors need to be more honest about this issue in regards to whether they have a vision separate from the Zeitgeist. Or do they? Going back to #3, it seems like this will be a case where proponents can run out the clock on reasoned debate, because the younger cohorts generally support the proposition of same sex marriage. The debate will disappear as the dissenters die.