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Pennsylvania Just Legalized Same Sex Marriage And Rick Santorum Has Nothing To Say

By Igor Volsky  

"Pennsylvania Just Legalized Same Sex Marriage And Rick Santorum Has Nothing To Say"

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Rick Santorum

CREDIT: AP

On Tuesday afternoon, a conservative federal judge appointed by President George W. Bush struck down Pennsylvania’s same-sex marriage ban, ruling that prohibiting gay and lesbian couples from marrying violates the Constitution’s equal protection clause. “We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history,” U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III, concluded. A day later, Gov. Tom Corbett (R) — who is facing a tough re-election bid — announced he would not appeal the ruling, allowing Pennsylvania to become the 19th state, along with the District of Columbia, where same-sex couples can marry.

What happened next may surprise you.

Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, who rose to prominence for his stalwart opposition to gay and lesbian unions and attracted national attention in 2012 for running a presidential campaign comparing same-sex marriage to inanimate objects, remained silent. The senator appeared on Fox News just minutes after the decision on Tuesday but didn’t address the matter. He tweeted voters to support his chosen primary candidate in Oregon, but couldn’t spare 140 characters to condemn the liberal social agenda coming to his home state. ThinkProgress made repeated requests for comment to Santorum’s organization — Patriot Voices — and his personal spokesperson over a period of two days, but did not receive a response.

Any comment would prove undoubtedly awkward, since Judge Jones was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 2002, at the urging of Santorum, who described him as “highly qualified to assume the important role of Judge and the duty of protecting the Constitution and ensuring the effective operation of our judicial system.” Still, politicians rarely allow consistency to get in the way of political expediency and Santorum had plenty of opportunities to express disappointment with his nominee.

But some Republican strategists suggest that Santorum’s choice to remain silent is indicative of the GOP’s decision to de-emphasize its rhetorical opposition to gay rights in an effort to attract younger and more moderate voters.

“The push for same-sex marriage nationally is moving much faster than many in the Republican Party, including Rick Santorum, ever thought it would,” Republican strategist Ford O’Connell told ThinkProgress. “And now the GOP is trying to internally rectify the changing landscape because their position hurts them primarily with voters under 40; those same voters they need in the tent if they want to win the White House in 2016.”

Following the party’s defeat in 2012, the Republican National Committee urged members to adopt a more inclusive tone on gay rights, describing the issue as a “gateway” for young voters. And although Republicans still spent millions defending law that prohibited the federal government from recognizing same-sex unions, wide cracks appear to be forming in the party’s anti-gay armor.

In late 2013, 10 Republican senators joined Democrats to support legislation that would make it illegal to discriminate against LGBT individuals in the workplace. Earlier this month, the Nevada Republican Party voted to strip opposition to same-sex marriage from its platform, and three openly gay Republicans are currently running for Congress (with support from House Speaker John Boehner).

Santorum has followed this trajectory. The traditional values warrior has sought to shed his anti-gay image and embrace the mantle of economic populism as he explores a second bid for the White House. Santorum is currently on a book tour for Blue Collar Conservatives: Recommitting to an America That Works, in which he argues that “Republicans should resist the temptation to dismiss all the talk about declining mobility” and do more to connect with working Americans. The senator is flirting with increasing the federal minimum wage and emphasizing past endorsements from Pennsylvania unions. And though the book references the importance of traditional families, Santorum rarely addresses the issue during national book interviews and is visibly uncomfortable in repeating some of the claims he made about gays just two years ago.

For instance, during an appearance on Fox News earlier this month, Santorum evaded questions about whether same-sex couples should raise children, ultimately deciding that states can do “what they want to do” on the issue. This position constitutes a significant reversal for a politician who once advocated a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman and whose 2003 interview comparing gay people to animals led activists to popularize an anal-sex related definition of “Santorum.”

“Those running for President on the right side of the aisle recognize that until the Party is able to fully square itself with the changing times, it is best suited to at the minimum show respect for gay rights,” O’Connell said. By remaining silent, Santorum may be trying to do just that.

‹ Pennsylvania Becomes 19th Marriage Equality State After Governor Declines To Appeal

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