(For more campaign news, go to ELECT.)
Jan. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Rick Santorum anticipated he would be pressed on his conservative views on same-sex marriage and legalizing marijuana, and the college crowd in Concord, New Hampshire, didn’t disappoint him.
“I’m surprised I got a gay marriage question at a college crowd,” he joked. “Really that’s a shock to me.”
For the most part, his audience yesterday was booing, not laughing, particularly when Santorum compared gay marriage to polygamy. The gathering was billed as a forum for college students and was held at a conference center.
Santorum’s remarks sparked a contentious back and forth between the candidate and the college students during the course of an almost hour-long question and answer session.
“Well what about three men?,” Santorum responded to a female student who asked him about his position on gay marriage. “If reason says that if you think it’s OK for two, then you have to differentiate with me as to why it’s not OK for three.”
Santorum initially welcomed the exchanges with several students. Then he tried to move on to other subjects as the audience interrupted and cheered the questioners. The former Pennsylvania senator said he welcomed the state’s legalization of same-sex marriage because it was decided by the legislature.
Still, he defended his position to keep marriage a union between a man and a woman: “Because I believe we are made the way God made man and woman and man and woman come together to have a union to produce children which keeps civilization going and provide the best environment for children to be raised,” Santorum said. “I think that is something society should value and should give privileged status over a group of people who want to have a relationship together.”
The reception was an anomaly of sorts for Santorum, who arrived in New Hampshire last night to large and receptive crowds fresh off his second-place finish in the Iowa caucuses.
At his other events yesterday, Santorum connected with his audiences, focusing on his economic prescriptions and his personal narrative of coming from a Catholic, working-class family with immigrant grandparents.
About 40 minutes into the questions, the audience clapped when another student asked Santorum whether, as president, he would allow state gay marriage and medical marijuana laws to operate without federal government interference.
“I don’t believe that we can have 50 definitions of marriage,” Santorum said. “Just to say that we should have 50 definitions of what life is. I don’t think that works either. I think there are certain things that are essential elements of society upon which society rests that we have to have a consensus.”
Pressed on his stance on medical marijuana, Santorum mistakenly identified the drug as a narcotic before being corrected by the audience.
“I don’t know my medical marijuana laws very well,” he joked. Still, he called the drug a hazard to society. When someone shouted at him to explain how he formed that opinion, Santorum said: “I form that opinion from my own life experiences and having experiences. I went to college, too.”
The reference to what he may or may not have done during his days at Pennsylvania State University didn’t quell the boos. The jeering was more pronounced than any applause Santorum received at the end.
--With assistance from Jeanne Cummings in Washington. Editors: Jeanne Cummings, Jim Rubin.
To contact the reporter on this story: Julianna Goldman in Concord, New Hampshire at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at firstname.lastname@example.org