Santorum Mixes It Up With Students On Gay Marriage

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum arrives at the Grappone Conference Center in Concord, N.H., to speak to students from around the country, in an event organized by the New England College. i i

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum arrives at the Grappone Conference Center in Concord, N.H., to speak to students from around the country, in an event organized by the New England College. John W. Poole/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption John W. Poole/NPR
Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum arrives at the Grappone Conference Center in Concord, N.H., to speak to students from around the country, in an event organized by the New England College.

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum arrives at the Grappone Conference Center in Concord, N.H., to speak to students from around the country, in an event organized by the New England College.

John W. Poole/NPR

If you predicted that Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum would tone down his made-for-Iowa religious-based message when he hit the ground in much-more secular New Hampshire, his appearance in Concord, N.H., on Thursday provided ample evidence that he plans no such thing.

Santorum, who finished a close second in Tuesday's Iowa caucuses, had a spirited back-and-forth with 17-year-old Rhiannon Pyle, a senior from Newburyport High School in Massachusetts. He responded aggressively when she asked Santorum about his opposition to same-sex marriage; the college-aged crowed cheered the question.

High school students Hannah Carroll, 18, Meghan Corbett, 17, and Leah Campbell, 17, all from Newburyport High School in Massachusetts react to Santorum. Their classmate, Rhiannon Pyle, 17, provoked a heated debate when she asked Santorum a question about his stance on gay marriage. i i

High school students Hannah Carroll, 18, Meghan Corbett, 17, and Leah Campbell, 17, all from Newburyport High School in Massachusetts react to Santorum. Their classmate, Rhiannon Pyle, 17, provoked a heated debate when she asked Santorum a question about his stance on gay marriage. John W. Poole/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption John W. Poole/NPR
High school students Hannah Carroll, 18, Meghan Corbett, 17, and Leah Campbell, 17, all from Newburyport High School in Massachusetts react to Santorum. Their classmate, Rhiannon Pyle, 17, provoked a heated debate when she asked Santorum a question about his stance on gay marriage.

High school students Hannah Carroll, 18, Meghan Corbett, 17, and Leah Campbell, 17, all from Newburyport High School in Massachusetts react to Santorum. Their classmate, Rhiannon Pyle, 17, provoked a heated debate when she asked Santorum a question about his stance on gay marriage.

John W. Poole/NPR

Pyle: "How about the right that all men are created equal?"

Here's Santorum, who in the past has been accused of comparing same-sex marriage with bestiality:

"So, anyone can marry anybody else? So, anybody can marry several people?"

And so it went.

Santorum: "If every person has a right to be happy, so you're not happy if you're not married to five people, is that OK?"

Pyle: "I'm not asking that."

Some in the crowd called out for him to answer Pyle's question; others that his line of argument was irrelevant.

Pyle: "How do you justify your belief based on these high morals you have about 'all men being created equal,' when two men want to marry..."

Santorum, interrupting: "What about three men?"

Pyle: "That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about giving them the basic right you give you and another woman."

Santorum: "It's important if we're going to have a discussion based on rational reasoned thought that we employ reason. Reason says that if you think it's OK for two, you have to differentiate with me why it's not OK for three."

His bottom line? Marriage is between a man and a women because "we are made that way," with the purpose of procreating.

Other unions? They harm children, and society, he said.

Santorum poses for a picture with supporters after his appearance at the convention. i i

Santorum poses for a picture with supporters after his appearance at the convention. John W. Poole/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption John W. Poole/NPR
Santorum poses for a picture with supporters after his appearance at the convention.

Santorum poses for a picture with supporters after his appearance at the convention.

John W. Poole/NPR

Santorum was appearing before a crowd of a few hundred high school and college students from around the country in New Hampshire as part of a program to view the primary process up close. They expect to hear Friday from former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

The question-and-answer session followed prepared comments by Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania. Santorum promoted himself as a leader with a "moral vision," in a country "made in the image and likeness of God."

He received a smattering of applause.

It likely wasn't expected to be a Santorum friendly crowd, and it wasn't. He was lustily booed as he exited stage right.

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