GOP Candidates Debate Gay Marriage in NH
MANCHESTER, N.H. - Republican presidential candidates engaged in a lengthy debate over marriage for same-sex couples during the latest GOP presidential debate at St. Anselm’s College on Jan. 7.
ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer read a question from a Virginia man about what sort of relationship recognition outside of marriage the candidates would support.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said gays and lesbians should be able to visit their partners in the hospital and allow them to list them as their beneficiaries in their will.
"We want to make it possible to have those things that are most intimately human between friends occur," said Gingrich, who quickly said marriage equality for same-sex couples is a different matter. "It is a huge jump from being understanding and considerate and concerned, which we should be, to saying we therefore are going to institute the sacrament of marriage as though it has no basis."
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman agreed with Gingrich, but Huntsman went as far to endorse civil unions for gays and lesbians.
"Personally I think civil unions are fair," he said. "I support them. It brings a level of dignity to relationships."
Romney, Perry and Santorum said they back a federal constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between a man and a woman. WMUR Political Director Josh McElveen pressed Santorum on the fact that the Federal Marriage Amendment would invalidate the marriages of 1,800 same-sex couples who have taken advantage of New Hampshire’s marriage equality law since it took effect in Jan. 2010.
"If the constitution says marriage is between a man and a woman, marriage is between a man and a woman," he said. "That’s what marriage is - and would be in this country. And those who are not men and women who are married are-would not be married. That’s what the Constitution would say."
Santorum Faces Criticism Over Opposition to Marriage Equality
Santorum’s remarks come after he faced sustained criticism over his opposition to marriage for same-sex couples on the campaign trail.
A group of students at New England College in Henniker repeatedly challenged the social conservative on the issue during a town hall meeting on Jan. 5. A man further peppered Santorum on the issue during a campaign stop in Nashua the following day.
A poll that WMUR and the University of New Hampshire released before the debate found that only eight percent of likely Republican primary voters support Santorum, compared to 44 percent who back frontrunner former Romney and 20 percent who support Texas Congressman Ron Paul.