Rick Santorum’s Plan to Eradicate Heterosexual Poverty

Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum recently proposed a two-step plan for eradicating poverty in the U.S.

Number one, graduate from high school. Number two, get married. Before you have children. If you do those two things, you will be successful economically.

As Santorum is one of our country’s fiercest opponents of same-sex marriage, we would like to know how GLBTs fit into his plan.

According to a new study published by The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, lesbian, gay, and bisexual same-sex couples are at least as likely to be poor as opposite-sex married couples. Lesbian and bisexual (female) couples are much more likely to be living in poverty than heterosexual married ones. (24% vs. 19% in the 18-44 age range).

Married heterosexual couples enjoy more than a thousand federal benefits that unmarried couples do not. These are generally grouped in the following categories: social security benefits, tax benefits (e.g., filing jointly), estate tax and planning benefits, veteran and military benefits, federal employment benefits, and immigration benefits.

Same-sex couples married under state laws receive none of these benefits. Nor, of course, do the unmarried ones. The Williams Institute study concludes that “Ending marriage discrimination by expanding equal access to the legal status of marriage would increase LGBT families’ economic stability and help reduce poverty in the LGBT community.”

So, does Rick Santorum care? Having been so outspoken about the evils of same-sex marriage, he must have included GLBTs in his mental calculus when he announced this poverty-eradication plan. But his formula will not “eradicate” poverty if it does nothing to help same-sex couples, who now number over 900,000, according to the 2010 Census. Sixty percent of these couples are lesbian. Twenty-two percent have children.

Will someone who can get access to Rick Santorum with a microphone please try to pin him down about this? What is his plan for same-sex couples and their children?

Santorum’s past pronouncements about homosexuality—even the most recent ones—leave little doubt that he is a bigot’s bigot. He believes that gay sex is not equal to straight sex, that the purpose of marriage is procreation, that the state has the right to ban homosexual conduct altogether, that there is no constitutional right to privacy, that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” should be reinstated, and that gays should not be allowed to hold public office.

So what picture emerges when we try to integrate Santorum’s poverty-eradication plan with his extreme views about homosexuality and same-sex marriage? If he is consistent and principled—and if he is elected—we may witness social engineering programs that will surpass anything envisioned by the Nazis:

  1. GLBT couples will be told not to expect equality under the law. They must accept permanent under-class status and resign themselves not only to social opprobrium and loveless lives but also to poverty. If they are discovered having sex, they will be fined or imprisoned.
  2. GLBTs wishing to marry will be told they must find a partner of the opposite sex. Obviously, they may have to conceal their sexual orientation at least during the courtship phase of the relationship. After that, they will be expected to prove their bona fides by having children.
  3. GLBT couples who are already married under state laws will have their marriages annulled. (Read Michelangelo Signorile’s article about this.) Any children they may have will be put up for adoption in heterosexual families. All other GLBT couples will be allowed to cohabit only on condition that they become celibate.
Santorum was asked by lesbian filmmaker Kristina Lapinski (on 11/16/11) what he would do if she were his daughter. He replied that he would love her, but that he would encourage her to marry and have a family with a man.

Our jaws drop to the floor on hearing such things. Imagine a gay father “encouraging” his heterosexual daughter to marry a woman! Has Santorum never experienced love and sexual desire? Does he think they can be switched on and off, re-routed, stoked and stifled at will? If his reply to Lapinski sounds familiar, it’s because it is the vestige of a patriarchal mindset that is as old as the hills. Santorum’s use of the soft-power term “encourage” is his nod to modernity. Only a century or so ago, the term of choice would have been “force.” But love, as anyone who has ever been in love knows, cannot be forced.

The larger framework is a religious one. (Let’s not forget that Santorum is more Catholic than the Pope.) All legitimate power and authority emanate from God (a male, of course), down through the hierarchy of the Church (all male as well), and then on down through the head of the family (also a male). Sexual desires, love, and life plans are to be totally subordinated to the will of God as it percolates downward. Making the right “choice” in these matters is necessary if we are to please God.

Santorum’s views on homosexuality and marriage reveal a political ideology that is utopian and authoritarian. It is a “one-size-fits-all” social scheme that ignores human variability and punishes deviation from an arbitrary norm. It is based on an impoverished understanding of human nature and a rejection of the Enlightenment values on which our country was founded.

The ensemble of his views about homosexuality cannot be understood without reference to Catholic teachings about sin and free will. Like Marcus Bachmann (Michele’s husband), Santorum appears to sincerely believe that homosexuality is a choice. Catholic dogma describes it as sinful and teaches that sin is always chosen. We can, with God’s help, choose virtue over vice. Otherwise there would be no accountability.

It also seems plausible that both Rick and Marcus did make a “choice” about their sexual orientation in their younger days. If so, it is unlikely that either of them fully understood the nature of that choice. Marcus practiced reparative therapy because he believed others could “repair” themselves (as he had done?). Rick has made a career out of denouncing homosexuality. Both men are extraordinarily preoccupied with gay sex.

We don’t hear as much about “choosing” sexual orientation as we used to. Choicers know they may be asked about the circumstances of their own “choice,” and they don’t want to go there. Gays and lesbians know the truth—that the only “choice” one makes is to either accept and affirm one’s sexual nature or to suppress it. This truth flies in the face of Catholic teaching.

The “choice” claim is still humming in the background, however, and the Rick Santorums, the Marcus Bachmanns, and the Maggie Gallaghers need to explain how it figures in their thinking about marriage equality.

And we need to know from Rick Santorum whether, while eradicating poverty, he wouldn’t just like to eradicate gays as well. Sounds like he has a plan …

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