- The Washington Times - Friday, January 6, 2012

Dublin, N.H. — Rick Santorum’s reputation as a crusader for conservative social values is getting tested here in New Hampshire, where he’s facing down sharp questions from voters about marriage, abortion and how he justifies going to war as a Roman Catholic.

Under fire at a town hall meeting from voters interested in knowing more about his opposition to gay marriage and to gays serving openly in the military, the former Pennsylvania senator stood his ground.

“Serving in the military is not a right, it’s a privilege and it’s selective,” Mr. Santorum said, before reminding the audience that not everybody who applies for military service is accepted or meets the qualifications. He said that, if elected president, he would push to reinstate the military’s “don’t ask/don’t tell” policy, which the Obama administration did away with in September.

Mr. Santorum is trying to build on his strong second-place showing in Iowa with another strong performance here in New Hampshire, where voters tend to be more focused on fiscal, rather than social, issues. The latest polls, though, show him and the rest of the GOP presidential field well behind Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who has said that he has no plans to reinstate the ban on homosexuals serving openly in the U.S. military.

Mr. Santorum faced similar skepticism Thursday during a meeting of college Republicans in Concord, where the crowd showered him with boos following an exchange with a student on same-sex marriage in which he likened the legalization of gay marriage to the legalization of polygamy.

“Reason says that if you say it’s OK for two [people], then you have to differentiate for me as to why it’s not OK for three — right?” Mr. Santorum asked a student who pressed for an answer on why he opposed same-sex marriages.

At the town hall meeting here at the Dublin School on Friday, Mr. Santorum, who lost his last 2006 re-election bid in landslide, also assured a young woman that he would not vote to ban contraceptives for women. And he faced more pointed questioning from another woman who challenged him to explain how he reconciles his religious beliefs with being what she called a warmonger.”

“Jesus said to love your enemies and feed them,” the woman told him, “not blow them up.”

Mr. Santorum said that countries have a right and a responsibility to defend themselves against evil and that his faith help him determine when war is just and when the country’s security is genuinely at stake.

He also used the event to push back against same-sex marriage, saying that getting married, like military service, is a privilege.

“It’s not an unalienable right. It’s a privilege,” he said, before explaining that he believes it is an “intrinsic good” for society to hold up marriage as a bond between a man and a women and part of every child’s “birthright to be raised by their own mother and father. “

“You may rationalize that that isn’t true, but in your own life, in your own heart, you know it’s true. Why would we deny that?” he asked.

The remarks received a lukewarm applause from the crowd.