Johns Hopkins Student Stumps Santorum on Gay Rights

By Tim Peacock

Kevin Cryan at John Hopkins
Kevin Cryan of John Hopkins
When he walked into John Hopkins to make a speech at their student-organized Foreign Affairs Symposium, former presidential hopeful and current fundamentalist wingnut Rick Santorum probably didn't expect to field questions about his stance on gay rights. His speech to the collegiate audience revolved primarily around Iran - a subject most people can somewhat agree on within the United States. That's why, when John Hopkins student Kevin Cryan took to the microphone to ask a question, Santorum really wasn't sure how to answer.

When confronting Santorum on his gay rights stance, Cryan approached the question differently than most as he anticipated the ever-prepared "because my religious belief says it's wrong" canned response most people in Santorum's position provide. Rather than focus on the rights gays are denied, Cyran focused on the ethics issues and rights heterosexuals are denied because gay people cannot get married.

"Is there a reason not to apply ethics laws to legally married same sex couples? Are gays just more trustworthy, less corruptible, than their straight counterparts?" Cryan asked Santorum. In his question, Cryan referred to the issue the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) raised in their amicus brief to the Supreme Court concerning the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). According to Cryan, "They brought up that when the federal government refuses to recognize gay marriages in all its laws, an unintended consequence is that ethics laws, like ones saying, “A federal judge may not preside over a trial involving their spouse” or “A federal government employee may not hire or appoint their spouse” don’t apply to legally married same-sex couples. Gay people get to ignore a whole host of ethics laws!"

In bringing up an instance where the federal government actually currently extended "special rights" to LGBT couples not available to their heterosexual counterparts, Cryan flipped the traditional conservative argument around and placed Santorum in a bind. 

In responding to Cryan, Santorum admitted he was stumped by the question (but quickly recovered and used another standard conservative reply to important legal questions that deserve attention). According to Cryan, "He was stumped! He answered that he could think of no good reason why we shouldn’t apply federal ethics laws to legally married same-sex couples, but went on to say that the misapplication of ethics laws was a small issue in the gay marriage debate."

Rick Santorum & Kevin Cryan at John Hopkins
Rick Santorum & Kevin Cryan at John Hopkins
Photo Source: Rachel Reed Photography
Cryan credits his question and research leading up to that moment to a class he took called Great Constitutional Issues. During his time in that course, he completed a research paper on DOMA and the subtle nuances involved in arguing for and against it at the Supreme Court in March. 

Cryan went on to mention how he was able to meet Santorum backstage where he let him know that "when it comes to treating equal people equally, that’s a very big issue" (referencing Santorum's response to his question). 

Bringing these sorts of questions to politicians like Santorum is important since it highlights their lack of thinking when it comes to the nitty-gritty issues of marriage equality. It's one thing to generalize that you disapprove because of your religious beliefs; its another to have to explain why one set of people have more or less rights than another set of people. The more we hold the figurative feet of every Santorum-style anti-gay politician to the fire, the more we stand to eventually begin getting somewhere with this whole push for equality. 

About Tim Peacock:
For virtually his entire life, Tim has been writing. Over the years he's dabbled in mainstream fiction, science fiction, dystopian fiction, and personal essays. The one consistent thread through his entire writing career has been blogging - he's been doing it since 1997 in one form or another. In creating Peacock Panache, he's combined two of his favorite hobbies: blogging and current events/politics. When not working here, Tim toils away at editing & rewriting the novels he's completed over the years. You can read samples of his other work here.

You can find Tim elsewhere online at his personal website. You can also find him on LinkedIn as well as on Twitter as @timsimms

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