Op-ed: Lesbian Filmmaker Debates Rick Santorum

By Advocate Contributors

Originally published on Advocate.com November 16 2011 3:00 AM ET

Kristina
Lapinski, a documentary filmmaker, found herself seated in the front row next
to State Republican Speaker William O'Brien, at One Liberty Lane Hampton, New
Hampshire, for Thursday night's Granite State
Patriots Liberty PAC candidates forum
.

Lapinski, working
on GAY U.S.A., The Movie,   held a legitimate ticket, and had her camera secretly poised ,
while in the company of some 50 heavy hitting Tea Party Republicans, who had no
idea who she was or why she was there. . Lapinski and I have been working
together;  as she films, I write about
news and events for GAY U.S.A., The Blog. This was among the most daring moments.

The young,
liberal Democrat, dressed in a tailed, wide shoulder, black, double-breasted
jacket and white shirt, sporting a star spangled tie, looked  “voguishly” Barnum Circus and quite out
of place.

"I felt
like I was in the lion’s den," said Lapinski.

The debate
featured a combination of town hall and Lincoln-Douglas formats, with only two
candidates appearing on stage at a time. Governors Gary Johnson and Buddy Roemer
debated first and were followed by former senator Rick Santorum and former
speaker Newt Gingrich.

In keeping with
the theme of the evening, the audience was handed copies of the U.S.
Constitution, printed by the antigay Heritage Foundation. The “show” began with
the Pledge of Allegiance, then a prayer and comments about the importance of
God in politics.

After Roemer and
Johnson left the stage, Lapinski approached the moderator and handed him a
piece of paper with her question. Admitting her flirtatious exploit, Lapinski
said: “Sir, this issue affects me personally, and it would mean a lot to me if
you could slip it in and ask my question.”   

“I was
surrounded by Tea Party people and was determined to have a gay rights question
asked to film for my movie,” said Lapinski. As one can imagine, she was delighted
when her question was actually posed to both Gingrich and Santorum: “This
question is from Kristina, who is in the audience,” the moderator announced. “If
voted president of the United States, would you support a constitutional amendment
banning same-sex marriage?” 

Gingrich was
quick to blow off the question with a quick one-liner: “Marriage is between a
man and a woman!” Santorum, on the other hand, had his pew, with canned
rhetoric and the can-opener at the ready. Even though we think we have heard
the entire warped war cry, Santorum, in thinking he had the insiders’ ears
only, provided admissions and imposed his absurd fears.

Santorum rebuked
his fellow Republicans for not taking a harsher stand on antigay measures,
accusing them of being fearful of being called bigots.  "When I was in the U.S. Senate,
this was not difficult to understand; one of the toughest things I had to do
was to get the Republicans
to support me to ban same-sex marriage.”

Revealing that
many Republicans fear backlash, Santorum said they would rather refrain from
voting for such an amendment.  The
former Pennsylvania senator continued to describe the fear in his own
party:  “The media is not going to
be nice. They are going to create caricatures of us, they will call you a bigot.
They would say, ’don’t make me vote on this.’ The conversations we would
have inside that room would make your hair curl!”

The would-be president
concluded that he is the only candidate capable of taking a stronger stand
against same-sex marriage, and the one who will push harder than any other on
the issue. The applause was big for a small crowd, most stood up.  After the debate was over, Lapinski
walked up to the stage and mingled with the candidates. Placing her arm across
Santorum’s shoulder for a picture, Lapinski told him that she was the one who
had asked the same-sex marriage question, and she followed: “What would you do
if I was your daughter?” 

Santorum smiled,
“I would love you!”  

“Would you want
me to get married and have a family?” asked Lapinski.

“Only if it were
with a man.”

“But I am not
attracted to men,” Lapinski retorted.

“But it is your
choice,” Santorum insisted.  

“Rick, it is not
my choice!”  Lapinski argued.

He continued
with great authority: “Like anything in life, it is a choice.  You may
feel this is the way that it is supposed to be; you make decisions in life, and
you choose what is right.”

Gingrich was
next. Waiting her turn in line, Lapinski chuckled when a 10-year-old boy
denounced global warming and Gingrich agreed with him, assuredly. Lapinski then
asked Gingrich a follow-up question. His answer was abrasive (as can be seen in
the video footage included below).

Gingrich affirmed
that he would reinstate “don’t ask, don’t tell,” saying he agreed with Santorum.
And he added that gays serving openly in the military are nothing more than a
social experiment and that the military's purpose is only “to fight and win
wars.”

I asked Lapinski
how hearing this up close made her feel.

“When I watch
these people on TV, I feel removed. This experience was totally surreal, I felt
isolated. But at the same time their stances on the issues were so ludicrous,” laughed
Lapinski.  "It seemed
ridiculous that my loving another woman could affect their religious freedom.
These people want to completely halt the progress for LGBT people in this
country.” 

 

MELANIE NATHAN is a lawyer and human rights
activist who is author of the
GAY
U.S.A. the Blog, which is run in conjunction with GAY U.S.A. the Movie.