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 Op-ed: Lesbian Filmmaker Debates Rick Santorum

 Op-ed: Lesbian Filmmaker Debates Rick Santorum

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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.
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