“My youngest son is gay," a woman asked Rick and Karen Santorum at a campaign event yesterday. "I debated for the longest time how to handle my support of you, because what he’s been hearing is, ‘Oh, Rick Santorum hates gays.’ I still have that sense of guilt, because his friends react to what they hear. Help me. How do I deal with that?”

Karen Santorum defended her husband:

“I think it’s very sad [what] the gay activists have done out there,” she replied. “They vilify him, and it’s so wrong. Rick does not hate anyone. He loves them. What he has simply said is [gay] marriage shouldn’t happen. But as far as hating—it’s very unfortunate that that has happened. A lot of it is backyard bullying.” The former Senator added in his defense, “I think the problem is that some see that public policy difference as a personal assault.”

Karen? Your husband compared gay people to dog fuckers and child rapists and you didn't call him out at the time. So it would seem that vilification was fine with you... until someone decided to give your vile husband a taste of his own medicine.

I'm thinking this "public policy difference" line must have been polled by the Santorum campaign. Rick Santorum doesn't hate gay people! He just thinks we should be locked up, banned from the military, unable to marry or adopt—but that's not hate! Oh, no: it's just a "public policy difference." Elizabeth Santorum was the first to float this turd: in her now-infamous interview/blowjob with the Huffington Post, Elizabeth Santorum described her father's opposition to gay rights—not just our right to wed but also our right to be intimate, serve in the military, adopt children—as "a policy thing." Nothing personal! No biggie! Certainly not something that should have make her father an object of derision and scorn! I responded to Elizabeth—who also said that gay activists make her "sad" (was that polled too?)—in last week's "Savage Love":

I'm sorry for giving you a sad, Elizabeth. You know what gave me a sad? Reading about Janice Langbehn and Lisa Pond. The women, together 18 years, were vacationing in Florida in 2007 with three of their four children when Pond suffered an aneurysm. Langbehn and the children were barred from Pond's room when they arrived at the hospital. A social worker informed Langbehn—who was distraught—that she wouldn't be able to see her wife because they were in an "anti-gay city and state."

Lisa Pond was not a "policy thing," Elizabeth. She was a human being. And her wife and children were prevented from saying good-bye to her because people who agree with you and your father—people who doubtless felt empowered to act on their bigotry thanks to high-profile bigots like you and your father—persecuted them as Pond lay dying.

By being so mean as to oppose legal protections for gay and lesbian families, Elizabeth, you and your father are trying to make sure that other families headed by same-sex couples will suffer as Langbehn, Pond, and their children were made to suffer.

This isn't about marginal tax rates or energy policy. Gay rights, gay marriage, DADT, adoptions by gay couples: this is about a large group of people—gay people—and our right to live our lives free from discrimination, to love each other without risking arrest, to have our relationships recognized under the law so that we do not have to fear being treated the way Lisa Pond and Janice Langbehn were treated. This issue—gay rights—is personal, deeply personal, and Rick Santorum's position on gay rights represents a highly personal attack on the dignity and autonomy and privacy of millions of Americans and our families. And we take it personally.

And in answer to the woman's question: Rick Santorum's hatred of gay people is clear and unambiguous and well-documented. Rick Santorum will do everything in his power to harm gay people—your son included—if he wins the White House. So you can love your gay son or you can support Rick Santorum, lady, but you can't do both.