Why Would a Lesbian Support Rick Santorum?

What Women Really Think
Feb. 24 2012 1:00 PM

What a Lesbian Sees in Rick Santorum

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Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum waves as he arrives to the debate hall on February 22, 2012 in Mesa, Arizona.

Photo by DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images

Since Rick Santorum has taken a divisive, prominent stand against abortion and contraception, and he's been especially vocal on those topics in the past few weeks, one might expect his star to be on the wane among Republican women. But just the opposite is true: More GOP women are turning towards the former Pennsylvania Senator—his popularity among them has risen more than 10 points since last month. While he's still less popular among women than Romney is, I assumed that women who heart Santorum would be the extremely pro-life ones who appreciated his "walking the walk" when it comes to abortion (his wife kept a baby even though prenatal testing showed that the child would be born with a rare chromosomal disorder) and contraception (the Santorums have seven kids).

Certainly there are female Santorum supporters who do appreciate the candidate for living out his principles in that way. But Slate's Dave Weigel did a fascinating series of interviews with voters who are supporting Rick Santorum in Arizona, and these interviews show that there seem to be three main reasons why women voters are liking what Santorum is selling: the aforementioned pro life bona fides, that Santorum is the "authentic" conservative, anti-Romney choice, and that contraception and abortion just aren't huge issues to many women. As The New York Times Caucus blog points out, social issues don't tend to be major issues for voters who are not on ideological extremes.

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On that last point, Weigel spoke to a retired lesbian named Cathy Wharton who said she was voting for Santorum. The candidate's anti-gay marriage stance didn't seem to be an issue for her, and she doesn't care about his statements on abortion and contraception. "I’ve been in a relationship with the same woman for 31 years. There are those of us who are gay who aren’t too bothered by Santorum on those issues," she explains. She prefers Santorum because he's not a flip flopper like Romney (and because he's not a Mormon). After reading that, the only response I can muster is, it takes all kinds, I suppose.

Jessica Grose is a frequent Slate contributor and the author of the novel Sad Desk Salad. Follow her on Twitter.

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