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Rick Santorum goes after Mitt Romney on gay issues

Republican presidential hopefuls clash over same-sex marriage as they square off in Iowa debate
Republican presidential hopefuls
Photo: ABC News

Former Massacusetts Governor Mitt Romney wants to make clear that he steadfastly believes marriage is between a man and a woman.

But Rick Santorum, one of his fellow candidates for the Republican nomination for president, has accused Romney of flip-flopping on the issue of same-sex marriage which is legal in Massachusetts.

'[He] ordered people to issue gay marriage licenses and went beyond that,' Santorum said during a debate Thursday night in Sioux City, Iowa. 'He personally, as governor, issued gay marriage licenses.'

Romney, who has lost his front-runner status in recent polls to Newt Gingrich, said he was following the ruling of the Supreme Court and while doing so, he continued to fight against same-sex couple's right to marry.

'I fought leading an effort to put in place a constitutional amendment in Massachusetts to overturn the court's decision to make marriage between a man and a woman,' he said.

It was debate moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News who first put Romney in the hot seat on the issue reminding him that in his unsuccessful U.S. Senate race against the late Ted Kennedy in 1994, he said he would fight harder for LGBT equality than the very liberal Kennedy.

While Romney now supports a federal constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage, in 1994 his position was that marriage policy should be left up to individual states.

Wallace quoted Romney as saying during that race that he 'does not believe in discriminating against people based upon their sexual orientation' and that as a Republican, he could fight against LGBT discrimination better than Democrat Kennedy could.

Santorum, who polls place near the bottom of the Republican candidates, has been the most vocal opponent of LGBT equality in the race. 

Thursday was not the first time he tried to hammer Romney on the marriage issue. In an interview with conservative radio host Laura Igraham last month, he said Romney was 'to the left of Barack Obama on the issues of gay marriage.'

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