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Hopkins Student Totally Stumps Rick Santorum on Gay Rights

1 Written by: | Tuesday, Apr 16, 2013 10:03am

Photo of Kevin Cryan by Rachel Reed Photography.

Photo of Kevin Cryan by Rachel Reed Photography.

According to Johns Hopkins student Kevin Cryan, it was one of the scariest things he’s ever done:  standing up in front of an audience of classmates, professors, and interested spectators to debate a fine point of constitutional law.

Here’s how it went down:  Rick Santorum was appearing as one of the featured speakers in Johns Hopkins’ student-organized Foreign Affairs Symposium. The arch-conservative  former presidential candidate gave a half-hour speech on Iran, but it was his take on gay rights that Cryan decided to challenge him on. (Santorum has famously compared same-sex marriage to pedophilia and bestiality.)

Cryan credits a Hopkins course called Great Constitutional Issues for preparing him to ask his difficult question. In that class, he wrote a long research paper on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the law that prevents federal recognition of same-sex marriages — and which the Supreme Court is considering this term. During his research, Cryan found an interesting paradox. Because the federal government doesn’t recognize gay couples who are legally married in, say, Maryland, those people aren’t subject to certain federal ethics laws, like the ones preventing people from hiring their own spouse. So instead of asking Santorum a question about discrimination against gay couples — a subject he surely had a boilerplate answer for — Cryan decided he’d ask about the special privileges the law gave to gay people.

As Cryan tells it, “When I started talking, every verbal tic, impediment and stutter I ever had came flooding over me. But I was there, I had a memorized question, and I pushed through. As I got some claps and some laughs, I felt comfortable and propelled forward to ask Mr. Santorum, ‘Is there a reason not to apply ethics laws to legally married same sex couples? Are gays just more trustworthy, less corruptible, than their straight counterparts?’” After hemming and hawing, the former senator admitted he was stumped, then said he didn’t think it was a big issue.

This is my favorite part. When Cryan shook Santorum’s hand backstage after the speech, he got the final word. “Thank you for answering my question honestly,” he said, “but I have to disagree with you on one point. You said that exempting married gays from ethics laws wasn’t a big issue. I think that when it comes to treating equal people equally, that’s a very big issue.” BAM! And then, according to his Facebook page, Kevin Cryan went home to “hyperventilate and pound gummy bears by the handful.”

Leave a Reply

  • Jon

    Wasn’t there some other civil rights issue where “separate but equal” logic fell down in the crunch? …Just sayin’….



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