OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Rick Santorum said Monday that Washington state’s approval of gay marriage is “not the final word,” as the Republican presidential hopeful rallied opponents who are exploring a referendum to block the law.

Santorum’s visit to the state capital came within an hour of Gov. Chris Gregoire signing the same-sex marriage bill into law. Before meeting with political leaders in the Legislative building, he held a private meeting with religious leaders at an Olympia church.

“I encouraged them to continue the fight,” Santorum said. “There are ebbs and flows in every battle, and this is not the final word.”

The former Pennsylvania senator said the law waters down marriage at a time when divorce rates are already up. He argued that there are societal consequences without strong traditional marriages, including more people going to prison, more dropouts from school, higher poverty rates and higher government spending.

Still, Santorum said the debate needs to be respectful on both sides, indicating that supporters of same-sex marriage have fair points to make, too.

“There are legitimate reasons that people have to want to have to change the law, and there are legitimate reasons that people have to want to keep the law in place. If you keep it at that level, don’t make it personal, make it about what is best for society, then I think we’ll be fine.”

He believes it should be solved at the federal level, and he wants a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

The former Pennsylvania senator is the first presidential candidate to hold a major public event in the state during the 2012 campaign. Arizona and Michigan are the next two states to hold nominating contests before Washington on March 3.

Republican Rep. Cary Condotta, a supporter of Ron Paul’s campaign, said he thought Santorum’s meeting with lawmakers allowed him to build a reputation in Republican circles in a state where he is otherwise unknown. In a closed-door gathering with GOP lawmakers, he answered questions about a range of issues — from health care to agriculture to poverty to schools.

“I was favorably impressed,” Condotta said.

Santorum said the state’s caucuses are important, as they will provide the last bit of momentum before the Super Tuesday, when 10 states vote. Washington has 43 delegates at stake, though they will not be allocated on caucus night.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (4)
  1. Spidey says:

    I like Ron Paul but I might consider Santorum if he stands for family values.

  2. Phil says:

    Santorum doesn’t stand a chance. He’s far too divisive and stuck on issues like this one that a lot of Americans just don’t have the room to care about right now. There are far more important things to worry about than conforming to his 2000 year old book of fairy tales.

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