Regis is very excited. After a cast meeting and orientation last night, rehearsals begin tonight for the BPI spring theatre production of The Gardener’s Lament. It’s a mid-sized cast, with Regis and two other squirrels, the gardener, the gardener’s wife, and a handful of neighbors. They went over the rehearsal schedule, which is organized so that only the actors who appear in the scheduled scenes have to be at each rehearsal. Regis noticed that the actor playing the gardener came to the meeting with another actor. They also sat together, and left together.

“They seem like a nice couple,” Regis said. “It’s a shame they can’t get married.”

Only then did I realize they were both men. Regis didn’t refer to them as “a gay couple.” Just “a nice couple.” I wish Rick Santorum were as sensible.

In yesterday’s Republican presidential primary debate, for example, Santorum said:

I would be a voice in speaking out for making sure that every person in America, gay or straight, is treated with respect and dignity and has the equality of opportunity. That does not mean that I would agree with certain things that the gay community would like to do to change laws with respect to marriage, respect to adoption, and things like that. So you can be respectful – this is the beautiful thing about this country. James Madison called the first amendment, he called it the- the – the perfect remedy.

And that is people of all different backgrounds, diversity, opinions, faiths, can come into the public square and can be heard, and can be heard in a way that’s respectful of everybody else. But just because you don’t agree with someone’s desire to change the law, doesn’t mean you don’t like them or you hate them or you want to discriminate against them. But you’re trying to promote things that you think are best for society.

And I do so. And I think if you – if you watch the- the town hall meetings that I’ve been doing all over New Hampshire, I do so in a respectful tone, I listen to the other side, I let them make their arguments, and then we do so on a very- a very respectful way. And you know what? We may not agree. That’s why we leave it open to the public to be able to elect members of Congress and the Senate and the president, who will support their idea.

Asked how he would react if he learned one of his sons was gay, Santorum replied: “I would love him as much as I did the second before he said it. And I would try to do everything I can to be as good a father to him as possible.”

Santorum’s answer, and Mitt Romney’s response, were described as “standing up for gay rights.”

Ahem.

This is the same Rick Santorum who, just last week, compared LGBT marriage to polygamy and that LGBTs aren’t fit for military service. In 2003, Santorum disagreed with the Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas that overturned state sodomy laws, comparing LGBT relationships to bestiality. And there’s no evidence that Santorum has changed his mind; he defended that position in a radio interview this past October.

It’s nice that Santorum doesn’t condemn or shout down LGBTs who ask questions at his public appearances, uses words like “respect and dignity and equality of opportunity,” and says he would still love a gay son. But he doesn’t “respect” LGBTs enough to let them love without threat of criminal prosecution, or think LGBTs deserve the “dignity” of serving openly in the military, or the “equality of opportunity” of getting married or adopting children.

Those are “privileges,” Santorum insists, and they should be reserved for heterosexuals. His idea of “LGBT rights” seems be limited to right to participate in a public debate over whether LGBTs should go be denied marriage and adoption or kicked out of the military. And if Santorum were able to pass the laws he wanted, LGBTs would have the right to go to jail.

As Talking Points Memo‘s Benjy Sarlin concluded:

So let’s be clear here: when Santorum says he has an honest disagreement with gays and that he’d accept his hypothetical gay son, he means he’d accept his right to live in the closet.

Good day and good nuts.