Hardball with Chris Matthews, 4/9/13, 5:38 PM ET

Country takes one step forward, GOP takes two steps back

The country is progressing, but the Republican Party is standing firm on its backwards ways. Former RNC chair Michael Steele and Michael Feldman, former...

Santorum in denial? America will NEVER back gay marriage

Updated

The public tide is shifting on gay marriage. But Rick Santorum will not be moved–nor his party.

The former Pennsylvania senator and failed Republican presidential candidate, who heads to Iowa (the state that goes first in nominating presidential candidates) next week,  told the Des Moines Register that it would be “suicidal” for his party to back same-sex marriage.

Santorum also predicted the Supreme Court would not rule in favor of gay marriage rights. Last month, of course, the nation’s highest court heard arguments for striking down Proposition 8, California’s ban on gay marriage, and on the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal benefits to same-sex couples.

“I think you’ll see, hopefully, a chastened Supreme Court is not going to make the same mistake in the [current] cases as they did in Roe v. Wade,” the staunch social conservative, who last year won the important, first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses, told the newspaper. “I’m hopeful the Supreme Court learned its lesson about trying to predict where the American public is going on issues and trying to find rights in the Constitution that sit with the fancy of the day.”

Yet, public opinion on same-sex marriage is changing. Several polls show the majority of Americans are in favor of federal recognition of gay, married couples. The Republican National Committee admitted in a report it needed to let gay voters know “we care about them too,” although the report did not offer much in the way of specifics. The party’s stated platform, as per last year’s convention, is to pass a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between a man and woman.

On Monday, Democratic South Dakota Sen. Tim Johnson became the 52nd senator to come out in favor of gay equality. Just two Republican senators–Rob Portman of Ohio and Mark Kirk of Illinois–are among those 52 in favor.

When asked about Portman and Kirk, Santorum insisted the GOP won’t ever budge on the issue of gay marriage.

“I’m sure you could go back and read stories, oh, you know, ‘The Republican Party’s going to change. This is the future.’ Obviously that didn’t happen,” Santorum told the paper. “I think you’re going to see the same stories written now and it’s not going to happen. The Republican Party’s not going to change on this issue. In my opinion it would be suicidal if it did.”

He added, “Just because some of those things happen to be popular right now doesn’t mean the Republican Party should follow suit.”

Santorum’s pending visit to the Hawkeye State–where he’ll deliver an address at the annual Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition–is likely to fuel speculation that he’s considering a presidential bid in 2016. He recently said he wouldn’t rule out another run.

The former senator isn’t the only one with a trip to Iowa on his plate. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is set to deliver the keynote address at the Iowa Republican Party’s annual Lincoln Day Dinner on May 10.

Former RNC chairman Michael Steele and Michael Feldman, former advsier to Vice President Al Gore, weighed in on Tuesday’s Hardball. Check out the video above.

Santorum in denial? America will NEVER back gay marriage

Updated