Rick Santorum on Thursday claimed that Mitt Romney helped advance gay marriage in Massachusetts while he was governor.

During last night's GOP presidential debate in Sioux City, Iowa, Fox News' Chris Wallace questioned Romney on what he meant when he told a gay GOP group in 1994 that he would do more for “full equality” for gay men and lesbians than his opponent, Senator Ted Kennedy.

Romney explained that as a Republican his support for the gay community – in terms of non-discrimination measures, not marriage rights – would be more valuable than Kennedy's backing because he, as a Democrat, “would be expected to do so.”

Unsatisfied, Santorum alleged that Romney in fact helped advance gay marriage in Massachusetts.

“Romney, when he was governor of Massachusetts, was faced with a Supreme Court decision that said that traditional marriage was unconstitutional. In that court decision, the court said that they did not have the power to change the law in Massachusetts and rule same-sex marriage legal. Why? Because in the Massachusetts Constitution it states specifically that only the governor and the legislature can change marriage laws. The court then gave the legislature a certain amount of time to change the law. They did not.”

“So Governor Romney was faced with a choice. Go along with the court or go along with the constitution and the statute. He chose the court and ordered people to issue gay marriage licenses. And went beyond that. He personally, as governor, issued gay marriage licenses.”

“I don't think that is an accurate representation of his position of saying tolerance versus substantively changing the laws.

Romney described Santorum's retelling as a “novel understanding” of the events.

“The Supreme Court of Massachusetts determined that under our constitution same-sex marriage was required,” Romney said in his rebuttal. “And the idea that that somehow that was up to me to make a choice as to whether we had it or not was a little unusual.” (The video is embedded in the right panel of this page. Visit our video library for more videos.)

Both candidates claimed they have a consistent record of opposing marriage equality.

As governor of the first state to legalize gay marriage in 2004, Romney granted special waivers that allowed a non-clergy individual to solemnize a marriage. The One Day Marriage Designation, however, is not a marriage license. The application does ask for the name, address and date of birth of the couple he/she wishes to marry. Which means Romney could have known that some couples were gay or lesbian.