Rick Santorum insists a heterosexual father always trumps gay parents – even if that father is locked in jail, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Santorum made his remark during a town hall meeting Friday at Dublin School, a private boarding high school in Dublin, New Hampshire.

“Marriage is not a right,” Santorum said of gay marriage, echoing a sentiment he expressed earlier in the day. “It's a privilege that is given to society by society for a reason. … We want to encourage what is the best for children.”

(Related: Rick Santorum booed again over gay marriage opposition in New Hampshire.)

He added that children need a mother and father, saying that even a father who “is in jail and who had abandoned” his family is preferred over a same-sex household.

Citing Jason DeParle's 2005 book American Dream: Three Women, Ten Kids, and a Nation's Drive to End Welfare, Santorum said: “One of the things he talked about … was the lack of fathers, and he found that even fathers in jail who had abandoned their kids were still better than no father at all to have in their childrens' lives.”

Allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry and raise children, Santorum said, amounts to “robbing children of something they need, they deserve, they have a right to. You may rationalize that that isn't true, but in your own life and in your own heart, you know it's true.”