Rick and Karen Santorum on Monday insisted that the GOP presidential candidate loves gay people.

Mrs. Santoroum joined her husband at a town hall at the Fresh Brewed Coffee House in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

When a woman told the couple that she struggled with her support for Mr. Santorum's presidential ambitions because her gay son hears that he hates gay people, Mrs. Santorum insisted that that was false and described gay activists as bullies.

(Related: Mitt Romney most trusted on gay marriage; Rick Santorum up 10 points.)

“I think it's very sad what the gay activists have done out there,” Mrs. Santorum said. “They've vilified him and it's so wrong. Rick does not hate anyone. He loves them. What he has simply said is marriage shouldn't happen. But as far as hating, it's very unfortunate that that has happened. And a lot of it is backyard bullying.”

“This is a public policy difference,” Mr. Santorum said. “And the problem is that some see that as a personal assault.”

Mr. Santorum went on to suggest that gay marriage deprives children of a mother or a father.

“If we don't hold that [heterosexual marriage] up as something that society is for and encouraging and promoting, then we will get less of it. And then we will be in a sense denying children what is best for them. We shouldn't be a society that denies our children and our future what's best for them.”

He went on to describe gay unions as friendships.

“There's all sorts of other relationships that people have, and they are valuable relationships – whether they are amorous relationships or friendship relationships or familial relationships – they're all important, they all have value, they all should be affirmed. But that does not mean that we should change the laws to … create an atmosphere where children and families are not being promoted.” (The video is embedded in the right panel of this page. Visit our video library for more videos.)