As gay rights continue to be discussed by the Republican presidential candidacy hopefuls, an NBC debate on Sunday drew noteworthy statements from both Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.

When asked how he used his voice to influence Republicans on gay rights, Romney said he had always favoured anti-discrimination policies but always opposed equal marriage rights.

The former Governor of Massachusetts’ policy of promoting what he called “full rights” for gays, but opposing marriage equality has been criticised by some commentators who see it as inconsistent.

When asked when he last spoke up for increasing gay rights, Romney said: “Right now”. He received an eleven second round of applause from the audience.

Shortly after, when asked how he would feel if his son came out to him, Rick Santorum said: “I would love him as much as I did the second before he said it, and I would do everything I can to be as good a father to him as possible.”

Santorum has in the past talked of a “hate the sin, love the sinner” policy towards homosexuality.

Both men are signatories to the National Organization for Marriage’s 2012 Presidential Pledge, vowing support for a national constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and preventing state judges from overturning what they deem to be discriminatory marriage laws.