Romney’s Contradictory Positions on Gay Rights

Today’s Boston Globe carries the headline “Romney’s ’94 remarks on same-sex marriage could haunt him.” The lede:

Comments Governor Mitt Romney made during his 1994 Senate bid, in which he said the gay and lesbian community “needs more support from the Republican Party,” resurfaced yesterday, posing a potential hurdle as he appeals to conservatives for a probable presidential campaign.

Ironically, it’s a gay publication that dredged up the remarks. My initial thought upon seeing the quote at Political Wire was that it was a very prescient thing to say in 1994 and likely the right tack to take in 2008, even in the Republican primary.

The real problem, it seems to me, is that Romney has moved radically in the opposite direction since.

In 2005, Romney came under fire for saying dismissively to a South Carolina Republican audience that some gay and lesbian couples “are actually having children born to them.”

Romney has been an outspoken proponent of a federal constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Last spring, he wrote a letter to Senate majority leader Bill Frist urging its passage. “In order to protect the institution of marriage, we must prevent it from being redefined by judges like those here in Massachusetts,” Romney wrote of the amendment, which has not passed. Same-sex marriage became legal in Massachusetts after a 2003 decision by the Supreme Judicial Court.

His spokesman says that, “Governor Romney believes Americans should be respectful of all people. What he opposes are the efforts by activist judges who seek to redefine the longstanding institution of marriage being between a man and a woman.” That’s a plausible argument and, indeed, a position with which I agree. The language of the various marriage amendments out there, though, have tended to go well beyond protecting against judicial fiat.

Romney and others are going to have to carve out a consistent position on gay issues. Otherwise, they not only alienate both sides but are prey to charges of hypocrisy.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Steven Plunk says:

    In the fourteen years between the two statements the demands of the gay community have certainly changed. Support in 1994 could have been something as simple as fair housing rules and anti discrimination laws. If the issue of gay marriage were at the forefront in 1994 perhaps Romney would be exactly where he is at today.

    His spokesman’s point concerning judicial fiat vs democratic process should also be considered when checking consistency. A person could possibly support gay marriage if democratically enacted but be against court imposed gay marriage.

  2. madmatt says:

    How exactly did he get elected in Mass. anyway?

  3. Kent G. Budge says:

    I have been troubled by Romney’s seeming inconsistencies on these issues, and have wondered, as a Mormon, whether I want him to be the first Mormon to be a serious Presidential candidate.

    However, Steve Plunk’s observation has given me something to think about. If Steve is right, then Romney is not only not terribly inconsistent, he’s really not far from where I am. It certainly seems to me that the gay community has become more radical over the last twelve years, and that this shift could explain Romney’s shift.