A Bay Windows interview from 1994 when Romney was taking on Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) highlighted Romney's pro-gay stances. He said then, “I feel that as a society and for me as an individual, it’s incumbent on all of us to respect one another, regardless of our differences and beliefs, our differences in sexual orientation, in race and that America has always been a place, and should be a place, to welcome and tolerate people’s differences." He added, “I personally feel and one of my core beliefs is that we should accept people of all backgrounds and recognize everyone as a brother and a sister because we are all part of the family of man.”
And that just wasn't talk he told his interviewer. He intended to be an advocate to ensure what he called the "free agent." As he explained: "When I speak of free agency, I don’t just mean that each person can do what they want to do, I mean that our society should allow people to make their own choices and live by their own beliefs. People of integrity don’t force their beliefs on others, they make sure that others can live by different beliefs they may have. That’s the great thing about this country: it was founded to allow people to follow beliefs of their own conscience. I will work and have worked to fight discrimination and to assure each American equal opportunity." He noted that the company he ran then, Bain & Co., had a non-discrimination workplace policy.
And then there was his comparison to Gov. Bill Weld (R-MA). "I think Bill Weld’s fiscal conservatism, his focus on creating jobs and employment and his efforts to fight discrimination and assure civil rights for all is a model that I identify with and aspire to.” He said he would have opposed efforts by then-Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC) to ban federal funding to public schools which supported "homosexuality." He said he supported the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) to protect gays from workplace discrimination. He supported efforts to reduce the gay teen suicide rate. He supported domestic partner benefits for federal workers. And while he didn't support legal recognition of gay marriages in 1994, he did support the recognition of some of the incidents of marriage for same-sex couples.
Romney made a point I've often made as a Republican in explaining the importance of having Republican allies in the fight for gay civil rights. I couldn't have said it better than he did then:
“There’s something to be said for having a Republican who supports civil rights in this broader context, including sexual orientation. When Ted Kennedy speaks on gay rights, he’s seen as an extremist. When Mitt Romney speaks on gay rights he’s seen as a centrist and a moderate. It’s a little like if Eugene McCarthy was arguing in favor of recognizing China, people would have called him a nut. But when Richard Nixon does it, it becomes reasonable. When Ted says it, it’s extreme; when I say it, it’s mainstream.Unfortunately, Gov. Romney's march to the right to assuage the religious right has completely alienated the support of centrists he will need if he is to win the general election. I suspect the Romney who spoke those words was the man his father, former Michigan Gov. George Romney (R), taught to respect the importance of civil rights for all Americans. Maybe there's some hope he will return to his roots in the event he succeeds in winning the GOP nomination in 2008.
“I think the gay community needs more support from the Republican Party and I would be a voice in the Republican Party to foster anti-discrimination efforts.