Thursday, December 07, 2006

What Happened To Mitt Romney?

If Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) loses the 2008 presidential race, the man he will most likely lose to is Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA), who did not seek re-election this year, and who will now be able to devote himself full-time to running for president. Gov. Romney has distinguished himself as a leading, outspoken opponent of a Massachusetts high court ruling legalizing gay marriages. He lately has been fighting to get an initiative on the ballot to overturn that court ruling. It's hard to believe that not too many years ago, it was hard to find a Republican, or Democrat for that matter, as supportive of gay civil rights.

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.

“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.
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.


Wilson46201 said...

... as some folk used to say about another Massachusetts Presidential hopeful:

Flip-flop !


"I was for gay people before I was against them."

Anonymous said...

I don't get the blog entry. Is Mitt for or against gay marriage?

Or is he a flipper?

Anonymous said...

It appears it was as the dirty old man above stated - he flipped on the issue to as Gary wrote - to appease the Religious Right faction of the GOP.

Sounds he's willing to piss away Taxachusetts in order to secure the Bible Belt among other places in a Presidential run.

Advance Indiana said...

He's against. The purpose of the entry is self-evident. It's not about whether he's for or against gay marriage; it's about how much his views in general on gay issues have dramatically changed to appease the religious right.

RiShawn Biddle said...

But how is opposition to gay marriage a sign that someone is hostile to gays on all matters of civil rights? One can actually support allowing gays to be protected from private-sector workplace discrimination, banishment from housing and attempts to stifle voting rights, yet still be opposed to the concept of gay marriage. And there are plenty of people on both sides of the political aisle who do so.

This isn't to say that I agree with opposition to gay marriage; as a straight man, I think the government should recognize the rights and privileges to marriage that gays are given through the Founding Documents and Supreme Court rulings of the past three decades. But to argue that Romney's opposition to gay marriage -- which may be based on a principled-yet-wrongheaded point-of-view -- is a sign of opposition to gay marriage is a bit of intellectual overreach. Especially in light of Romney's positions on other gay rights issues, which you haven't proven have actually changed over time.

Anonymous said...

I read it twice.

Very, very confusing post.

Advance Indiana said...

Rishawn, again, the big issue isn't gay marriage; it's how he has backed away from his support for gay civil rights. I assume people know more about his actions as Governor than I should. Massachusetts already has some of the best laws on the books of any states. There was no way he could get those laws repealed; however, he tried to dismantle on a commission on gay and lesbian youth when the religious rights started complaining about it. The legislature turned back a proposed constitutional amendment, and he's gone out of his way to get a measure on the ballot. Furthermore, he invoked an archaic state law to prohibit people from coming from other states to Massachusetts to get married in an effort to block gay couples from other states from getting a marriage license in his state. He's boasted of these moves to the religious right in an appeal to show them that he's not the same man he supported gay civil rights when he ran for the Senate in 1994 and again when he ran for governor just 4 years ago.

RiShawn Biddle said...

While I can see the argument that opposing gay marriage means opposing the recognition of the civil rights of gays, this line of reasoning only works in the abstract, not when discussing a specific person. In such cases, it only works when the person discussed expresses opposition to such principles as opposing hiring discrimination against gays in the workplace and the like. If that can be proven, then the argument makes sense.

The problem, Gary, is that the line of reasoning doesn't work in the case of Romney, who seems to oppose discrimination against gays on other fronts. Since you haven't proven that he's backpeddled on other fronts, your argument is rather faulty at best. There are plenty of people who otherwise support recognizing gay civil rights, yet oppose gay marriage. This doesn't mean that they are right; as far as I'm concerned, it is discrimination plain and simple. But there are plenty of arguments that can be made for the counter, especially libertarian arguments that all marriages should be out of government domain.

Anonymous said... I detect a pro-Libertarian strain in RiShawn's tone?

Bring it, RiShawn! It'd be the most welcome thought process out of that N. Penn. building in a long time.

Advance Indiana said...

Rishawn, there is quite a bit of evidence he backpedaled. Again, he has never said he supported marriage; however, he said he agreed with Bill Weld's position, which included support for recognition of civil unions. When he learned how much the religious right opposed even civil unions, he abandoned his support there. He could have just expressed his disagreement with the court's decision and accepted it as the settle law of the state. Instead, he has actively worked to overturn the decision. He also tried to shut down a commission on gay and lesbian youth as well to appease the right. Has he sought a repeal of other civil rights measures already on the books? No, but there was no chance in hell of succeeding either. He has done everything, however, within his discretionary power to reverse civil rights advancements for gays in Massachusetts.

Anonymous said...

So, Romney is a far right-pandering Republican potential presidential candidate?

Tell me something else that's new.
The word you're looking for his hypocrite.

And it's a bad dye job, too. Evidently money and power can't buy a decent hair stylist. No mirrors in his house, or truthful aides who will tell him he looks silly?

Erin said...

Hey AI,

WashPost has a great article on this very topic with more excerpts from Romney's letter to the Log Cabin Repub's back in '94. It 's a little long, so I didn't want to post the article, but, anyone who wonders just how inconsistent this guy is should check out the article. They have it online.
Romney is not going to be able to make a successful flip on this- none of the far right will ever believe him no matter how much anti-gay stuff he tries to pull. He simply is too far on the record as being a supporter. So, I say, if he knows his chances are shot going the homophobe route and he still wants to run- then run as an unabashed supporter of gay rights. I hope (maybe naively) that there are many R's out there who would support him and just haven't had the opportunity to stand up to the far right in the past (lack of choice on this issue). Either way, at least we can see where R's really stand on this as a constituency.

Advance Indiana said...

Erin, Thanks for the heads up. I'll follow up on it.