How Romney’s Flip-Flops on Gay Issues Come Haunt Him
The only one with a perfect score is Fred Karger, a longtime Republican operative from California and the first openly gay presidential candidate in history. Karger has been mostly under the radar because he has been barred from participating in the slew of Republican presidential debates because his poll numbers allegedly aren’t high enough.
He’s best known among LGBTs for exposing the financial backing of by the Mormon Church (in which, incidentally, Romney is an elder) of anti-gay marriage ballot measures across the nation, particularly Proposition 8 in California. The Mormons have funneled millions of dollars to ballot campaigns supported by the National Organization for Marriage.
NOM has asked presidential candidates to sign its "Marriage Pledge." The document requires signers to oppose same-sex marriage and support a federal amendment defining marriage as limited to one man and one woman. The pledge also requires candidates to support the appointment of judges and an attorney general who will "respect the original meaning of the Constitution" and defend DOMA.
Thus far, Romney and three other candidates -- Rick Santorum, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann -- have signed. "I will never forgive him for signing the NOM pledge," Karger said about Romney in an interview with EDGE. "That he would do so is disgusting."
"The most offensive part of the pledge," he continued, "is a clause that requires the president to appoint a commission to investigate people like me who like to point out the shortcomings of anti-gay marriage forces."
Karger is on Republican primary ballots in Michigan and New Hampshire, where he is now running a campaign commercial. He’s planning to be on the ballots in several other primaries, including those in Washington, D.C., Utah, Colorado and Nevada.
Candidate Insists He’s Been Consistent
Romney maintains that he has always been consistent in his positions on gay rights. One of his campaign sites, "Why Romney", offers detailed explanations on a host of issues, from same-sex marriage to adoption, that border on obfuscation.
On the charge that he said in 1994 that he’d be better on gay rights than Ted Kennedy was, Romney contends that gay rights had a different meaning then than it does today. That will surprise many activists.
What the candidate actually said, according to the website, was that Kennedy would be less effective because he was viewed as too extreme: "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."
The site goes on to mention that critics cited a letter Romney wrote to the Massachusetts Log Cabin Republicans claiming that he said he would not only match but surpass Kennedy’s record on gay rights, implying that Romney took the same positions as Kennedy and would take them even further.
Romney maintains that those critics falsely paraphrased him. He contends he made his statement in reference to Kennedy’s "considerable record in the area of civil rights," not gay rights exclusively. Only then did Romney go on to argue that part of achieving civil rights goals is to "make equality for gays and lesbians a mainstream concern, stating that he could do what Kennedy cannot do, because the gay community needs more support from the Republican Party." Romney said he could "be a voice in the Republican Party to foster anti-discrimination efforts," which Kennedy obviously could not.
GOP Ambivalence at Romney
Although many predict he’ll emerge as the eventual victor in the GOP nominating process to oppose President Obama next year, Romney has not been able to muster more than about 25 percent support in national opinion polls. There are plenty of Republicans who simply don’t care for him.
Time magazine’s Dec. 12 issue features Romney on the cover with the headline "Why don’t they like me?" Romney’s Mormonism is one reason. Some evangelical Christians have said the religion is a cult. And, considering the church’s history of opposing gay civil rights, many wonder how he could possibly equate religious beliefs with support of employment rights.
Another factor driving the "anybody but Mitt" phenomenon among Republicans is that he committed the sin of being governor of Massachusetts, one of the most liberal states in the nation.
"Obamacare," the federal healthcare reform legislation that conservatives detest is similar to "Romneycare," the Massachusetts system created when he was governor. That likely will be the candidate’s biggest weak spot among primary voters.
In the general election, his flip-flopping on issues such as gay rights may well come back to haunt him.