While running for U.S. Senate against the late Sen. Ted Kennedy in 1994, Willard Mitt Romney famously told the Log Cabin Club of Massachusetts, "I am more convinced than ever before that as we seek to establish full equality for America's gay and lesbian citizens, I will provide more effective leadership than my opponent."
Now as a candidate for president, former Gov. Mitt Romney faces off against a pair of culture warriors: former House Speaker Newt Gingrich who is steadfast in his support for so called "traditional marriage" despite having cheated on at least two of his ex-wives, and Rick "don't Google me" Santorum who talks about gay sex more than I do and I'm an out and proud gay man.
So, what's the former Massachusetts governor to do?
Talk out of both sides of his mouth of course.
During his campaigns for the Republican nomination, Romney has been quick to note his record of opposing marriage equality in his home state before pivoting to
he opposes "discrimination against gay people."
Before we get any deeper into his views on the LGBT community whom he claims he'd oppose discriminating against, it's worth reviewing the legal discrimination gays and lesbians currently face in this country. Some facts Romney may find surprising:
- Gay people like me can be fired from my job simply for being gay in 29 states.
- Gay people like me can be denied housing simply for being gay in 30 states.
- Gay people like me cannot jointly adopt a child in 34 states if they find that special someone and want to start a family.
- Gay kids in school are not protected from anti-gay bullying and harassment in 33 states.
- It is even worse in each of these categories for transgender men and women.
While Romney opposes marriage equality, it's worth pointing out these numbers as well:
- Gay people like me can enter into a loving, legally and equally recognized relationship in only 6 states and DC though none of them enjoy federal benefits or recognition. (Note: Marriage equality may soon be coming to Washington, Maryland, Maine, and New Jersey.)
That's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the state sanctioned discrimination against LGBT people in America. There are many other examples where the gay community is relegated to second-class citizenship status at the local, state, and national level.
Having a Republican leader like Romney say he opposes marriage equality while also opposing discrimination against gays and lesbians should sound like progress even if only a little. Unfortunately, as is often the case with the former Massachusetts governor, Romney has taken public positions in direct conflict with his claimed opposition to LGBT discrimination.
Most notably, Romney opposes the Employment Non Discrimination Act, which would protect LGBT people from being fired simply for being who they are.
It's no wonder Evangelical conservatives are uneasy with Romney given his pandering throughout the 1990s. LGBT people should feel just as uneasy given his lip service and inability to back up his words with sound public policy positions that clearly show his supposed opposition to LGBT discrimination.
Romney is trying to have it both ways—he claims to be both opposed and supportive of us at the same time. It may be the best we can expect from a leading national Republican but it's not the best we should expect from a president.
- Read an interview with the first openly gay U.S. ambassador James Hormel.
- Washington Whispers: Michelle Obama's SOTU Guests Feature Trailblazing Lesbians
- Vote: Should the Defense of Marriage Act Be Repealed?
Note from the author 1/30/2012: This entry was originally titled, "Mitt Romney Goes 'Bi' for Gays," a play on words used again within the post. In retrospect I now see that my attempt at humor through word choice was not only in bad taste but perhaps even deeply offensive to the bisexual community. At no time did I intend to hold the bisexual community up for ridicule. To the contrary. My ire was reserved for Mitt Romney and the post has been updated accordingly.