Romney Signs on to Anti-Gay Group’s Campaign Pledge

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday August 5, 2011

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has signed on to a campaign pledge created by the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage, a group that seeks to obstruct marriage equality and, in states where gay and lesbian families are legally allowed to wed, to roll family parity back.

Romney had earlier declined to sign a pledge concocted by a fringe-right Iowa group. That pledge sparked controversy by claiming that African American children were better off in the days of slavery than they are now. Only Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum, both virulently anti-gay politicians, signed that pledge.

Bachmann and Santorum also put their names to the NOM pledge, reported Politico on Aug. 4.

The NOM pledge commits signatories to push for "a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage, to appoint federal judges who don't see a Constitutional right to same-sex marriage, and to back the Defense of Marriage Act" should they be elected to the office of the presidency.

NOM's pledge also requires signatories to put the existing marriage rights of gay and lesbian families in Washington, D.C., up to a popular vote, Politico noted.

Campaign pledges have proliferated in recent election cycles, but may be reaching a point at which they have grown so numerous and so specific that candidates who wish to forge their own message are less willing to put their names to them.

A July 19 AAssociated Press story noted that the pledges candidates are faced with now not only come from numerous groups seeking to position themselves as kingmakers, but also "aren't just bland statements of support for broad ideals." Case in point: The pledge from the radical Iowa group that Romney's campaign rejected, and that Bachmann and Santorum hastened to sign, read more like a manifesto, with fourteen detailed and specific points on its agenda, many of them plainly and specifically anti-gay.

"The pledges, many advanced by right-leaning interest groups, are roiling the race, boxing candidates in to positions that could hurt them in the general election, and pushing contenders to make promises they might come to regret if ever seated in the Oval Office," the AP article said.

In the case of the Iowa group's racially offensive pledge, the risk of regret materialized almost instantly, with rights groups denouncing the document and the politicians who signed on to it and the mainstream press taking more interest in the agenda's racial overtones than the explicit anti-gay language.

"Some candidates welcome the pledges as an opportunity to strengthen their support among various voting blocs and to draw distinctions between themselves and their competition," added the AP article. "But others are resisting pressure to adopt pledges that attempt to put words in their mouths."

Insofar as the pledge drawn up by the Mormon Church-affiliated NOM struck many of the same notes that Romney, himself a Mormon, has struck already, it may well be the case that the anti-gay group did not put any words into Romney's mouth that were not there already. The current front-runner among a crowded field of GOP hopefuls, Romney has said that he would favor an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would write anti-gay language into the nation's bedrock law and supersede marriage equality in the six states where gay and lesbian families may currently wed.

Though Romney was governor of Massachusetts when that state became the first in the union to allow same-sex couples to wed, in 2004, he voiced strenuous opposition to marriage equality and attempted various means of derailing and diluting marriage rights in the state, including dusting off an antiquated, and racist, law from 1913 that had originally been passed as a means of discouraging mixed-race couples from going to Massachusetts to marry.

But despite his hard rightward tack ever since his gubernatorial days, some conservatives have accused Romney of being a stealth supporter of marriage equality.

In a letter addressed to "Conservative, Catholic and Evangelical Leaders," written by a former California state lawmaker named Steve Baldwin, Romney was the subject of a series of sharply critical assertions.

"When Romney first ran for President, he declared himself to be a social conservative but as governor he did great damage to America by unilaterally ordering homosexual marriage to be instituted in Massachusetts," the letter declared.

The letter also decried an array of laws, bills, and policies intended to counter anti-gay discrimination, and attempts to link Romney to them in various ways.

"As Governor, Romney implemented a Executive Order that created a vast 'diversity' agency to make sure those of all races and 'sexual orientations' be hired throughout state government," the letter stated.

Subsequently, the letter's text condemns the Employment Non-Discrimination Act as "a full assault upon religious freedom." Romney, the letter said, lent his support to the measure, which has been approved almost every legislative session for decades but never been approved by U.S. lawmakers.

The letter took aim at Romney's much-publicized flip-flops on a number of issues that are dear to conservatives.

" ...Romney has also been both in favor and against minimum wage legislation, capital gains taxes, gun control, amnesty for illegal aliens, campaign finance reform, the Kyoto agreement, gambling, gun control, and many other issues."

The letter also brought up the health care plan introduced to Massachusetts under Romney, calling the plan "RomneyCare, a mini-version of ObamaCare that Romney continues to defend to this day.

"It forces everyone to buy health insurance and massively regulates the market, just like ObamaCare," the letter continued. "And RomneyCare is bankrupting the state, creating sharp premium increases and destroying the quality of health care, just like ObamaCare will do if it survives.

"But this should be no surprise," the letter continued. "ObamaCare was inspired by RomneyCare, and Health Care For All, a socialized medicine advocacy group, was heavily involved with both efforts."

The letter took exception to claims that Romney's business acumen would be useful in the Oval Office, and essentially criticized the would-be candidate for not being Ronald Reagan.

"The goal of conservatives is to scale back government, not manage big government more efficiently," the letter stated. "Ronald Reagan had little business experience, but he also knew the business of government was carried out by people he appointed so he set about appointing conservatives."

But Romney's "worldview," the letter suggested, is not trustworthy to conservatives.

Anti-gay groups evidently do not subscribe to that view. At NOM's webpage, Romney, along with Bachmann and Santorum, were hailed by the anti-gay group's president as "Three marriage champions," with Brian Brown quoted in an Aug, 4 posting as saying that the three contenders stood "head and shoulders above the crowd... for their willingness to go beyond words to commit to concrete actions."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.