Originally published on March 3, 2005
Governor Romney has been touring the country in the past few weeks, courting anti-gay right-wingers in South Carolina, Missouri, and Utah with speeches designed to show that he is firmly in their camp. Yet a look at Romney's record shows that his Rick Santorum drag act is a relatively new phenomenon.
Indeed, years before Romney ran for governor, he took several pro-gay stances in his unsuccessful 1994 Senate campaign against Ted Kennedy. According to an Oct. 17 Boston Globe article that year, Romney courted Mass. Log Cabin for their endorsement, promising them in a letter that, "as we seek to establish full equality for America's gay and lesbian citizens, I will provide more effective leadership than my opponent." Romney won that endorsement, in part due to his support of the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).
During that race Romney also won Republican Gov. William Weld's endorsement, and he said he was in step with the famously pro-gay governor on many issues, including same-sex marriage. According to an Oct. 21 article in the Globe, when Romney was asked whether he supported same-sex marriage, he answered, "I am sure [Weld] will study it and evaluate it and I will endorse his position on that." (At the time Weld had not come out in favor of same-sex marriage, but he has done so since the Goodridge decision. No such endorsement of Weld's position by Romney has been forthcoming.)
Romney also went to great lengths to dispel charges of homophobia leveled against him for his role as a lay leader in the Mormon Church. A July 15 Globe article alleged that Romney had told a congregation of about 300 Mormons that same-sex relationships were "perverse" in November 1993. Romney's campaign responded with a statement saying that Romney respected "all people regardless of their race, creed, or sexual orientation" and that he would fight against "discrimination of any kind."
Romney took a pro-gay position on another hot-button issue during the Senate campaign: the ban on gay people participating in the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). During an Oct. 25 debate Romney was asked about the Scouts' policy. He answered, ""I support the right of the Boy Scouts of America to decide what it wants to do on that issue," according to the Globe. He then added, ""I feel that all people should be allowed to participate in the Boy Scouts regardless of their sexual orientation." At the time Romney served on the executive council of BSA, and a spokesperson for the organization criticized Romney in an Oct. 27 Globe article for opposing the official BSA policy.
During his 2002 gubernatorial run his campaign distributed bright during Pride that declared "Mitt and Kerry wish you a great Pride weekend! All citizens deserve equal rights, regardless of their sexual preference." Romney also argued that he would not only support gay friendly policies but would fight on behalf of the gay community to secure benefits such as domestic partner benefits and hospital visitation rights for same-sex couples.
"Basically I see the provision of basic civil rights and domestic partnership benefits [as] a campaign against [then-House Speaker] Tom Finneran. I see Tom Finneran and the Democratic leadership as having opposed the application of domestic partnership benefits to gay and lesbian couples and I will support and endorse efforts to provide those domestic partnership benefits to gay and lesbian couples," Romney told Bay Windows in an interview published Oct. 24, 2002.
Once again he courted Log Cabin for an endorsement, and once again he got it. That October he met with members of the group's board of governors, where they asked him about his positions on LGBT issues. David Rogers, who served as president of Mass. Log Cabin in 2003, was present at that meeting. He said members were satisfied with Romney's replies about funding for HIV/AIDS programs and Safe Schools programs for LGBT youth, although he said he does not remember the specific positions on those issues that Romney took during that meeting. On the issue of same-sex marriage Rogers said Romney explained that he opposed it, but his answer led Rogers and others to believe that Romney might change his mind over time.
"He said [same-sex marriage] wasn't popular at this time... So I think his answer on marriage led many of us to believe it was possible, but not at this time," said Smith. He said the group did not discuss civil unions, gay parenting, or a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage with Romney during the meeting.
After Romney won the election, his first days in office gave some in the LGBT community hope that Romney might model himself after Weld in his approach to LGBT issues. At his Jan. 3, 2002 inaugural speech, Romney expressed the importance of defending civil rights "regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or race."
Romney also continued Weld's tradition of appointing openly gay people to key positions in his administration. One of his first cabinet appointments was Daniel Grabauskas, who Romney chose to serve in his cabinet as secretary of the Executive Office of Transportation and Construction.
The new governor's transition team also included several openly gay people, including Grabauskas, former lieutenant governor candidate and current president of the national Log Cabin Republicans Patrick Guerriero, and former Mass. Log Cabin president Mark Goshko.
Other gay Romney appointees include John Wagner, commissioner of the state welfare department, Mitchell Adams, executive director of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, and Jonathan Spampinato, a member of Romney's Diversity and Equal Opportunity Council. Two out lesbian appointees were fired by the governor shortly after getting legally married to their same-sex partners: Ardith Wieworka, former commissioner of Child Care Services, who was let go last summer, and Katherine Abbott, former commissioner of the Department of Conservation and Recreation, who was asked to resign last month after her department was blamed for not adequately clearing sidewalks along the VFW Parkway in West Roxbury where four high school students were hit by a pick-up truck after. Wieworka has since alleged that she was fired for marrying her same-sex partner. Abbott has refused to comment publicly on her firing.
Even after he came out in support of state and federal constitutional amendments to ban same-sex marriage, Romney took some actions that could be labeled pro-gay. He offered political and financial support to two openly gay Republican candidates for state representative in 2004, Richard Babson in the Eighth Suffolk District and Michael Motzkin of the Ninth Essex District, who both lost. Both candidates were promoted as part of the Romney Reform Team.
More recently Romney proposed allocating $250,000 for the Governor's Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth for fiscal year 2006, twice what he proposed for FY05. The Legislature ultimately funded the commission at $250,000 for FY05, so Romney's proposal for next year amounts to level funding, and the proposal is still a far cry from $1.6 million the commission received in the mid-'90s before the state budget crisis. Yet as commission co-chair Kathleen Henry said, Romney could just as easily have dissolved the program.
"We serve completely at the will of the governor," said Henry. She also said Romney issued an official commendation to recognize last year's 10th annual Gay/Straight Youth Pride Day on May 15.
All of which hardly sounds like the record of the man who's been courting red state America with anti-gay rhetoric.