If I were a member of the VoteOnMarriage.org coalition or a signer of the anti-gay marriage petition (one of those who actually signed it out of conviction, that is, as opposed to one of those tricked into putting their name on it), I'd be furious with Gov. Mitt Romney today. I'd be wondering where he's been the last two years on the marriage issue.
Imagine if Romney had held a rally on the State House steps before the Nov. 9 constitutional convention (ConCon) and thousands of people had shown up to loudly demand that lawmakers take a vote on the marriage amendment. Romney might have changed the outcome of the ConCon.
As we all know, lawmakers voted 109-87 to recess the ConCon until Jan. 2, 2007. There is a slim chance that lawmakers could vote on the measure then, but it's extremely unlikely. Just about every observer of Beacon Hill politics believes that the amendment is dead. But right up until the morning of the ConCon, when pro-equality lawmakers and advocates sewed up enough votes to win a motion to recess the ConCon, the legislature could have gone the other way and voted to approve the amendment. The recess vote was a tough one for many lawmakers and it was a vote that the VoteOnMarriage.org side could have won. If, that is, the governor had actually been working with them.
In the last two years, Romney has spouted some over-the-top rhetoric about civil marriage rights for same-sex couples. He has claimed that such marriages harm children, that they diminish the marriages of heterosexual couples, that they mark the decline of tradition and order in society. You would think a man genuinely fearful for the health of marriage, a man who was actually in a position to do something about it, would do everything in his power to "defend" marriage. Think again. The only thing motivating this governor is personal ambition. The likely reason for his failure to hold a raucous rally prior to the Nov. 9 ConCon was his calculation that he had absolutely nothing to gain from it. What if he held the rally and the measure died anyway? Too risky. So Romney waited and held his made-for-TV-ad spectacular long after it could have any impact whatsoever on the actual debate.
It's one thing to be a homophobe out of ignorance. It's another to be a homophobe for political gain. In 2006, the former is inexcusable while the latter is despicable.
Anyone thinking of supporting Romney's bid for president because of his socially conservative views on gay people should know a few things about the governor. When Romney ran against Ted Kennedy for the Senate in 1994, he wrote a letter to the Mass Log Cabin Club in which he pledged: "[A]s we seek to establish full equality for America's gay and lesbian citizens, I will provide more effective leadership than my opponent." During the same campaign, when he was accused of having once described gay people as "perverse" during a religious meeting of Mormons, Romney's campaign issued a forceful statement decrying the accusation as false and reiterating that Romney respected "all people regardless of their race, creed, or sexual orientation."
During his 2001 run for governor, his campaign distributed bright pink flyers at the June Pride parade declaring "Mitt and Kerry wish you a great Pride weekend!" During his inaugural speech, he said it was important to defend civil rights "regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or race." He appointed eight openly gay and lesbian people to high profile positions in his administration. And before he decided to run for president - that is to say, before he needed to establish some strong anti-gay bonafides - Romney doubled the budget line item for the Governor's Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth. This would be the same commission, mind you, that Romney tried to disband in highly public fashion last May.
Is Mitt Romney a homophobe? I have no idea. It's hard to say that he isn't when he appears on a stage, as he did this past Sunday, with Roberto Miranda, who once compared the marriages of same-sex couples with the terrorist attacks of September 11. With Romney just several feet away from him, Miranda angrily warned the crowd that gay activists were "aggressive, invasive, politically sophisticated and powerful" and that they sought to impose the "homosexual agenda in our schools, our workplaces, the social service sector and eventually our homes and even our churches."
Ultimately, it doesn't matter whether Romney is a bigot. Because he's an opportunist who's more than happy to take advantage of the bigotry of others. It's been obvious for quite some time now that he's been using the marriage equality side for political gain. But everyone in the VoteOnMarriage.org coalition should know that he's using them, too.