Fox News’ Chris Wallace challenged Mitt Romney on his past support for gay rights during Thursday night’s GOP presidential debate in Sioux City, Iowa. The former Massachusetts governor defended his 1994 claim that he would fight harder for equality than Ted Kennedy, explaining that he “does not believe in discriminating against people based upon their sexual orientation,” and could have fought “for anti-discrimination in a way that would be even better than Senator Kennedy, as a Democrat, who would be expected to do so.” He insisted, however, that he has consistently opposed marriage equality. Watch it:
The answer didn’t satisfy Rick Santorum, however, who dredged up false accusations that Romney voluntarily signed same-sex marriage licenses himself. Santorum’s claim is a popular misconception put forward by right-wing groups that conflates the state’s One Day Marriage Designation with actual marriage licenses. As the Massachusetts state website explains, “[t]he One-Day Marriage Designation is not a marriage license,” but rather a certificate the governor can issue to “designate non-clergy individuals to solemnize a marriage.” Once same-sex marriage became legal in Massachusetts, the Romney administration granted designation applications to same and opposite sex couples.
In reality, Romney tried to limit the impact of the ruling by ordering town clerks to enforce a little-known 1913 law to deny licenses to out-of-state couples and even testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of a federal marriage amendment.
In 1994, Romney also promised to co-sponsor the Federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act and claimed that marriage policy should be left to the states. He now supports a federal constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage and a complicated three-tier system for married-gay couples.