Marriage Equality Opponent Mitt Romney To Gay People: ‘I Don’t Discriminate’

Mitt Romney had a hard time explaining how he has lived up to his 1994 campaign promise to “foster anti-discrimination efforts” on behalf of gays and lesbians within the Republican party during the NBC/Facebook debate in New Hampshire Sunday morning.” Instead, the former Massachusetts governor — who vehemently opposed marriage equality in his own state and relied on an archaic law to limit its impact — argued that he has never discriminated against gay people and appointed a gay cabinet member during his tenure.

“I made it very clear we should not discriminate in hiring policies, in legal policies,” he said. “At the same time in 1994, I said to the gay community, I do not favor same-sex marriage. I oppose same-sex marriage and that has been my view.” Watch the exchange:

Indeed, in his 1994 campaign for the Senate against Ted Kennedy, Romney said that he would be a stronger proponent of LGBT equality than the “Lion of the Senate” and promised to co-sponsor the Federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act and leave the question of marriage to the states. “As a result of our discussions and other interactions with gay and lesbian voters across the state, I am more convinced than ever 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 wrote in a letter to the Log Cabin Republicans.

As a presidential candidate, however, Romney opposes federal employment nondiscrimination protections and has proposed amending the constitution to outlaw same-sex marriage across the nation and institute a complicated three-tier system for married gay couples. He has also signed a pledge from the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), promising to derail equality for gays and lesbians.

In response to a question about how he would protect the rights of LGBT Americans, Rick Santorum also promised to make sure that “every person in America, gay or straight, is treated with respect and dignity and has the equality of opportunity” but pledged to continue opposing marriage equality and adoption by gay parents. The former Pennsylvania senator also said he would love his son, if he came out as gay — “I would love him as much as I did the second before he said it and I would try to do everything I can to be as good a father to him as possible.”