Boston Spirit magazine has dug a bit deeper into Mitt Romney’s past interactions with LGBT people, particularly during his time as governor. Many of these stories are known: his firing of two state employees ostensibly for marrying their same-sex partners, his dissolution of the Governor’s Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth, his blocking of an anti-bullying guide because it contained the words “bisexual” and “transgender,” and his testimony against marriage equality to the Senate Judiciary Committee after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled the state’s ban was unconstitutional. But this new profile illustrates a more profound level of insensitivity to the experience of LGBT people than his past position statements suggest.
David Wilson and Julie Goodridge, two of the plaintiffs whose case led to the legalization of marriage equality in Massachusetts, described meeting with Romney to discuss their experiences. According to Wilson, “it was like talking to a robot. No expression, no feeling.” At one point, Romney remarked, “I didn’t know you had families.” Goodridge recalls her final exchange with the governor, which proved to her that he had “no capacity for empathy”:
GOODRIDGE: Governor Romney, tell me — what would you suggest I say to my 8 year-old daughter about why her mommy and her ma can’t get married because you, the governor of her state, are going to block our marriage?
ROMNEY: I don’t really care what you tell your adopted daughter. Why don’t you just tell her the same thing you’ve been telling her the last eight years.
Romney described the meeting to the press as “pleasant,” as Goodridge cried.
This lack of understanding for the experience of same-sex families seems to have played out even on the occasions in which he was open to supporting LGBT protections. Josh Friedes, who once served as advocacy director for the Massachusetts Freedom to Marry Coalition, explained Romney’s business-informed rationale:
FRIEDES: He made clear that he was willing to listen to business leaders about the issue of family recognition. The impression was that if business leaders told him certain benefits and protections would increase the productivity of gay workers, he would be open to supporting those. … It was not really about what these protections would do for gay families, but what they would do for the titans of industry… It felt like there was a lord/serf relationship.
Ardith Wieworka knows she cannot prove that she was fired as the state’s Office of Child Care Services just because she was going to marry her same-sex partner, but she remembers what Romney’s administration told her when they fired her: they wanted someone more “like them.”