The Log Cabin Republicans announced Tuesday that they have endorsed Mitt Romney for president, a significant departure from 2008, when the group ran ads hitting Romney for his shift from moderation to severe conservativism and highlighted him as an example of what is wrong with the Republican Party. The organization, which calls itself “the nation’s only organization of Republicans who support fairness, freedom, and equality for gay and lesbian Americans,” makes this choice despite Romney’s staunch support for a federal marriage inequality amendment and his steadfast opposition to LGBT equality.
The “qualified endorsement” notes:
If LGBT issues are a voter’s highest or only priority, then Governor Romney may not be that voter’s choice. However, Log Cabin Republicans is an organization representing multifaceted individuals with diverse priorities. Having closely reviewed the candidate’s history and observed the campaign, we believe Governor Romney will make cutting spending and job creation his priorities, and, as his record as Governor of Massachusetts suggests, will not waste his precious time in office with legislative attacks on LGBT Americans.
Romney has a long, surprisingly consistent record of actively opposing LGBT equality. Despite once pledging, as a candidate, to be “better than Ted” Kennedy on gay rights, Romney made his opposition to marriage equality one of the benchmarks of his one term as governor. He fired two state employees ostensibly for marrying their same-sex partners, dissolved the Governor’s Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth, blocked an anti-bullying guide because it contained the words “bisexual” and “transgender,” and his testified against marriage equality to the Senate Judiciary Committee after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled the state’s ban was unconstitutional. A Boston Spirit article recently noted his stunning insensitivity to LGBT people, including reportedly telling a lesbian constituent, “I didn’t know you had families.”
As a presidential candidate, Romney signed the National Organization for Marriage’s (NOM) pledge to support a federal marriage inequality amendment to the constitution and to appoint anti-equality Supreme Court justices. His campaign website notes that he will “appoint an Attorney General who will defend the Defense of Marriage Act” and “champion a Federal Marriage Amendment to the Constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman.” He boasted that he used an obscure 1913 law (originally intended to limit interracial marriage) to prevent out-of-state couples from marrying in Massachusetts, saying “we prevented Massachusetts from becoming the Las Vegas of gay marriage.” His political committee even donated $10,000 to NOM in support of California’s unconstitutional Proposition 8.
The Log Cabin Republicans attempt to make the case that the economy, jobs, and the national debt are more important issues in this election than equality — suggesting that LGBT people should put aside their dreams of legal equality and focus on their pocketbooks. But they miss the important point that legal inequality hurts LGBT families economically. Romney, for instance, opposes a federal employment non-discrimination law which would protect workers from being fired purely based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. It’s good for workers and good for business, whereas a job with no protections might be of little value. He opposes any federal recognition for same-sex couples, which means that those families are denied the tax benefits given to opposite-sex married couples. Some of those benefits might not even be available if Romney were successful at rolling back Obamacare. And, study after study shows that states that adopt marriage equality see a major economic benefit.
The “qualified endorsement” dismisses Romney’s oft-mentioned support for enshrining discrimination in the constitution as “an empty promise made to a vocal but shrinking constituency,” that “should not be the basis of a decision to withhold an endorsement from an otherwise qualified candidate.” The group refused to back George W. Bush’s re-election in 2004 over his support for the same proposed amendment. In backing John McCain in 2008, the group said, “On the most important issue that LGBT Americans faced in the last decade — the federal marriage amendment — Sen. John McCain stood with us. Now we stand with him.”
In 2008, then-Log Cabin Republican executive director Patrick Sammon told the Center for Public Integrity that his group had made defeating Romney its priority because he represented exactly the sort of anti-LGBT demagogue that his group fights to eliminate from the GOP:
SAMMON: I think, if you look at this past campaign, there are still too many Republican candidates who try to capitalize on gay issues by using anti-gay politics. I think it’s less effective. We’ll see less of it in the future. The fact is that there are still people like Mitt Romney who lack integrity who are willing to try and use gay people as a political issue. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but I think the environment is much better than it was back then.
The group opted to back the anti-LGBT Romney over President Obama, who has enacted hate crimes legislation, ended Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and been the first president in history to support marriage equality.
After the Log Cabin Republicans began running their 2008 ads against Romney, spokesman Kevin Madden told the New York Times, “Governor Romney supports a federal marriage amendment and so it makes sense that a national gay rights group would attack him.”