This morning, Mitt Romney claimed that his campaign selects spokespeople based on their capability, not their “sexual preference.” Nevertheless, the apparent benching and subsequent resignation of his openly gay foreign policy adviser Richard Grenell raises serious questions about whether Romney actually opposes discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
In 1994, Romney infamously pandered to the Log Cabin Republicans of Massachusetts in a failed U.S. Senate run, promising to co-sponsor the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and broaden it to include protections for housing and credit. He added that preventing discrimination against gays and lesbians should be a “mainstream concern.” In his coordination of the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, he even followed through on this commitment by approving a nondiscrimination policy with sexual orientation protections and working with the local gay community to “enhance diversity in the Olympic workforce.” In 2007, however, Romney told Tim Russert on Meet The Press that he had changed his position on ENDA:
RUSSERT: You said that you would sponsor the Employment Nondiscrimination Act. Do you still support it?
ROMNEY: At the state level. I think it makes sense at the state level for states to put in provision of this.
RUSSERT: Now, you said you would sponsor it at the federal level.
ROMNEY: I would not support at the federal level, and I changed in that regard because I think that policy makes more sense to be evaluated or to be implemented at the state level. And let me describe why.
RUSSERT: So you did — you did change.
ROMNEY: Oh, Tim, if you’re looking for someone who’s never changed any positions on any policies, then I’m not your guy.
So it seems that Romney doesn’t believe people should be fired for being LGBT, he just doesn’t think it’s the job of the federal government to protect them. Perhaps his failure to confront to social conservatives over Grenell’s appointment demonstrates why he refuses to take a stronger position. In fact, Grenell may not have been the first employee Romney forced out of a job due to pressure about his sexual orientation. In 2004, then-Governor Romney’s administration asked Ardith Wieworka to resign as longtime head of the state’s Office of Child Care Services, and she strongly believed it was because she had married her lesbian partner. At the time, Romney was well into his transition away from supporting LGBT equality, testifying before the Senate in favor of a federal constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.
The Log Cabin Republicans are calling on Romney to take a stronger position against LGBT discrimination, which may not be entirely in vain. However, the evidence suggests that even if Romney talks the talk, he won’t bother to walk the walk if it hinders his political prospects.