The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins would not commit to supporting Mitt Romney as the GOP presidential nominee during an appearance on MSNBC this morning. Perkins — who is head of an organization that has been branded a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center — accused Romney of supporting “special employment rights based upon sexual behavior” and said that he “has a record that does not match his rhetoric.”
“The question is the level of enthusiasm and intensity,” Perkins said, predicting that conservatives would only grudgingly support Romney’s candidacy:
Indeed, conservatives have raised eyebrows about Romney’s support for LGBT causes in the early part of his political career. For instance, in 1994, Romney met with the Log Cabin Republicans and pledged, “I’m with you on this stuff… I’ll be better than Ted Kennedy.” Romney promised, in writing, to fight for “full equality for America’s gay and lesbian citizens,” co-sponsor a federal employment nondiscrimination act, and characterized Don’t Ask Don’t Tell as “the first in a number of steps that will ultimately lead to gays and lesbians being able to serve openly and honestly in our nation’s military.” He told Richard Weld, the group’s founder, that marriage equality was “not appropriate at this time” and insisted that the issue should be left to the states.
Romney continued his somewhat welcome embrace of gays and lesbians while serving as head of the 2002 Utah Olympics. He approved an amended workplace nondiscrimination policy that covered sexual orientation and “later reached out to Salt Lake’s gay community as part of the committee’s effort to enhance diversity in the Olympic workforce.”
Later as a gubernatorial candidate in 2002, Romney told a meeting of gay equality proponents that he would “support everything that it calls for in terms of recognizing unions between people. But just don’t use the M-word.” He promised to “promote tolerance and fight discrimination….[and] proposed a thorough review of state laws to see where lifelong gay and lesbian relationships were negatively affected, and how the state could change its practices to make them nondiscriminatory.” “At a very young age, my parents taught me important lessons about tolerance and respect,” he told gay equality groups. “I have carried these lessons with me throughout my life and will bring them with me if I am fortunate enough to be elected governor.” Romney’s campaign distributed flyers at a gay pride parade and he promised to strengthen laws against hate crimes, expand funding for AIDS treatment and prevention and “said he would look to both ‘protect already established rights and extend basic civil rights to domestic partnerships.’”
As he prepared to make a run for national office, however, Romney “adopted a wholly new tone on gay rights.” He railed against the Massachusetts Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage and lobbied Congress to pass a federal amendment outlawing the practice and questioned the fitness of gays and lesbians to serve as parents. “Some are actually having children born to them,” Romney said of gay couples before a nationally televised address to South Carolina Republicans in February 2005. Romney ultimately “sought to amend Massachusetts’s antidiscrimination laws so a Catholic adoption agency could deny placements to gay couples” and “eliminated the Governor’s Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth, a panel that funded programs for gay teens and their schools.”
In this latest campaign, the former Massachusetts governor holds more moderate positions that still fall short of his earlier advocacy. He says he wouldn’t reinstate the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy or strongly lobby for a Constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage. But he continues to pander to the right, telling a gay veteran in New Hampshire that he would support the repeal of same-sex marriage in the state. In its place, he would institute a complicated three-tier system for married gay couples.