Our guest blogger is Elon Green, a freelance writer living in Brooklyn.
Throughout his campaign, Mitt Romney has struggled to deflect criticism that he is an unprincipled flip-flopper. This argument has been pointed out by his competition and by leading conservative commentators such as Brit Hume, who recently warned, “You are only allowed a certain number of flips before people doubt your character.” Indeed, Romney’s shifting positions have extended to issues including, but certainly not limited to, abortion, health care, and climate change.
But of all the issues on which Romney has taken a stance, few have been subject to more contortions than homosexuality and marriage equality. It’s often noted that Romney’s vigorous opposition to gay marriage — so extreme that he has aligned himself with the right-wing National Organization for Marriage — is not a staunch, long-held belief. During Romney’s 1994 senatorial run, for example, he pledged to “make equality for gays and lesbians a mainstream concern.” Eight years later, during his 2002 run for governor, Romney took a similarly progressive position when he proclaimed, “All citizens deserve equal rights, regardless of sexual preference.”
What has been largely overlooked is that prior to Romney’s unsuccessful senatorial run, his beliefs about gays were, to put it kindly, not so magnanimous. According to several articles in the Boston Globe in the mid ’90s, just before launching his senate run, Romney told an audience of Mormon Church members that homosexuality was “perverse” and “reprehensible.” From the Boston Globe, July 15, 1994:
Speaking last fall to a Mormon Church gathering, Mitt Romney, then on the verge of launching a bid for a US Senate seat, expressed dismay at reports of homosexual behavior in the group and denounced homosexuality as “perverse,” according to several people present at the meeting.
Romney’s alleged comments on homosexual practices were part of a 20-minute address he delivered on November 14 to the Cambridge University Ward, which numbers about 250 to 300 single Mormons.
“He said he was appalled at the incidence of homosexuals in the congregation,” said Rick Rawlins, a 32-year-old Mormon who had previously served as a counselor to the ward’s bishop. “He went on to say that he found homosexuality both perverse and reprehensible.”
Romney denied the veracity of the comments but, as the Globe noted, the account was confirmed by three other attendees:
“I believe that his general message was that sex outside of marriage is immoral, but on the other hand, I do remember that there was a specific remark that he was appalled at the incidence of homosexuality in the ward and he termed it perverse,” said one. “It was specific enough that I wanted to go see Bishop [Steven] Wheelwright right after that talk.”
Another person present offered this account. “During the talk, President Romney began talking about families and family values, and he mentioned homosexuality as a perversity. He went on for some time.” This person didn’t recall the exact term Romney used to express his dismay at report of homosexual conduct, but said: “He certainly was conveying that he was appalled.”
Said a fourth person: “He started going on about being upset about homosexuality in this ward. I remember him calling it a sickness and a perversion.”
The Romney campaign was deeply displeased by the Globe’s disclosure of the candidates comments. In fact, as the paper subsequently reported on July 24, 1994, one of Romney’s consultants accused the Kennedy campaign of leaking the story. “You have to wonder what payroll they’re on…what Kennedy payroll,” Charles Manning told a local radio host. (The allegation was denied by both the Kennedy campaign and the Boston Globe.)