In the letter, Romney claimed he would be an even better senator for gay and lesbian interests than Ted Kennedy. “If we are to achieve the goals we share,” Romney wrote, “we must make equality for gays and lesbians a mainstream concern. My opponent cannot do this. I can and will.”
Here’s how Romney described Bill Clinton’s “don’t ask/don’t tell” policy: “I believe that the Clinton compromise was a step in the right direction. I am also convinced that it is the first of a number of steps that will ultimately lead to gays and lesbians being allowed to serve openly and honestly in our nation’s military.”
But as Bay Windows editor Susan Ryan-Vollmar observes, the letter “was widely reported on at the time.” Why Romney thought he could ever fool the Christian right into believing he had always been an ally is a mystery.
Interestingly, the Romney revelations (re-revelations?) coincide with a cover story (sub. req.) in The New Republic about the only other religious-right presidential candidate, U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas.
Like Romney, Brownback comes off as someone who, a dozen years ago, held distinctly more moderate views than he does today. Unlike Romney, Brownback appears to have undergone a sincere religious conversion, from mainline Protestant to evangelical Christian and, finally, to devout Catholic.
Romney, on the other hand, is trying to claim that his Mormon faith makes his views one with those of the religious right. Never mind that his mother, also a Mormon, appears to have been pro-choice. Never mind that Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, among the best-known Mormon politicians in the country, favors embryonic-stem-cell research, which Romney does not.
And never mind that Romney himself, in his first run for office, portrayed himself as pro-choice and as a staunch supporter of what the religious right likes to denounce as “the homosexual agenda.”
For connoisseurs of political hypocrisy in its purest form, the Romney letter is gold. But have his presidential hopes been destroyed?
Not necessarily. The number-one issue for gay men and lesbians today is same-sex marriage, which Romney can claim never to have supported. Marriage equality was barely on the radar in 1994. Even when he ran for governor in 2002, it had not quite attained critical mass. So he’ll try to thread the needle, saying he supports gay and lesbian equality but not marriage.
Will religious-right voters buy it? It’s hard to say. But Romney had certainly better hope he’s not on record supporting, say, civil unions.