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How Romney’s Flip-Flops on Gay Issues Come Haunt Him

by Peter Cassels
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Dec 13, 2011

The famously flip-flopping Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is at it again. He now says he supports gay rights, but remains opposed to same-sex marriage. How can that be? Gays and lesbians consider the ability to marry an essential right.

In his quest for the presidency, Romney apparently wants to be all things to all voters. His flip-flopping is a major reason why so many of them dislike and distrust the candidate, observers say.

Critics on both the left and the right say he panders to the audience he is targeting at any given time.

When the influential and highly conservative Manchester Union Leader, the largest daily in New Hampshire, recently endorsed Newt Gingrich, its front-page editorial included a thinly veiled slap at Romney: "We would rather back someone with whom we may sometimes disagree than one who tells us what he thinks we want to hear."

The endorsement was considered a blow to Romney in his bid to win the Jan. 12 New Hampshire primary. He's is seen as a favorite son because he owns a summer home in the Granite State and is leading in opinion polls there.

The candidate appears to do more back flips on gay rights issues than Greg Louganis did off the diving board. During his 1994 race against U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, the liberal lion from Massachusetts, Romney said he was better on gay rights than his opponent was.

Since he first ran for president in the 2008 election, he has distanced himself from his earlier positions to appease social conservatives. That is until Nov. 21, when he told the Nashua (N.H.) Telegraph editorial board that he supports gay rights.

"The story on same-sex marriage is that I have the same position on that I had when I ran from the very beginning," said Romney. "I'm in favor of traditional marriage. I oppose same-sex marriage. At the same time, I don't believe in discriminating in employment or opportunity for gay individuals. So I favor gay rights. I do not favor same-sex marriage. That has been my position all along."

For 'Gay Rights.' But Not Marriage

It's the first time that a major Republican presidential candidate has supported gay rights. Even so, he has activists scratching their collective heads over how Romney could support equal rights for gays and lesbians, but not marriage, especially since he advocated for Massachusetts town clerks to validate them when the state became the first to legitimize gay marriage.

Marriage Equality USA has asked how he could favor employment rights while supporting the Defense of Marriage Act. "Romney's new stance raises profound questions for members of the armed forces who are legally married to same-sex spouses," said project leader Ned Flaherty in a news release.

If the candidate applies his fair employment policy to the military, he would also have to support an end to the denial of benefits to service members with same-sex spouses that DOMA requires, according to Flaherty.

Those benefits represent as much as 40 percent of compensation military personnel receive. Service members with same-sex spouses currently are not eligible for 368 active, reserve and veteran benefits that cover housing, health care, commissary discounts, separation pay, relocation, spouse employment aid, survivor benefits, legal services and burial rights.

EDGE asked the Romney campaign how the candidate could support both fair employment for gays and DOMA, and whether he would support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which has languished in Congress for more than a decade. The campaign, however, did not respond to our requests.

Marriage Equality USA has produced a continually updated Election 2012 table showing Romney favoring only fair employment on a list of 12 gay rights issues.

Five candidates, including President Barack Obama, rank higher overall.

Next: Signing the Anti-Gay 'Marriage Pledge'


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