Mitt Romney, Flip-Flopper?

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That Mitt Romney has flip-flopped on social issues in his attempt to pander to the conservative Republican base in order to win the Republican nomination for President is old news. Nonetheless, a story in today’s New York Times provides a nice description of how Romney’s position has:and has not:changed on lesbian and gay rights. For me, the most interesting part of the story was a description of how Romney dissuaded one of his sons from becoming a Democrat in the early 1990s (unfortunately, as we will see below, the exact year in which this conversation occurred was not more precisely specified).

Romney took his son through the differences between Republicans and Democrats, and he explicitly warned his son that, even though it is wrong to discriminate,”where Democrats are going, they’ll eventually want to extend marriage to gays.”This warning raises some serious questions about Romney’s attitudes toward lesbians and gay men.

In the early 1990s, same-sex marriage was not the lightning rod issue that it is today because it did not even appear to be within the realm of possibility at that time. The first wave of litigation regarding same-sex marriage had occurred in the 1970s and had been entirely unsuccessful. As a result, the issue was largely dormant from then until 1993, when the Hawaii Supreme Court first raised the specter of legally-recognized same-sex relationships. This watershed was followed by the enactment of the federal Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, which, having been passed by a Republican Congress and signed by a Democratic President, was designed to ensure that any victory in Hawaii (which, in the end, was not to be) would be of limited effect. It was not until the end of the 1990s that we saw the first concrete step toward legally recognizing lesbian and gay relationships:when Vermont enacted its civil union regime in 1999.

This timeline raises an interesting question: Why was Romney so worried about same-sex marriage early in the 1990s when no one else was? Is this story merely self-serving revisionist history? Or, more troublingly, is it evidence that Romney’s dissembling actually occurred while he was governor of Massachusetts (as possibly evidenced in the New York Times story by the reference to a 1994 speech in which Romney allegedly called homosexuality”perverse”) and not now during the presidential campaign?

-Anthony C. Infanti

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