The Romney I Battled Compared Marriage Equality for LGBT People to Slavery
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For me, a particularly searing memory is of the time when Romney dusted off a shameful old law that hadn't been applied in decades, the so-called 1913 law, to keep out-of-state same-sex couples from getting married in Massachusetts. It was a law whose origins were rooted in efforts to keep interracial couples from the South from coming to Massachusetts to marry, banning marriages of those who couldn't marry in their home states. Romney not only grabbed hold of this law and applied it vigorously; he talked proudly and derisively of ensuring that Massachusetts didn't become "the Las Vegas of gay marriage," especially when he was on the road and boasting of what he was doing to stop same-sex couples from marrying.
I also recall well Romney's attacks on gay parenting, which the Boston Globe reported on last week. Gay parenting had been commonplace for many years in Massachusetts, and the state had had second-parent adoptions for partners of the birth parent since 1993. Yet Romney refused to allow birth certificates listing two people of the same sex as the parents they in fact were. He actually required his chief counsel to personally approve the events surrounding the birth of every child born to parents of the same sex and then give approval to hospital staff to scratch out "father" or "mother" and write in "second parent," even though he was told how problematic defacing birth certificates like that was.
Not content with bad policy, Romney also made his disdain political, traveling outside his state to trash his own constituents. In 2005, for instance, he went to South Carolina and told a Republican gathering:
Today same-sex couples are marrying under the law in Massachusetts. Some are actually having children born to them. We've been asked to change their birth certificates to remove the phrase "mother" and "father" and replace it with "parent A" and "parent B." It's not right on paper. It's not right in fact.
"Actually having children born to them"? Despicable.
I also remember May 11, 2006, when Romney decided, out of the blue, to shut down the Governor's Commission on Gay & Lesbian Youth, established by Republican Gov. Bill Weld a decade earlier to address LGBT youth suicide and strengthened by Weld's successor, Republican Gov. Paul Cellucci, to support a broad array of anti-violence and anti-bullying work. Beth Myers, Romney's chief of staff (and today a senior aide), called the chair of the commission, Kathleen Henry, and told her that Romney was issuing an executive order "revoking our existence" because he was offended by the use of the word "transgender" on letterhead where his name was on the sidebar. She told Henry that Romney would replace it with a commission focused on all the state's youth, and that they'd replace all the members of the commission.
Defenders of LGBT youth were horrified. My good friend Liz Malia, the openly lesbian state representative from Boston, marched down to the governor's office and told staff that she wouldn't leave until she could have a meeting. After several hours she finally met with Eric Fehrnstrom, Romney's spokesman (and today a senior strategist), who reiterated that Romney wanted a commission focused on all youth, not just gay and lesbian youth.
After much pressure, Romney relented, but only with restrictions on what the commission could do. The damage had already been done, however, and so our allies in the legislature wrested this commission away from Romney and set up an independent commission.
As best I could tell (given that I was only in the governor's suite of offices in the Massachusetts State House on a couple of occasions during Romney's term), his office was very welcoming to our opponents on the far right. I recall ducking into a press conference where Romney was arguing for a constitutional amendment to strip away the freedom to marry and seeing the director of the far-right Massachusetts Family Institute in the press office on the side, using the copy machine as though it were his own office. And on Romney's last day in office, one of the first people lined up to shake his hand on his ceremonial exit from the State House was Kris Mineau, the executive director of the Family Institute.