Romney's Supposed 'Liberal Republican' Father Attacked Women's Rights Advocates as 'Moral Perverts'
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While researching my ongoing series of articles for Not Safe for Work Corporation on the relationship between the Romney family and the Mormon Church and their reactionary politics, I came across a shocker.
In 1979 and 1980, at the height of the battle to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, Mitt Romney’s father, former Gov. George Romney—the supposedly “liberal” “cool” Republican who was destroyed by Nixon’s dirty tricks—publicly denounced supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment as “moral perverts,” labeling the movement a homosexual conspiracy to destroy the American family.
George Romney is Mitt’s “inspiration” for his campaign, and it has been widely repeated to that point of uncontested truth that Mitt’s father was a “liberal” Republican and “champion” of civil rights. Clearly, the recent history of Mitt Romney’s family needs updating.
First, a little background: In 1979-80, just before Ronald Reagan was elected president, ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution was all but assured. But thanks to an intense and well-organized campaign waged by the Mormon Church leadership, the ERA was stopped in its tracks in Utah and a handful of other states where Mormon influence could make the difference.
As Jon Krakauer observed in his bestseller, Under the Banner of Heaven, “Most political analysts believe that had the LDS Church not taken such an aggressive position against the ERA, it would have been easily ratified by the required thirty-eight states, and would now be part of the U.S. Constitution.”
Indeed, before the Mormon leadership targeted the women’s rights amendment for destruction, support even in Utah ran high—a 1974 poll published in the Deseret News, which is owned by the LDS Church, showed that 63% of Utah residents “approved of the ERA,” according to Krakauer’s book.
The years 1979-80 were crucial in the battle to kill the Equal Rights Amendment and turn the momentum. Mormon feminists like Sonia Johnson—who founded Mormons for ERA—were excommunicated from the LDS Church, and denounced on television by top power-Mormons like Sen. Orrin Hatch.
And that is when George Romney, Mitt’s father and Mitt’s “inspiration” for his presidential campaign—joined the Mormon Church’s campaign vilifying the Equal Rights Amendment and its supporters as “moral perverts.” Romney’s hate-filled attacks on ERA supporters shocked mainstream Americans, who couldn’t quite believe it at first—so Mitt’s father went public a second time equating ERA supporters to homosexuals and moral perverts, who were one and the same according to Mitt’s father.
From “Romney: ERA home for ‘moral perverts’” published by the AP on December 17, 1979:
George Romney says the equal rights movement has attracted ‘moral perverts’ who want to undermine the very family the Mormon Church is striving to enrich.
“At an international women’s year meeting,” said Romney, “lesbians and the homosexuals and moral perverts (cited) this amendment as a means of eliminating any basis of moral criticism.”
...Romney said he supported his church’s decision to excommunicate feminist Sonia Johnson who had campaigned for the ERA.
A week later, the leaders of the Michigan state senate and house, along with 32 other state legislators, called on former Gov. Romney to resign from a post he held in 1979 as governor of Wayne State University. House Speaker Bobby Crim and Senate majority leader William Faust issued a joint statement in December 1979 that Romney’s statements “sadden us deeply. His insinuation that the amendment is being promoted by ‘moral perverts’ is misguided and inaccurate.”
Mitt’s dad refused to back down, or resign. Instead, a couple of weeks later, George Romney published a letter in the Mormon Church’s newspaper The Deseret News in which he doubled down on his attacks, writing:
“Surely this resolution [the ERA] and its supporting statements are designed to legitimize sex and social relationships other than those that form the basis of divinely ordained marriage, parenthood, family and home..."
Romney also argued that the ERA would legitimize practices contrary to what he called “the truths about sex and sexual preferences voiced by God through his prophets.” [“Romney fears ERA would be boost for gays”, Miami News Services, January 1, 1980]
In 1993, Apostle Boyd Packer—who currently serves as the Number Two man in the LDS Church hierarchy— was quoted in Krakauer’s book as saying the three biggest threats facing the Mormons were “the gay-lesbian movement, the feminist movement, and the ever-present challenge from the so-called scholars or intellectuals.”
The LDS Church’s attitude towards women is more well-known—this past week, the Daily Beast’s Stacey Solie wrote an article calling on zombie-moderator Jim Lehrer to ask Romney about his church’s views on women, and if he agreed with them.
It’s been accepted as a given that the Romneys were never the types to fall in line with the church’s more extreme reactionary politics—and that Mitt’s father and “inspiration,” Gov. George Romney, was a “liberal” and a brave supporter of civil rights.
Indeed in 1967, Gov. George Romney specifically promised that the Mormon Church's reactionary politics would not impact his commitment to liberal politics and civil rights. In an article headlined "Romney Insists Mormon Faith Won't Mar His Liberal Stand" Mitt's father, comparing himself to JFK, told Protestant and Catholic clergymembers :
"My faith has influenced me to believe that every human being is a child of God as I am, and should have every opportunity I have...I believe I'm entitled to be judged on the basis of my action, not someone else's ideas of what may be the precepts of my church."
That of course turned out to be a lie: 12 years later, Mitt's father took his marching orders from the LDS Church attacking the Equal Rights Amendment as a gay/lesbian plot and its supporters as "moral perverts."
Maybe a better question then to ask Mitt Romney is, does he support his father’s stance on the ERA as a plot by “moral perverts” to destroy the American family, given that his father serves as Mitt's "inspiration"? And more importantly, if the LDS Church calls on a President Romney to take a stand on a national issue, will Mitt, like his father, fall in line and carry the reactionary water, whatever the consequences for everyone else?