Romney Stance On Gay Rights? It's Complicated Mitt Romney's position on gay rights doesn't quite lend itself to a bumper sticker. Depending on whom you ask, it is either too thoughtful and nuanced or too inconsistent and politically expedient. Either way, it's definitely got the GOP presidential candidate on the defensive.
NPR logo

Romney Stance On Gay Rights? It's Complicated

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/143590615/143586343" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Romney Stance On Gay Rights? It's Complicated

Romney Stance On Gay Rights? It's Complicated

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/143590615/143586343" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Mitt Romney has long opposed same-sex marriage, but he generally casts himself as a staunch supporter of equal opportunity for gays and lesbians.

NPR's Tovia Smith reports on Romney's record on the issue.

TOVIA SMITH, BYLINE: Mitt Romney's position on gay rights doesn't quite lend itself to a bumper sticker. Depending on who you ask, it's either too thoughtful and nuanced, or too inconsistent and politically expedient. But it's definitely got Romney on the defensive - as he was last month with the Nashua Telegraph in New Hampshire.

I have the same position on that I had when I ran from the very beginning. I favor gay rights. I do not favor same-sex marriage. That's been my position all along.

The second part is clear: Romney does not favor gay marriage. As he reiterated this morning, he supports the federal Defense of Marriage Act - or DOMA - that bars federal recognition of gay marriage as well as a federal constitutional amendment to do the same.

As governor, he did everything he could to stop gay marriage in Massachusetts after the state's high court allowed it. Romney vowed to keep the state from becoming, as he put it, the Las Vegas of gay marriage.

I agree with 3,000 years of recorded history: Marriage is an institution between a man and a woman.

But back during his first political run in 1994, Romney aggressively courted gay voters, promising to do more for, quote, full equality for gays and lesbians than his opponent, Senator Ted Kennedy. Today, Romney denies any inconsistency. Marriage wasn't really even on the table back then. As he explained to CNN's Piers Morgan, he didn't change his position.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

NED FLAHERTY: You cannot in the same breath say that you support non-discrimination against LGBT people, and that you support DOMA. It makes no sense.

SMITH: Ned Flaherty, with Marriage Equality USA, says since job benefits in many cases depend on marital status, Romney can't claim to be for equality and against same-sex marriage.

FLAHERTY: Someone who says that either doesn't know what they're talking about, or they know full well what they're talking about - and hope you don't know what they're taking about.

SMITH: Flaherty says Romney has also contradicted himself on gays in the military. Back in '94, Romney said he viewed "don't ask, don't tell" as a first step toward letting gays and lesbians quote, serve openly and honestly.

But by the time Romney made his first run for president, he argued to keep "don't ask, don't tell," as he explained in 2007 on CNN.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

CLARK COOPER: I would call it a retreat from where he was.

SMITH: Clark Cooper, head of a gay-advocacy group called the Log Cabin Republicans, says Romney's position is disappointing, and flies in the face of core conservative principles of federalism.

COOPER: This is...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

COOPER: Welcome to my world. This is the frustration. You know, Governor Romney is not so different from other conservatives.

SMITH: But Romney says a federal definition of marriage is needed as a practical matter, as he explained on CNN in 2009.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.