Deal W. Hudson
Published January 28, 2008
Note: I haven’t seen or heard anything since I wrote this to change my mind,
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has positioned himself as a pro-life, pro-family “social conservative,” and has received the endorsement of some prominent social conservatives. But Massachusetts-area grassroots Catholics familiar with his record as governor are mystified by that support.
Their view of Romney is that his “conversion” to social conservatism was pragmatic, a tactic to win the presidential nomination. The liberal policies that made Romney governor of Massachusetts – including a pro-abortion and pro-gay marriage platform – could not win him the Republican presidential nomination, so sweeping changes in his political philosophy were necessary.
Romney, the presidential candidate, is a politician vastly different from Romney, the governor of Massachusetts.
I’ve already questioned Romney’s pro-life conversion. Anyone who simultaneously supports both the adoption of frozen embryos and destroying them for scientific research is not to be trusted on this issue.
His record on the campaign trail only corroborates my concerns. For example, he campaigns as a fiscal conservative but promised a $20 billion taxpayer bail-out to the Detroit auto industry on the eve of the Michigan primary.
I have a hard time believing a President Romney would shed all the liberal bad habits he exhibited as governor – the same habits that pop up regularly on the campaign trail as he tells local audiences what they want to hear.
In a series of interviews with pro-life Catholics in Massachusetts, I uncovered a long list of concerns with Mitt Romney – and they are dead-set in their opposition to him. This is the story they told me.
Romney on Abortion
Today Romney describes himself as “pro-life,” and explains he converted to this position in late 2004. But his public statements and actions present a mixed history of pro-choice vs. pro-life positions.
During his 1994 Senate campaign against Ted Kennedy and in his 2002 gubernatorial campaign, Romney campaigned as a pro-choice candidate. In a televised debate against Kennedy in October of 1994, Romney said he felt “abortion should be safe and legal in this country,” and he believed this because his mother took that position in her 1970 U.S. Senate campaign.
When Kennedy labeled his opponent “multiple choice,” Romney rebutted that, since the time of a close relative’s death from an illegal abortion years ago, “My mother and my family have been committed to the belief that we can believe as we want, but we will not force our beliefs on others on that matter, and you will not see me wavering on that.”
Romney thus suggested he may have previously been neutral or pro-life, but he became pro-choice two years before Roe v. Wade (Conversion No. 1). He maintained that pro-choice position through his 2002 gubernatorial campaign, when he answered to Planned Parenthood and NARAL questionnaires by saying he supported “the substance of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade,” and “I respect and will protect a woman’s right to choose… Women should be free to choose based on their own beliefs, not mine and not the government’s.”
Oddly, Romney refused to answer the candidate questionnaire sent to him that year by Massachusetts Citizens for Life.
By spring of 2005, Romney was highlighting his personal opposition to abortion in out-of-state speeches. “I’m in a different place than I was probably in 1994, when I ran against Ted Kennedy, in my own views on that.” On May 23, 2005, Romney was quoted in USA Today saying he was “personally pro-life” but declined to say more. “I choose not to elaborate on those because I don’t want to be confusing to people in my state.”
Massachusetts Citizens for Life was “unimpressed with those moves,” and still considered Romney an abortion-rights supporter.
Romney has attributed his pro-life conversion (Conversion No. 2) to a November 2004 stem cell research discussion with a Harvard researcher. He now claims he has joined company with other political figures such as Ronald Reagan and Henry Hyde who changed their views.
Tom McClusky of the Family Research Council summarized his view: “For a lot of people, especially Christian conservatives, it’s one of those black and white issues. You’re either pro-life or not. That’s the trouble with Governor Romney – he’s gray.”
Romney on Emergency Contraception
The Boston Globe claims that a visible result of Romney’s abortion shift was his July 2005 veto of a bill making the “morning-after pill” (Plan B) available over-the-counter at state pharmacies and requiring hospitals to offer it to rape victims.
If Governor Romney has indeed suddenly become committed to the culture of life in the past two years, why did he eliminate the conscience exemption allowing Catholic hospitals to opt-out of the intrusive law that his own Department of Public Health decided to grant them?
On December 7, 2005, the Globe reported that Romney’s Department of Public Health had determined Catholic and other privately run hospitals could opt out of giving the morning-after pill to rape victims because of religious or moral objections. A statute passed in previous years said that privately run hospitals could not be forced to provide abortions or contraception, and indeed, Article II of the Massachusetts Constitution guarantees such freedom of religious practice.
When pro-choice groups complained, Romney immediately caved-in – or “flip-flopped,” as Massachusetts Democrats described it, saying that after legal review, his own lawyer found all hospitals in the state would be forced to provide the morning-after pill to rape victims.
On December 9, 2005, the Boston Globe reported, “Governor Mitt Romney reversed course on the state’s new emergency contraception law… The decision overturns a ruling made public this week by the state Department of Public Health that privately run hospitals could opt out of the requirement if they objected on moral or religious grounds.”
Why did Governor Romney not simply abide by the state constitution and the decision of his own Public Health Department? He instead abandoned Catholic hospitals, setting them up for possible court battles if they upheld their constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion.
Romney on Gay Rights
Romney has become a crusader against same-sex marriage and activist judges. But his gay-friendly positions from his 1994 campaign against Senator Kennedy have recently come back to haunt him, and documents held by Massachusetts pro-family activists and the Boston-area gay newspaper, Bay Windows, show how Romney’s pro-gay actions as governor have not matched his conservative rhetoric.
Romney’s previous comments reported by the New York Times, Boston Globe, and other papers are troubling on their own. In 1994, Romney won the endorsement of the gay-advocating Log Cabin Club of Massachusetts, saying he would be a stronger advocate for gays than Senator Kennedy. “We must make equality for gays and lesbians a mainstream concern. My opponent cannot do this. I can and will.”
During his 2002 run for governor, Romney supported full domestic partnership benefits for gay and lesbian couples, which had been opposed by Democratic legislative leadership, and his campaign distributed pink flyers during Gay Pride events promoting equal rights for all citizens regardless of their sexual preference.
During that same 2002 run, Romney also denounced as “too extreme” an effort by pro-family groups to enact a state Marriage Protection Amendment banning gay marriage, civil unions and same-sex domestic-partnership benefits which could have preempted the November 2003 same-sex marriage court decision.
Romney’s inactions as governor that allowed the gay agenda to advance among young people are even more troubling. For example, the Governor’s Commission for Gay and Lesbian Youth promotes gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender (GLBT) education in schools via speaking presentations, films, books, dances (such as transgender proms), handouts, and establishment of GLBT clubs.
Although Romney had legal control over the entity, he never tried to limit its use of funding, impact the membership, or dissolve the commission until after the legislature created a redundant commission several months before the end of his four-year term in office. In fact, Romney’s fiscal 2006 budget included $250,000 for the commission, twice what he proposed spending in 2005. Romney signed annual proclamations recognizing Youth Gay Pride Day.
Romney’s Department of Public Health supported publication of “The Little Black Book: Queer in the 21st Century,” a pamphlet that includes graphic instructions about safely performing gay sex acts, which even liberal Boston Herald columnists described as “filled with crude vulgarities” and a “vile little pamphlet… dirt, dummied-down poison to the mind.”
Romney’s Department of Education provides extensive instructions to schools on forming Gay/Straight Student Alliances; advocates that school children attend gay pride parades; proposes agendas for a gay/lesbian “Day of Awareness, including a panel of transgender individuals talking about transvestite/transsexual issues; and suggests top ten Gay Straight Alliance meeting topics such as “What would the world be like if 10 percent of its people were straight and 90 percent were gay?” and “What would it be like if parents wanted their children to grow up gay?”
Romney on Judicial Appointments
For all of Romney’s rhetoric about activist judges, his own judicial appointments also leave much to be desired. The Boston Globe reported in July of 2005 that Romney had “passed over GOP lawyers for three-quarters of the 36 judicial vacancies he has faced, instead tapping registered Democrats or independents – including two gay lawyers who have supported expanded same-sex rights.”
In May of 2005, Romney selected for a district court judgeship Stephen Abany, a former board member of the Massachusetts Lesbian and Gay Bar Association who organized the group’s opposition to a 1999 bill to outlaw same-sex marriage. The MLGBA is “dedicated to ensuring that the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision on marriage equality is upheld, and that any anti-gay amendment or legislation is defeated.”
Ironically, the Globe reports that two days before Abany’s nomination, Romney was lamenting the liberal tilt of the state’s bench, telling Fox News that “our courts have a record here in Massachusetts… of being a little blue and being Kerry-like.”
Catholics would no doubt also be surprised to hear another Romney choice for the bench was Marianne C. Hinkle, who described herself as a longtime active member of Dignity/USA, a group that wants to reform the Catholic Church’s views and teachings on gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender activity.
Romney on Gay Adoption
Massachusetts Catholics say that Governor Romney’s positions on adoption of children by homosexual couples are contradictory at best, and that inaction on his part contributed to Catholic Charities of Boston exiting their adoption ministry in 2006 after more than 100 years of service.
In terms of his public rhetoric, Romney tries to have it both ways. He has been dismissive of same-sex parenting to South Carolina Republicans, saying sarcastically that some gay and lesbian couples “are actually having children born to them,” while in Massachusetts, he says he recognizes that homosexual couples “have a legitimate interest in being able to receive adoptive services.”
Romney’s action and inaction on this issue has been different from his stated position. In late 2005 and early 2006, when Catholic Charities of Boston was under fire for having complied with a state regulation requiring adoption agencies to broker adoptions for homosexual couples, Romney initially claimed he could not unilaterally exempt them, as an exemption would require legislation “and would not be something I would be authorized to do on a personal basis.” Since legislative leaders had previously declared such legislation would be effectively dead on arrival, Catholic Charities proceeded to exit the adoption business, and Romney’s subsequent decision to file legislation asking for the exemption indeed went nowhere, with zero benefit to the agency.
Romney refused to use his executive powers to change the regulation, and even former Gov. Michael Dukakis weighed in to say Romney’s legislation was “unnecessary,” in that “the state’s anti-discrimination statutes do not preclude an exemption for the Catholic organization.” Abortion is constitutionally protected, yet Catholic hospitals that do not perform abortions on religious principle are not prevented from being reimbursed for Medicaid-eligible services.
The liberal Governor Dukakis, who signed the original gay rights bill during his tenure, said there was nothing mandated in this area and observed, “Governors can change regulations if they want to, that’s up to them.” So why did Romney back down?
Romney on Gay Marriage
On November 18, 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) ruled in Goodridge vs. Dept. of Public Health that same-sex couples should not be denied the right to marry in Massachusetts. Since that time, Romney has pushed aggressively for a marriage-protection amendment in Massachusetts. This amendment passed its first round in the legislature on January 2, 2007, but failed to pass in June of 2007, killing that amendment and hopes of any rollback of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts for at least four years, if not forever.
Governor Romney, however, previously opposed a 2002 marriage-protection amendment that would have preempted the court ruling of November 2003.
Romney has also been one of the more outspoken politicians on the national scene in favor of defining marriage as between one man and one woman, and against activist judges whose rulings paved the way for gay marriage.
But what many people don’t know, and what is most overlooked by the media, is that John Adams had the foresight in 1780 to write specific provisions in the Massachusetts Constitution, the world’s oldest functioning written constitution, to prevent judicial activism of this sort.
Unfortunately, Romney made no attempt to exercise most of his constitutional options in order to block same-sex marriages before they began or stop them while in office, and Catholic activists would like to know why.
Romney could have declared the ruling null and void, and therefore unenforceable, immediately after it was handed down in November of 2003. How? Article 5 of the Massachusetts Constitution says, “All causes of marriage, divorce, and alimony… shall be heard and determined by the governor and council.” Romney could have said that the court simply had no jurisdiction to rule over the definition of marriage.
The Massachusetts Constitution also has specific provision for removing judges without cause via a “bill of address.” Instead of responding to a problem of activist judges by going through a lengthy process of amending the Constitution, the offending judges can simply be removed from office for distorting the Constitution to impose their own views.
Such a procedure has been successfully used several times in the past in Massachusetts. In the spring of 2004, Romney could have supported the active grassroots effort and Democratic-sponsored legislation to remove the judges who wrote the Goodridge decision.
If Romney was genuinely troubled by the role of “activist judges” in the same-sex marriage issue, why did he refuse to support this move in 2004?
Interestingly, on the campaign trail in New Hampshire on November 24, 2007, Romney publicly called for the resignation of a Massachusetts judge after the judge released a violent criminal who then apparently murdered a Washington state couple. Should Catholics assume that the Goodridge judges’ radically unconstitutional redefinition of marriage for all of society is not sufficiently serious a matter for Romney to have called for their resignation any time in the past four years?
Next, Romney could have followed the precedent of Abraham Lincoln in the 1857 Dred Scott case – which Romney himself referred to in a Wall Street Journal editorial – and respected the decision of the Court with regard only to the litigants in that specific case.
As Hadley Arkes explained in National Review, Lincoln and his party did not try to set the slave Dred Scott free once the Supreme Court had confirmed him to remain in slavery. Lincoln only accepted the ruling for the parties in the specific case, and he did not allow the public policy of the whole country to be affected by the Supreme Court’s decision.
Romney could have announced that he would respect the decision for the plaintiffs, but he could have insisted then that clerks issue licenses of marriage only to couples who had come through comparable litigation and received a comparable order from a court.
If Romney was such an enthusiast for Lincoln’s response to the Dred Scott decision and so determined to block same-sex marriage, why didn’t he pursue the same strategy to try and block same-sex marriage from propagating beyond the small group of Goodridge litigants?
Finally, and most importantly, since the ruling stopped short of changing the previous marriage law, a strong governor could have simply refused to do anything.
Article X of the Massachusetts Constitution provided Romney clear justification for ignoring the court order. “The people of this Commonwealth are not controllable by any other laws than those to which their constitutional representative body have given their consent.” And Article XX says, “The power of suspending the laws, or the execution of the laws, ought never to be exercised but by the Legislature.”
The justices who wrote the Goodridge decision knew this – which is why they specifically did not strike down the previous law. The legislature was then given 180 days in which to act.
GLAD Attorney Mary Bonauto, representing the seven gay couples who sued the state, said immediately after the 2003 Goodridge ruling, “The only task assigned to the Legislature is to come up with changes in the law that will allow gay couples to marry at the end of the 180-day period.”
All three branches of government concurred. The SJC clarified their ruling in February of 2004, writing to the Senate: “The purpose of the stay was to afford the Legislature an opportunity to conform the existing statutes to the provisions of the Goodridge decision.”
Romney himself in April of 2004 said, “The Legislature has yet to follow a directive from the SJC to change the state’s marriage laws. I believe the reason that the Court gave 180 days to the Legislature was to allow the Legislature the chance to look through the laws… and see how they should be adjusted… for purposes of same-sex marriage; the Legislature didn’t do that.”
And State Sen. Bruce E. Tarr, a gay-marriage supporter, said in April 2004 that he believed the legislature would ultimately pass bills that would insert gender-neutral language into the state’s marriage laws in time for the May 17, 2004, deadline. “No one should interpret inaction thus far with the idea that no action is forthcoming.”
But the Massachusetts legislature never acted to change the law. What happened between April 2003 and May 2004 when Romney decided a “new law” existed and ordered town clerks to follow it by issuing same-sex marriage licenses?
And since the court ruling never ordered the governor to do anything, why did Romney order justices of the peace to perform the unions or resign their positions if they objected on moral grounds?
Even if some people not familiar with the Massachusetts Constitution felt that somehow the court did change the law, since the court had violated its constitutional authority, what would have happened if Romney had had the courage to stand up and defy it?
Virtually every pro-family conservative in the country urged Romney to stand strong at the time and defy the court. The Family Research Council said, “Most important right now is for the governor to stand firm [and] not allow any marriage licenses to be handed out on May 17.”
Concerned Women for America urged Romney to intervene via executive order and “put the brakes on this madness. He needs to make it clear that the law has not changed, and that on May 17 homosexual couples cannot make a mockery of God’s institution of marriage.”
Patrick Buchanan called on Romney to declare, “There is no basis for it [the court’s decision] in law… in the letter or spirit of the Constitution of our Commonwealth… And as I took an oath to defend the Constitution of the Commonwealth, I intend to disregard the court order of last November.”
The Massachusetts Catholic Conference went on the record saying the SJC “exceeded their authority,” and Governor Romney failed in his duty to “uphold the Constitution.”
Instead of standing up for his supposedly strong beliefs on marriage and defending the Constitution, Romney exercised his leadership by ordering justices of the peace to perform same-sex marriages.
This is consistent with his 2002 campaign promise to the Massachusetts Log Cabin Republicans, who, according to the New York Times, Romney courted at a gay bar and promised if a same-sex marriage court case worked its way through the judicial system, he would “obey the court’s ultimate ruling and not champion a fight on either side of the issue,” telling those gathered that he would “keep [his] head low,” according to one participant.
Romney has countered that he was “forced” into implementing homosexual marriages, but he refused to pursue other options backed by pro-family conservatives and his own state Constitution.
Now Romney campaigns against the same-sex marriages he himself, not the court, made a reality. In short, he is campaigning as a social conservative against, and in spite of, his own record as governor.
Pro-life Catholics in Massachusetts are increasingly bitter that social conservatives are ignoring Romney’s record and listening only to his promises. I can’t blame them.