(Photo: REUTERS/Chris Keane)
New Hampshire lawmakers plan to vote on a measure in January that would repeal same-sex marriages in the Granite state. Coincidentally, the timing of that vote may coincide with the Republican presidential primary. Like it or not, the GOP candidates are having to weigh in on the issue and for some, the thought of addressing such a divisive subject is downright terrifying.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney – now a resident of New Hampshire – has been sitting atop the state’s presidential polls for months. However, in recent weeks former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has catapulted and is challenging Romney’s lead and both may be reluctant to dive into the same-sex marriage debate.
The differences between Romney and Gingrich as it pertains to marriage are stark. Romney, a Mormon, has been married to his wife Anne for over 42 years but is viewed by most conservatives as unwilling to fight for traditional marriage.
During his four-year term as governor of Massachusetts, Romney watched as his state legislature legalized gay marriage. Afterward, and citing a court order, his administration granted around 200 requests for same-sex marriages in 2005 alone.
Romney’s biggest criticism is that he has flip-flopped on the issue of same-sex marriage. While running for the U.S. Senate in 1994, Romney told a gay newspaper in Boston that same-sex marriage is “a state issue as you know – the authorization of marriage on a same-sex basis falls under state jurisdiction.”
During a debate in June of this year, Romney said he is now in favor of a federal constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Also, in an interview Monday with the Nashua Telegraph, Romney reiterated his opposition to gay marriage but said he favors gay rights.
“The story on same-sex marriage is that I have the same position on that I had when I ran from the very beginning,” said Romney in the interview. “I’m in favor of traditional marriage. I oppose same-sex marriage. At the same time, I don’t believe in discriminating in employment or opportunity for gay individuals. So I favor gay rights, I do not favor same-sex marriage. That has been my position all along.”
Still, what Romney says doesn’t increase the comfort level of some who watch the issue closely.
“Romney has a history of talking out of both sides of his mouth for whatever political outcome or support he needs from the groups of people he’s speaking to obtain his political goals,” said Tricia Erickson, a media expert and author of Can Mitt Romney Serve Two Masters? The Mormon Church Versus the Office of the Presidency of the United States of America.
“He counts on people getting wrapped up in the enthusiasm and the persona of his election versus the people using their critical thinking skills and discernment and actually research if he’s telling the truth,” Erickson added.
Gingrich, on the other hand, is in his third marriage yet has a better record of fighting same-sex marriage bills, although he has a half-sister who is in a same-sex marriage. In 2008, Candace Gingrich-Jones posted an open letter to her half-brother in The Huffington Post. She wrote in part:
“The truth is that you’re living in a world that no longer exists. I, along with millions of Americans, clearly see the world the way it as – and we embrace what it can be. You, on the other hand, seem incapable of looking for new ideas or moving beyond what worked in the past … In other words, stop being a hater, big bro.”
Not only will the possible repeal of gay marriage in New Hampshire affect Republicans, it could also cause problems for President Obama. So far, he has been hesitant to fully embrace same-sex marriage, instead saying he is “evolving” on the issue.
Most political analysts predict that Obama will not come out and say he supports gay marriage before the 2012 election cycle, but will placate to the gay community in other ways. However, his reluctance to fully defend the practice of same-sex marriage angers his liberal base. The only difference being they will most likely still support his reelection efforts given the fact that supporting the Republican nominee will not advance their cause or legalizing same-sex marriage nationally.
In October, a New Hampshire legislative committee voted to eliminate gay marriage, instead, opting to replace it with civil unions. The same committee voted against a measure that would repeal gay marriage outright.
Republicans, who now have the majority in New Hampshire, have vowed to fight Gov. John Lynch’s promise to veto the bill if passed by the full legislature.