The founder of the gay political action group Log Cabin Republicans asserts that Mitt Romney does not support gay marriage, even though Romney did make concessions to the group in his 1994 bid for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts.
Rich Tafel told the Los Angeles Times in an article this week that, despite support for same-sex issues during the 1994 Senate election, Romney quickly turned against them as governor when the state's highest court endorsed gay marriage.
"He needed issues that would help him pivot," Tafel told the Times. "I think he truly does oppose gay marriage, but the speed with which he jumped on and rode that issue struck me as political."
During the 1994 campaign Romney wrote a letter to Massachusetts chapter of Log Cabin Republicans saying he supported full equality for LGBT citizens. He also claimed he supported President Clinton's "don't ask, don' tell" policy in addition to the Federal Employee Nondiscrimination Act.
But soon after taking office as Massachusetts governor in 2003, the state's Supreme Court issued what is known as the "Goodrich" ruling, saying that same-sex marriage is protected in the state's constitution.
"I disagree with the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts," then Gov. Romney said in 2003. "Marriage is an institution between a man and a woman. I will support an amendment to the Massachusetts constitution to make this expressly clear."
Senior advisers to Romney who recall the issue in 2003 told the Times that Romney's response was consistent with his beliefs and that his actions were necessary to avoid a constitutional crisis that seemed to be brewing at the time. While he respected the court's ruling, they said that Romney also worked with legislators to find common ground on language for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
Tafel and other gay marriage proponents said at the time Romney's comments were nothing more than an attempt to pander to conservative groups across the country.
Romney staffers told the Times that he did attempt to legislate middle ground – a ban on gay marriage while legalizing civil unions – but they assert strong opposition from gay rights activists doomed the effort. One staffer said Romney was forced to relinquish his support for civil unions because of what he considered a "muddled" process.
Romney's position on gay marriage and civil unions is still a sensitive subject with social conservatives in the GOP.
"I realize Gov. Romney has had a spotty record on gay marriage, but all I want to know is that he will stay strong and not let liberals talk him in to signing executives orders or laws that devalue traditional marriage," social conservative activist David Gilchrist told CP. "That's a big deal to me and many others."