(Photo: REUTERS/Darren Hauck)
Likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has named an openly gay man to his team of campaign advisers on national security and foreign policy issues in a move that is drawing criticism from some conservatives questioning his Mormon beliefs.
Richard Grenell, 45, is an experienced politician who has served as a spokesman for the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and was also appointed by Ambassador John Danforth in 2004 to serve as an alternative representative of the United States to the U.N. Security Council, SouthFloridaGayNews.com reported.
Grenell has been a prominent voice for gay Republicans and has worked for a number of GOP politicians, including New York Governor George Pataki, former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, and San Diego Mayor Susan Golding.
The announcement from Romney's camp on Thursday did not identify Grenell as an openly gay man, but focused on his political career. The former U.S. ambassador aid, however, is reportedly living with his long-term partner in California but is expected to eventually work at Romney's headquarters in Boston.
"Mitt Romney has a record, throughout his entire career, of assembling top notch teams to execute the tasks at hand," said Jimmy LaSalvia, head of the national gay conservative group GOProud, "and I think this choice shows that he'll attract the top talent to help him bring America back. And that's good for all Americans – gay or straight."
Bryan Fischer, however, host of conservative talk-show Focal Point, expressed that this decision makes it clear that Romney cannot be considered a conservative candidate.
"Now, whether Grenell indulges in that, I don't know. He's in this long-standing relationship, but I've had those who've come out of the gay community tell me personally, 'Look, when I was in the gay community … I had a partner and we told everybody we were monogamous but we had a deal that we could fool around on the side all we wanted to,'" Fischer shared of his experiences.
Directly addressing Romney, the Focal Point host asked the Mormon candidate to explain exactly why he has appointment a member of the homosexual community to his team.
"So, Mitt Romney's church teaches this conduct is considered sinful. … Governor Romney do you agree with the teachings of your church? If you do, then what in the world are you doing hiring somebody to be a public representative on your behalf who has admitted to the entire world that he engaged in acts that you believe are offensive to God?," On Top Magazine quoted.
The Mormon church officially defends the traditional definition of marriage as between one man and one woman and counts homosexual behavior as sinful.
"Now, if you don't agree with your church, then why should the evangelical community – why should the pro-family community – give you any support whatsoever?" Fischer added.
The news of Grenell's hiring came only days before gay-right activists met with LDS church officials in Salt Lake City to discuss Mormon attitudes and discourse toward gay people, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
The group, Soulforce, made several requests to the LDS representatives: to cut all ties with and denounce groups using "reparative" therapy in its treatment of gays; to cut its funding to groups that are fighting to preserve the traditional definition of marriage across the country and to add sexual orientation and gender identity/expression to the faith's policies for church employees.
The Mormon Church has not yet explained how it will respond to these requests, but a church spokesman, Scott Trotter, explained that "the church meets with many people representing a variety of organizations and issues."