Romney's Record on Gay Rights Questioned

The Associated Press
Tuesday, December 12, 2006; 9:05 PM

BOSTON -- Conservatives concerned about inconsistencies in Republican Mitt Romney's record on gay marriage and abortion said Tuesday the Massachusetts governor has some explaining to do.

For now, at least, the potential presidential candidate isn't talking.

The governor's office issued a brief statement last weekend amid reports of a 1994 letter in which Romney, then a Senate candidate, pledged to be a more effective champion for gay causes than his opponent, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass.

The statement said the governor has been a "champion of traditional marriage."

At a gathering of San Diego County Republicans on Monday night, Romney brushed aside a question from The Associated Press. "Thanks, I have other people to talk to right now," he said.

An adviser to Romney's political action committee, Barbara Comstock, issued a statement Tuesday night saying that the governor defends traditional marriage and opposes "unjust discrimination against anyone" but doesn't see a need for new or special legislation. Romney also agrees with President Bush's decision to maintain the military's "don't ask, don't tell policy" regarding homosexuals, she said.

Such responses may not satisfy conservatives, who hold critical sway in the primaries and could opt for other possible candidates with strong records on social issues such as Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback and Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Several conservative leaders are seeking answers from Romney.

"I am concerned and I do think he needs to explain this," said Paul Weyrich, chief executive officer of the Free Congress Foundation. "Because he either is or isn't in favor of the homosexual agenda and we need to know before we would get involved in his candidacy."

Richard Land, a top member of the Southern Baptist Convention, was among a group of evangelicals who met with Romney at his home in October. Land said Tuesday, "Christians believe in conversion, and so they're open to listen, but when a candidate 12 years ago says he is more of a champion on these issues than Ted Kennedy, that needs to be explained."

Tom Minnery, spokesman for Focus on the Family, the Colorado-based evangelical organization, said homosexuality is an emotional issue.

"You've got to be committed to your position for it or against it or you'll be swayed, so he's got a lot of explaining to do," Minnery said of the governor.

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