As we gear up for another televised smackdown between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, I want to revisit something the former Massachusetts governor said at Monday’s debate that is still bugging me. NBC’s Brian Williams asked Romney, “[W]hat have you done to further the cause of conservatism as a Republican leader?” To which he replied, “Well, number one, I’ve raised a family.”

My first thought ran to how desperate it was for Romney to use his family as a human shield to protect him against the ongoing suspicion that he is a conservative in name only. But then I started thinking about his opposition to marriage equality and same-sex adoption rights.

Conservatives bemoan the demise of marriage while they actively block the gay and lesbian couples who would love nothing more than to strengthen it. Conservatives complain incessantly about the breakdown of the family while doing everything they can to deny gay and lesbian families the respect, protection and dignity they deserve.

An update of a report that I wrote about last October — “All Children Matter” — will be released tomorrow by the Center for American Progress, Family Equality Council and the Movement Advancement Project that will have more sobering statistics. For instance, one-fifth of male same-sex couples raising children (21 percent) and female same-sex couples raising children (20 percent) are living in poverty. The report also notes, “31 percent of same-sex households raising children have household income below $50,000 compared to 27 percent of married heterosexual couples raising children.” And as the initial study pointed out, due to inequitable laws, particularly the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, the extra financial burden over 18 years for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender couples raising children is more than $219,000.

If raising a family is a way to be considered a conservative, then the gay male and lesbian couples currently raising more than 2 million children in the United States are conservatives, too. Romney can ignore them, even deny them the dignity and respect he and his family enjoy. But with a majority of Americans (63 percent) saying “a gay or lesbian couple raising a child is a family,” Romney and his fellow travelers are on the wrong side of the issue — and history.