Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R) said Thursday that he believes gay couples should be allowed to adopt children, even as he reiterated his view that marriage is defined as a relationship between a man and a woman.
In an interview with Neil Cavuto of Fox Business Network, Romney was asked whether he believes the gay marriage debate is a new civil rights movement, as some Democrats have framed the issue.
“I don’t see it in that light,” Romney responded. “I believe my record as a person who has supported civil rights is strong and powerful. At the same time, I believe that marriage has been defined the same way for literally thousands of years by virtually every civilization in history and that marriage is by its definition a relationship between a man and woman.”
He added that “if two people of the same gender want to live together, want to have a loving relationship, even want to adopt a child — in my state, individuals of the same sex are able to adopt children. In my view, that’s something which people have the right to do, but to call that marriage is, in my view, a departure from the real meaning of the word.” . . . .
Romney has made similar statements in the past. In 2006, as governor of Massachusetts, Romney told the Boston Globe that same-sex couples have “a legitimate interest in being able to receive adoptive services.” In 1994, he told the Boston Herald, “I would leave it [gay adoption] up to the states. I would not oppose it or require it.”
Had Romney’s comments on adoption by gay couples occurred in the primary, I suspect Rick Santorum and religious conservatives would have screeched. They are right that Romney does not have the fire-in-the-belly dogmatism on these sorts of issues.
What made him infuriating to social conservatives in the primary makes him a tough target in the general election. He’s not the mean-spirited caricature of a Republican that the Obama campaign would make him out to be. If the Obama campaign was hoping Romney would respond to the president’s “evolution” on gay marriage with snarls and heavy-handed rhetoric, they don’t really “get” Romney.
The gay-adoption issue, even more than the gay-marriage issue, is a phony one for the presidential election. Adoption and child services more generally are quintessential state issues. That doesn’t, of course, keep the media or activists from focusing on these topics in a presidential race.
The main takeaway from this is that if President Obama wants to campaign on cultural-wedge issues, he has a real problem: Romney’s not inclined to engage or provide much of a contrast. In the end, that leaves Obama hollering about issues most voters rank very low on their list of priorities.