Deroy Murdock Misleads About Romney’s Record on Gay Marriage

No American governor has faced more critical cultural issues than Mitt Romney, Massachusetts’ chief executive from 2003 to 2007. In the midst of Governor Romney’s efforts to rescue his state from a fiscal crisis and create lasting and innovative health care solutions, activist judges and a far-left legislature forced issues of same-sex “marriage,” abortion, religious liberty, stem cell research, and gay rights into the forefront. Each time he was challenged, the Governor not only made the conservative choice, but also did so with an optimistic, unifying message. In doing so, he became a national leader on these vital cultural issues without squandering his ability to govern the Commonwealth.

In spite of this impressive conservative record, Deroy Murdock claims in National Review today that Gov. Romney actually encouraged gay marriage as governor. The truth, however, is that Gov. Romney been one of the nation’s foremost advocates for traditional marriage by launching a multi-year (and multi-state) campaign to preserve traditional marriage after Massachusetts’ Supreme Judicial Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage.

My husband, David French has set the record straight several times, because it comes up quite frequently over the years as half-truths keep floating around the internet.  (David, I should say, is a co-founder of Evangelicals for Mitt, an independent website dedicated to spreading awareness about Governor Mitt Romney among Christian conservatives. He also holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School and is a leading constitutional attorney. We live outside Nashville and worship at Zion Presbyterian Church, a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America.)  David claims that Gov. Romney been one of the nation’s foremost advocates for traditional marriage:

From the moment the activist judges in the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court handed down their breathtakingly arrogant decision in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, the Governor took strong and consistent actions to defend marriage. He also took decisive action to make sure his state would not grant marriage licenses to out- of-state couples, thereby guaranteeing that Massachusetts would not become the “Las Vegas of gay marriage” (as he called it) and trigger a constitutional crisis as couples returned to their home states with Massachusetts licenses. He also initiated and led an effort to amend the Massachusetts constitution by referendum and has gone so far as to file suit against the Commonwealth’s own legislature after it took action to prevent the people of Massachusetts from voting on that amendment—a suit that resulted in the legislature complying with its constitutional responsibilities and sending the marriage amendment on to the next stage of the ratification process.

Critically, he has become a leading national advocate for marriage, with his optimistic and uplifting message dominating the public debate. Rather than casting the debate as one over adult rights, the Governor has made the best possible case for marriage, noting what we all should know but too often forget (at great cultural cost): Marriage does not exist for the convenience and enjoyment of adults, but as the best possible way of raising and nurturing children. The credible defenders of marriage in Massachusetts all agree, and through their own statement they have recently and emphatically made their feelings clear: Mitt Romney has been an invaluable supporter and advocate.

Yet despite this record, people like Deroy Murdock claim that Mitt Romney actually enabled gay marriage by not defying the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts—in other words, by not breaking the law.

This is simply an incorrect reading of the decision. Here is what the Supreme Judicial Court actually said: “We construe civil marriage to mean the voluntary union of two persons as spouses, to the exclusion of all others.” In other words, the court itself changed the definition of marriage. The reference to legislative action in the opinion merely gave the legislature a chance to amend the law to state what the court already said it meant. This was not advising the legislature; it was changing the law. Any governor who defied this decision risked contempt of court. Rather than becoming what the media would undoubtedly call the “George Wallace of gay marriage” by standing in the courthouse door and barring couples from receiving marriage licenses, the Governor chose legal means to resist the court’s decision.

And his decision was correct. It is now clear that the Goodridge decision represented not the beginning of the end of traditional marriage but what may well be the high-water mark of the same-sex marriage movement. Since that decision, homosexual marriage activists have been on the defensive virtually everywhere, losing referenda and losing court decisions. Had Governor Romney not offered a principled and effective defense of marriage, the outcome may very well have been quite different.

The Governor believes all people should be treated equally in the eyes of the law, but that no additional legal protections for sexual orientation should be added. Since his race against Ted Kennedy in 1994, sexual orientation nondiscrimination laws have become commonplace across the country, and it is easy to see and understand their effects. Since 1994, these laws have been used as pretexts for ejecting Christian student groups from college campuses, for closing religious-based adoptive services, for silencing people of faith as they seek to debate issues of sexual morality, and for transforming marriage laws (see the New Jersey Supreme Court’s recent decision).  In 2006, he strongly defended the right of Catholic Charities to refuse to place adoptive children in homes with homosexual couples. In taking this stand, he opposed virtually the entire Massachusetts political establishment, but he was defending the fundamental freedom of people of faith to live out their values. Once again, Governor Romney made the right choice.

But if you don’t believe David, obviously a Romney supporter, listen to the testimony of someone who was there in the trenches as all of this played out. Maggie Gallagher quit her job in 2003, when she learned the Massachusetts courts were likely to make gay marriage a reality.  Then she founded the National Organization for Marriage and jumped with both feet into the quagmire of the gay marriage issue in Massachusetts.  In other words, she was there as the sausage was being made, and she went on to become one of America’s foremost defenders of traditional marriage.  She says it’s “grotesquely unfair” to paint Romney as a supporter of the institution of gay marriage.  Romney “didn’t just oppose court-ordered same-sex marriage with words, he fought hard, including behind the scenes,” she says.  “On gay marriage, he’s been a rock.”  (For more information, read the Real ClearPolitics article called, “Mitt Romney Never Flip Flopped on Gay Marriage.”)

For the first time in many years, conservatives have a presidential candidate who not only shares their core political and moral values but can also communicate those values in a persuasive, compelling, and—yes—unifying way. We should not permit legal distortions, leftist-style scare tactics, and identity politics to obscure the truth about Mitt Romney—a man of principle who is and will be the best conservative standard-bearer in 2012.


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  • David Walser

    Do you think Deroy Murdock is unaware of the arguments you, your husband, Maggie Gallagher, and others make in defense of Romney’s record? I don’t think he’s unaware. I think Murdock, as a supporter of same sex marriage, wrote an intentionally inflammatory article to try to undermine Romney’s candidacy in Iowa. Murdock’s goal is to silence the one candidate — Romney — who can effectively persuade independent voters of the need to protect traditional marriage.

  • GramAjane

    God Bless you all for your work to get the truth out!!! May the truth prevail and evil lies fail!!

  • I think the real problem with the gay marriage issue is that the government has gotten into the business of deciding what is and is not a family, and granting special privileges to government-approved families (i.e. 1 man 1 woman marriages)… marriage by a modern conservative Christian definition is between 1 man and 1 woman, not between 1 man and 1 woman and 1 government.

  • Bless you and David for your contribution to truth. When Mitt and Ann become First Family we can all breath easier and cherish what the founding fathers have bequeathed to us.

  • BarbarianAtTheGate

    Mrs. French linked to this piece at NRO’s site. My response is here:

  • Steve Baldwin

    Ms. French did not even address the issue Murdock addresses, and that is how Romney used a purely discretionary statute to issue special one-day marriage permits to at least 189 same sex couples. Romney staff members have publicly admitted in the Boston Globe that he did this — and defended it as well. This is not in dispute by anyone familiar with this issue.

    And yes, Romney also bungled the Goodridge decision, needlessly implimenting a decision he did not have to impliment. This view is held by nearly every conservative constitutional scholar who has looked at the case — Mat Staver, Herb Titus, Hadley Arkes, and others. Moreover, Romney sought advice from several other constitutional scholars about what to do with the Goodridge decision. The advice was very consistent — ignore Goodridge since the court has no power to order the Governor to change or re-interpret existing marriage statutes. But Romney ignored them and went instead with the advice of his pro-gay in-house attorney David Winslow. Winslow later ran for office as a pro-gay marriage candidate and was endorsed by state gay groups due to his crowning achievement — convincing Romney to impliment gay marriage. In other words, Romney ignored some of the conservative movement’s leading legal minds and instead listened to a liberal activist on his staff.

    The idea that Romney was a champion of traditional values and traditional marriage is laughable. For a summary of a few dozen actions untaken by Romney to advance gay marriage, visit my blog here:

  • Steve Baldwin

    And one more thing, using Maggie Gallagher as her foremost witness that Romney did the right thing regarding the Goodridge decision is comical. Maggie is very bright but is not a constitutional scholar by any stretch. Moreover, she attacked the decision as illegitimate when it was first issued. She wrote on that the marriage laws were changed “without any authorization by the state legislature.” The implication was clear: Goodridge was not enforceable as long as the legislature didn’t act. And they NEVER acted. But now that Romney is a candidate for president, Gallagher now argues its not proper to portray Romney as pro-gay marriage. Which is it? Romney implemented the Goodridge decision she claims was unauthorized but years later says its unfair to portry him as pro-gay marrige? She is not credible on this issue. Good try Nancy.

  • Jim Tills

    Steve Baldwin is hardly a person to comment on Gay Marriage or Mitt Romney’s stand in regard to the subject. What a loser he has turned out to be himself. A turncoat RINO who is downgrading our only hope for turning out Obama. The timing of his commentary here and his major article on Race for 2012—just in time for the Iowa caucuses—proves my point.

    I actually supported Steve Baldwin as he ran for the legislature out of Southern California. What a disappointment he has turned out to be. Regarding his commentary on gay marriage and Mitt Romney, it is illogical and so subtlely deceptive. Romney’s actions were based on the interpretation he had of the Massachusettes Supreme Courts’ decision and where further legal action would take it. Sometimes a person has to compromise in the short term in order to win the greater war. We’ve all heard the banter that “he lost the battle, but won the war.” That was exactly Romney’s role regarding gay marriage in Massachusettes. Maggie Galagher is absolutely right in what she said, whether or not she has impeccable legal diplomas. Romney’s actions to turn aside further “written in stone” decrees on gay marriage were successful and gay marriage advocates from outside Massachusettes were denied access to that Court’s radical decision in the matter. Three cheers for Mitt Romney for his courageous and correct actions in these matters.

  • Timothy Dalrymple

    Ms French does address the issue, in the two paragraphs beginning with “Yet despite this record…”

    Maggie Gallagher is a great voice to bring into this because her credentials as a social conservative are above reproach, and because she was there (and unless I’m mistaken, you were not) to see the many ways in which Romney worked behind the scenes to overturn the Goodridge decision through Constitutional means. Steve, your story fails to make sense of the fact that Romney led the effort to overturn the Goodridge decision, dragging an overwhelmingly unwilling legislature through a lengthy constitutional process, even to the point of filing a lawsuit to force the legislators to do what the state constitution required of them. If he was a closeted supporter (so to speak) of gay marriage, why in the world would he have worked so extensively, and at so much cost to his own favorability in the state, to overturn the Goodridge decision? It makes no sense.

    I remember very clearly the feeling in the state after the Goodridge decision. Everything I read, as people parsed the decision and made sense of it, was that the Supreme Court had just affirmed gay marriage and basically given the legislature the freedom to codify that or work out the details. Of course, the SJC knows that the Mass. legislature is overwhelmingly liberal, so there was no plausible scenario in which the legislature itself (as opposed to the electorate) would have come up with a law that excluded same-sex marriage. That was *never* going to happen.

    If Governors can just ignore the state Supreme Courts and refuse to implement their decisions when they feel the courts have overstepped their authority, then they’re more or less given carte blanche to ignore the courts whenever they want. Not only would this precipitate a constitutional crisis, but it would be foolish. Mitt did the right thing. The Supreme Court ruling became the law of the land; he had to act within the constraints of the law, even as he went to great lengths to change the law through the only means available to him. Once the SJC issued the Goodridge decision, interpreting the state constitution in the way that they did, there was no plausible legal argument against granting the one-day powers to people who would administer weddings regardless of the genders of the marriage partners.

  • Concerned Citizen

    Again we see the rhetoric of “defending marriage”, but nobody has explained WHAT marriage would be defended. As I said before, I recently attended the wedding of two of my friends. They are deeply in love and have been partners for over 5 years now. Their families adore their new in-laws and neither of the two have been divorced before. If their marriage had been illegal, exactly WHOSE marriage would have been defended as a result?