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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