Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney touted his work against marriage equality as Massachusetts governor and pledged to continue his opposition to same-sex marriage as president in a speech Friday before a conservative conference in D.C.
Speaking before attendees at the 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference, Romney said the Massachusetts state supreme court “inexplicably” found a right to same-sex marriage in 2003. The candidate suggested finding such right would be contrary to the intentions of Founder John Adams, the author of the state constitution.
Romney said he pushed for a stay in that decision and called for an amendment to the state constitution banning same-sex marriage, which he said lost “by only one vote in the legislature.”
The candidate also touted his resurrection of a 1913 law prohibiting out-of-state couples from marrying in Massachusetts. That law was later repealed under Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick.
“I successfully prohibited out-of-state couples from coming to our state to get married, and then going home,” Romney said. “On my watch, we fought hard and prevented Massachusetts from becoming the Las Vegas of gay marriage.”
Kara Suffredini, executive director of MassEquality, said Romney is distorting what happened by saying the marriage amendment lost “by only one vote” because a supermajority of lawmakers in the legislature voted to preserve marriage equality and against bringing marriage to the ballot.
It takes the votes of two consecutive legislatures to place a citizen-initiated measure on the ballot. The Romney-backed marriage amendment passed the first time around in January 2007, but failed the second time later that year.
In June 2007, 151 legislators opposed the amendment and 45 supported it, while four legislators were absent or abstained from voting, falling more than one vote short of the 50 votes required to advance the measure to the November 2008 ballot.
“Abstentions don’t count as a ‘yes’; I think it’s fair to say [Romney is] misstating the facts,” Suffredini said. “Opponents of marriage equality and their public face, Gov. Romney, failed to garner even 25 percent support among lawmakers to send a constitutional amendment to repeal marriage equality to the ballot.”
Romney’s remarks generated significance from the applause that packed the hall at the Marriott Woodley Park hotel. The candidate then said he’d continue this opposition to same-sex marriage, pledging to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court and back a Federal Marriage Amendment.
“When I am president, I will defend the Defense of Marriage Act and I will fight for an amendment to our Constitution that defines marriage as relationship between a man and a woman,” Romney said, eliciting even greater applause.
The candidate is among the GOP candidates who’s signed a pledge from the National Organization for Marriage committing himself to defend DOMA in court, support a U.S. constitutional amendment banning marriage equality and establish a commission on “religious liberty” to investigate harassment of same-sex marriage opponents.
Romney added during his speech that he would rollback regulations that President Obama put in place that he said attack religious liberty. While he didn’t mention any LGBT initiative, such measures could include the order mandating hospitals grant visitation rights to same-sex couples.
Jimmy LaSalvia, executive director of GOProud, said his organization is “deeply disappointed” in Romney’s speech.
“Instead of simply saying that he opposed gay marriage, Romney instead chose to play to the ugliest and most divisive impulses in this country,” LaSalvia said. “If he thinks this is the way to appeal to Tea Party conservatives who have reservations about his candidacy, he is dead wrong.”
LaSalvia, who’s personally endorsed Romney, accused the candidate of giving in to a culture war, which he said is the tactic of progressive activists.
“The left wants a culture war, because they can’t defend this president’s record of failure on the economy,” LaSalvia said. “Conservatives shouldn’t give them the fight they want – and that’s exactly what Mitt Romney did today.”
R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the National Log Cabin Republicans, said he spoke with Romney after the speech when the candidate came down from the stage to shake hands with people in the front row of the audience.
“I told Gov. Romney that he ‘gave a solid speech with [the] exception of defending DOMA,’” Cooper said. “He responded ‘I know we disagree on this.’ My response before parting was a reminder that “we will continue to to work to defeat DOMA.”
Watch the video here (via Think Progress)