The gay Republican briefly affiliated with Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign said President Obama’s support for marriage equality places him “on the right side of history,” but cautioned politicians against “playing politics” with civil rights.
Richard Grenell, who was Romney’s foreign policy spokesperson for a week before resigning, said Obama could have endorsed marriage equality while Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress or before the vote on the same-sex marriage ban in North Carolina in an email to the Washington Blade.
“President Obama’s decision to personally support gay marriage means he will be on the right side of history,” Grenell said. “He deserves credit for finally taking a stand in favor of equality. Nevertheless, it’s important to keep politicians from playing politics with a group’s civil rights. Democrats and Republicans continue to calculate the political implications of their positions, and the timing of the president’s announcement suggests his position is a political move too. While the president could have evolved when the Democrats controlled the House and the Senate or even yesterday before the swing state of North Carolina voted on the issue, Republicans should also remember that young people and many Christians believe in civil equality.”
Grenell, who’s gay, became in April the first openly gay spokesperson for a Republican presidential candidate, leading some observers to speculate Romney had hired him to seem more moderate as the presidential campaign heads toward the general election. But he resigned a week later when anti-gay conservatives railed against the decision and liberals took him on for Twitter messages criticizing women and Democratic leaders.
Grenell has previously weighed in on Obama’s lack of support for marriage equality. In an op-ed to the Washington Blade published on April 20 titled, “Gay Dems excuse Obama’s failings for party invitations,” Grenell criticized Obama supporters for praising him and attending State Dinners while the president continues to “evolve” on same-sex marriage.
On the same day that Obama came out for same-sex marriage, Romney restated his own opposition to marriage equality. In an interview with a Fox News affiliate in Denver, Romney expressed opposition to both same-sex marriage and civil unions, saying “I do not favor marriage between people of the same gender, and I do not favor civil unions if they are identical to marriage other than by name.”
Grenell’s remarks echo those made by Log Cabin Republicans following Obama’s announcement. R.Clarke Cooper, Log Cabin’s executive director, said the president’s decision to come out for marriage equality after North Carolina voted on the issue is “offensive and callous.”
“That the president has chosen today, when LGBT Americans are mourning the passage of Amendment One, to finally speak up for marriage equality is offensive and callous,” Cooper said. “Log Cabin Republicans appreciate that President Obama has finally come in line with leaders like Vice President Dick Cheney on this issue, but LGBT Americans are right to be angry that this calculated announcement comes too late to be of any use to the people of North Carolina, or any of the other states that have addressed this issue on his watch. This administration has manipulated LGBT families for political gain as much as anybody, and after his campaign’s ridiculous contortions to deny support for marriage equality this week he does not deserve praise for an announcement that comes a day late and a dollar short.”
The criticism from gay Republicans invoked the ire of Jerame Davis, executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats, who maintained the president’s announcement was significant.
“These groups are truly shameless in their desperate attempt to provide cover for the atrociously regressive positions held by the GOP and Mitt Romney,” Davis said. “Just today, Mitt Romney came out singing the party line expressing his complete opposition to marriage equality and civil unions.”
Davis took particular offense to Republicans invoking Cheney as a leader in LGBT rights — even though he has endorsed marriage equality and called for reconsideration of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” before it was repealed.
“Cheney was, by most accounts, the most powerful vice president in history,” Davis said. “He had the power to order torture, wire-tapping, and got us into two wars – yet he did absolutely nothing to advance LGBT equality with that power in the entire eight years he was in office. When George Bush and Ken Mehlman — himself a closeted gay man at the time — concocted their scheme to advance a federal marriage amendment for political gain, Cheney sat idly by and did nothing to stop it.”