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Romney, in his own (contradictory) words

GOP frontrunner’s tortured history on LGBT rights

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Mitt Romney speaks at high school rally in Bedford, N.H. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney has been criticized as a flip-flopper during his presidential campaign — and although he’s defended himself against accusations that his positions have pivoted on LGBT rights, his record shows that he’s also changed on these issues.

During a Dec. 15 debate in Sioux City, Iowa, when Fox News moderator Chris Wallace said Romney has changed his positions in the last 10 years on abortion, gay rights and gun control, the candidate took exception to this list and said his positions have been consistent on gay rights.

“I’m firmly in support of people not being discriminated against based upon their sexual orientation,” Romney said. “At the same time, I oppose same-sex marriage. That’s been my position from the beginning.”

But an examination of Romney’s previous statements reveals any assertion that he’s held the same positions on LGBT rights — including opposition to same-sex marriage — since the beginning of his political career is false.

From marriage to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to civil unions to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, Romney’s positions have wildly changed as he has pursued different offices and public opinion has grown to support LGBT issues.

Most of Romney’s earlier pro-LGBT positions can found in a 1994 letter that he wrote while running as a U.S. Senate candidate in Massachusetts against the late Sen. Edward Kennedy. In the missive, Romney boasted he could go further on gay rights than Kennedy, saying “I will provide more effective leadership than my opponent.”

“If we are to achieve the goals that we share, we must make, we must make equality for gays and lesbians a mainstream concern,” Romney said. “My opponent cannot do this. I can and will.”

Romney pledged to co-sponsor a version of ENDA, and if possible to expand the measure to include housing and credit. The then-Senate candidate also called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which had been recently signed into law by former President Clinton, a first step in a process that will “ultimately lead to gays and lesbians being able to serve openly and honestly in our nation’s military.”

But prior to the 2008 election when Romney began pursuing his presidential ambitions, his support for employment non-discrimination legislation and open service vanished.

For example, in a 2006 interview with the National Journal, Romney said when asked about his previous support for that he doesn’t “see the need for new or special legislation” because passage of the bill would open a floodgate of litigation.

In 2007, Romney said during a presidential debate he “was wrong” in thinking “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was a silly idea and said “it seems to be working.” The candidate continued to say repeal would be “a social experiment” and that he “wouldn’t change it” during a time of war.

Asked again during his current campaign about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” during an editorial board meeting with the Des Moines Register in December, Romney pivoted again, saying he’s “not planning on reversing” open service now that wars are over.

Even on marriage, Romney has changed in his opposition to gay nuptials. In an interview with Bay Windows in 1994, Romney said marriage is “a state issue as you know – the authorization of marriage on a same-sex basis falls under state jurisdiction.”

But that position changed after the Massachusetts Supreme Court under his watch as governor legalized same-sex marriage, prompting him to call for a Federal Marriage Amendment.

Still, his vision for a U.S. constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage has changed even over the course of his current campaign. In an August debate, Romney said marriage isn’t “an activity that goes on within the walls of a state” and said it “should be constant across the country.”

But in a December interview with the Boston Herald, Romney said his vision of a Federal Marriage Amendment would allow existing same-sex marriages to remain intact.

“I think it would keep intact those marriages which had occurred under the law but maintain future plans based on marriage being between a man and a woman,” Romney said.

That vision of allowing states to maintain existing same-sex marriages would, at least temporarily, result in varying laws with respect to marriage for state throughout the country.

LGBT rights groups on the right and left said Romney’s varied positions on LGBT rights demonstrates either a lack of character or his willingness to reconsider his views on the issues depending on the political alignment of the organization.

Jimmy LaSalvia, executive director of the gay conservative group GOProud, commended Romney for repeatedly speaking out against discrimination in debates, despite his changing positions on LGBT issues.

“He’s been consistent in his opposition to discrimination,” said LaSalvia, who’s endorsed Romney. “He has a record of hiring gay people, and, as governor, he appointed gay people to high-level positions.”

Jerame Davis, executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats, said Romney’s varied positions on LGBT rights demonstrates Romney “clearly has no moral compass and will say anything to get elected.”

“The only thing Mitt Romney stands for is Mitt Romney,” Davis said. “On issue after issue — LGBT or otherwise — he has pandered to the least common denominator and allowed the political winds to guide his every word.”

A roundup of Romney’s statements on LGBT issues follows:

On the Employment Non-Discrimination Act

In a 1994 letter to Log Cabin Republicans, Romney said he would co-sponsor ENDA:

“We have discussed a number of important issues such as the Federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which I have agreed to co-sponsor, and if possible broaden to housing and credit.”

In a 2006 interview with National Review Online, Romney said he no longer supports ENDA:

“I don’t see the need for new or special legislation. My experience over the past several years as governor has convinced me that ENDA would be an overly broad law that would open a litigation floodgate and unfairly penalize employers at the hands of activist judges.”

In a 2007 interview on “Meet the Press,” Romney said ENDA-like laws should be left to the states:

“At the state level, I think it makes sense for states to put in provision of this. I would not support at the federal level, and I changed in that regard because I think that policy makes more sense to be implemented at the state level. If you’re looking for someone who’s never changed any positions on any policies, then I’m not your guy. I learn from experience.”

On ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

In a 1994 letter to Log Cabin Republican, Romney called “Don’t Ask” a transitional policy that would lead to open service:

“One issue I want to clarify concerns President Clinton’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue’ military policy. I believe that Clinton’s compromise was a step in the right direction. I am also convinced that it is the first of a number of steps that will ultimately lead to gays and lesbians being able to serve openly and honestly in our nation’s military.”

In a 2007 GOP debate at Saint Anselm College, Romney said “Don’t Ask” was working:

“When I first heard of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy, I thought it sounded awfully silly. I didn’t think that would be very effective. And I turned out to be wrong. It’s been the policy now in the military for what, 10, 15 years, and it seems to be working. This is not the time to put in place a major change, a social experiment, in the middle of a war going on. I wouldn’t change it at this point.”

In a June 2011 debate in New Hampshire:

“I believe it should have been kept in place until conflict was over.”

In 2011, he spoke about open service with the Des Moines Register:

“That’s already occurred and I’m not planning on reversing that at this stage. … I was not comfortable making the change during a period of conflict, by virtue of the complicating features of a new program in the middle of two wars going on, but those wars are winding down and moving in that direction at this stage no longer presents that problem.”

On civil unions

From a 2003 document found on the governor’s old website:

A day after the Supreme Judicial Court decision, Gov. Romney told reporters that he believed a civil unions statute would “be sufficient” to satisfy the justices’ concerns. Joining Romney in the call for civil unions legislation was Rep. Eugene O’Flaherty, chair of the House Committee on the Judiciary.

In a 2005 interview with Chris Matthews on MSNBC’s “Hardball” on the difference between civil unions and marriage:

“I’d rather have neither to tell you the truth. I’d rather have domestic partnership benefits, such as hospital visitation rights for same-sex couples. I don’t want civil unions or gay marriage, but there is a difference. Even with just the word, there’s a difference.”

In 2012, a Romney campaign spokesperson reaffirmed the candidate’s opposition to civil marriage:

“[H]e has not been in favor of civil unions, if by civil unions you mean the equivalency to marriage but without the name marriage. What he has favored, and he talked about this, I believe, last night, was a form of domestic partnership or a contractual relationship with reciprocal benefits.”

On LGBT Pride

Text from 2002 Pride flier from Romney’s gubernatorial campaign:

“Mitt and Kerry wish you a great Pride weekend. All citizens deserve equal rights, regardless of their sexual preference.”

In 2012, Romney’s campaign disavowed the letter:

“I don’t know where those pink fliers came from. I was the communications director on the 2002 campaign. I don’t know who distributed them … I never saw them and I was the communications director,” Eric Fehrnstrom said.

On same-sex marriage

Romney in 1994 to gay newspaper Bay Windows:

Same-sex marriage is “a state issue as you know – the authorization of marriage on a same-sex basis falls under state jurisdiction.”

In 2004 testimony before Congress:

I join with those who support a federal constitutional amendment. Some retreat from the concept of amendment, per se. While they say they agree with the traditional definition of marriage, they hesitate to amend. But amendment is a vital and necessary aspect of our constitutional democracy, not an aberration.

In an August 2011 debate:

“Marriage should be decided at the federal level. You might wonder, why is that? Why wouldn’t you just let each state make their own decision? And the reason is, people move from state to state of course in a society like ours. … Marriage is a status; it’s not an activity that goes on within the walls of a state. And as a result, our marriage-status relationship should be constant across the country. I believe we should have a federal amendment to the constitution that defines marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman.”

In a December 2011 interview with the Boston Herald:

Romney expressed support for a constitutional amendment that could create a complex three-tier system of marriage —maintaining marriage rights for straight couples, allowing gays who have already married to remain married, but barring future same-sex marriages.

“I think it would keep intact those marriages which had occurred under the law but maintain future plans based on marriage being between a man and a woman,” Romney said.

In 2011 he told the Des Moines Register:

“I would like to see a national amendment defining marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman. But that was tried maybe three or four years ago. I don’t think that’s likely to receive the necessary support, at least in the near term.”

During a January 2012 debate:

Romney said he’ll advocate for “full rights” for gay people, although he said he remains opposed to same-sex marriage.

“If people are looking for someone who will discriminate against gays or will in any way try and suggest that people — that have different sexual orientation don’t have full rights in this country, they won’t find that in me,” Romney said.

 

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Air Force base axes ‘Drag Queen Story Hour’

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) welcomed the decision

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(Screenshot from U.S. Air Force's YouTube page)

A drag queen story hour scheduled to be held at the library in honor of Pride month at Ramstein Air Base in Germany was abruptly cancelled by the command staff of the 86th Airlift Wing on Thursday.

According to Stars and Stripes, the 86th Air Wing’s public affairs sent a statement to a radical-right anti-LGBTQ news outlet in Canada, The Post Millennial, which had requested comment to its article about the event and also accused the Air Force of pushing a more “woke” agenda among servicemen. 

“An advertisement was posted to the base library social media page before the event had completed Ramstein’s established processes for special observance coordination and approval.  The advertisement has been removed and the event will not take place. Ramstein leaders strive to foster a culture based on inclusion where all people are treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their political views, color of their skin or sexual orientation. The base’s established processes will ensure all future special observance events are properly reviewed and approved prior to advertisement.”

The Post Millennial’s story framed its reporting using hard-line right terms and descriptions of the LGBTQ community; “Drag Queen Story Hour has become a phenomenon in recent years, with men dressing up in clownish, garish costumes of women to read to children. Many drag queens have sexualized names, like Penny Tration.”

The conservative outlet also reported that one mom of a toddler, whose husband is stationed at the base, told The Post Millennial that while she often takes her child to the library for story time, she was “shocked to see the Ramstein Air Force Base Library plans to hold an official drag queen story hour for children.”

“I find it wholly inappropriate that the MILITARY of all places will be using public funds to sexualize children,” she said.

According to Stars and Stripes, the cancellation of the drag queen book reading drew mixed opinions from the Kaiserslautern Military Community, which encompasses Ramstein. With tens of thousands of Defense Department personnel and their families, it is the largest U.S. military community overseas.

An opponent of the wing’s decision launched a petition at Change.org to try to get the event reinstated.

“Now more (than) ever we need to show our support to our enlisted members and spouses in the face of blatant discrimination,” wrote the petition organizer, named Natalie Oyer, who described herself as spouse to a transgender wife.

“I don’t know if anything can bring back the events though,” Oyer wrote. “Most of the queens are enlisted.”

Stars and Stripes also reported that the 86th Airlift Wing, axed a separate drag karaoke event scheduled to be held at the base enlisted club, according to community members posting on social media sites.

In a press release Friday, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) took partial credit for the cancellation.

Rubio sent a letter to U.S. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall regarding the Air Force Library at Ramstein Air Force Base hosting a “Drag Queen Story Time” event for young children of servicemembers. Rubio urged him to cancel the event, discipline the staff involved in planning and hosting the event, and respond to questions on whether other installations both at home and around the world have done similar events. Following receipt of Rubio’s letter, the Air Force canceled the event. 

“The last thing parents serving their nation overseas should be worried about, particularly in a theater with heightened geopolitical tensions, is whether their children are being exposed to sexually charged content simply because they visited their local library,” Rubio wrote.

The 86th Airlift Wing’s publics affairs office at Ramstein and the U.S. Air Force Public Affairs office at the Pentagon have not responded to a request for comment.

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Pulse survivor ‘at a loss’ over Texas elementary school massacre

Brandon Wolf is Equality Florida’s press secretary

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Brandon Wolf was a Grand Marshal at the 2019 Capital Pride Parade on June 8, 2019. (Washington Blade photo by Adam Hall)

A survivor of the Pulse nightclub massacre on Wednesday said he is “at a loss” over the massacre at a Texas elementary school that left 21 people dead.

“Twenty-one people were murdered,” said Equality Florida Press Secretary Brandon Wolf in a statement he sent to the Washington Blade a day after a gunman killed 21 people inside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. “Nineteen of them were children — babies. That means 19 families sent their elementary age kids off to school only to get the worst news: That their babies would be leaving class in body bags.”

Wolf was inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., on June 12, 2016, when a gunman opened fire and killed 49 people. His two close friends — Christopher “Drew” Leinonen and his fiancé, Juan Guerrero — were among those killed.

Wolf in his statement noted “right wing politicians have spent the past year insisting that the greatest threats our children face are the potential they’ll learn that this nation was built on the backs of enslaved Black people or that their teacher uses they/them pronouns.”

“They’ve banned books, censored curriculum and bastardized history lessons,” said Wolf. “All the while, they haven’t lifted a finger to protect kids from what is killing them.”

Equality Florida echoed Wolf’s sentiments.

“I am heartbroken for the shattered families,” added Wolf. “Grief-stricken for these stolen lives. And enraged at the power-hungry leaders who have chosen time and again to serve up this country’s most vulnerable as sacrifices in exchange for a boost up the ladder of their own ambitions.”

Axel Rodríguez’s friend, Xavier Serrano Rosado, died inside the Pulse nightclub.

Rodríguez told the Blade that Tuesday was “such a dad day for us here” in Orlando.

“It is like going through the same emotions we had when the attack at Pulse happened, but it’s even worse because we are talking about children,” he said. “When will our government stop thinking about money and stop this madness? Everyone now can obtain a gun anywhere. I just cannot comprehend that at all.”

The Pulse nightclub massacre was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history until a gunman on Oct. 1, 2017, killed 60 people at a concert in Las Vegas.

A gunman on Feb. 14, 2018, killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Twenty children and six adults died in the massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, 2012.

The Robb Elementary School massacre took place less than three years after a gunman killed 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas.

“There are no words,” tweeted Pride Center San Antonio, which is roughly 90 minutes east of Robb Elementary School, on Wednesday.

“Our hearts are with the Uvalde community,” said Equality Texas on Tuesday. “Every child deserves to free safe at school.”

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Texas

Republican lawmaker claims Texas school gunman was transgender

Massacre victims were inside single classroom

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Families gather at a Uvalde, Texas, civic center to wait for news about their loved ones. (Photo courtesy of Niki Griswold/Twitter)

A spokesperson for the Texas Department of Public Safety confirmed that all of the 19 children and two adults were killed in single classroom at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, Tuesday.

According to officials, 18-year-old Salvador Rolando Ramos, wearing body armor had barricaded himself inside a fourth-grade classroom, where all the fatalities and injuries occurred. Ramos, who attended the nearby high school, was killed on scene by a member of a federal U.S. Border Patrol tactical unit who had responded alongside local law enforcement.

Several other children were injured in the attack, including a 10-year-old who remained in critical condition in a Texas hospital. Law enforcement officials told reporters Ramos shot his grandmother before heading to the school with two military-style rifles he bought on his 18th birthday which was within the last two weeks.

Law enforcement has only released some of the victim’s identities and according to the Austin Statesman newspaper’s political reporter Niki Griswold, parents were gathered late into the night to give DNA samples to find out whether or not their children were among the dead. Griswold also tweeted, “The agonized screams of family members are audible from the parking lot,” as she also noted “A family has erupted into sobs outside the civic center.”

As Texas and the nation reeled in shock over yet another deadly mass shooting, Arizona Republican Congressman Paul Gosar, who espouses radical right view points and former President Trump’s MAGA philosophy, took to Twitter and spread a false and transphobic claim that the suspected shooter was a “transsexual leftist illegal alien.”

Screenshot of now-deleted tweet by Arizona Republican Rep. Paul Gosar

As of Tuesday evening, Gosar had not commented on his tweet, which was deleted about two hours after being published.

Gosar is an anti-immigration, anti-vaxxer, radical right hardliner who routinely cozies up to white nationalists. He was apparently promoting a false claim circulating on right-wing networks. Users shared images of a transgender person unrelated to the attack claiming they were the shooter.

President Biden addresses nation the shooting in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday evening.
(Screenshot/White House YouTube)

In Washington last night, President Biden, speaking to the nation said;

“Why are we willing to live with this carnage?” he asked. “Why do we keep letting this happen?  Where in God’s name is our backbone to have the courage to deal with it and stand up to the [gun] lobbies? 

Speaking from personal experience, as a father who has lost two children, Biden added: “To lose a child is like having a piece of your soul ripped away. There’s a hollowness in your chest, and you feel like you’re being sucked into it and never going to be able to get out. It’s suffocating. And it’s never quite the same.”

Global reaction included sympathy from Ukraine’s leadership.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed condolences to the community of Uvalde where the 21 people — including the 19 students — were murdered in one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history.

“Deeply saddened by the news of the murder of innocent children in Texas,” Zelenskyy wrote. “Sincere condolences to the families of the victims, the people of the U.S. and @POTUS over this tragedy. The people of Ukraine share the pain of the relatives and friends of the victims and all Americans.”

NPR reported Wednesday that Zelenskyy also referenced the shooting while speaking by video link at a conference on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in which he drew a direct parallel between the shooting and the war in Ukraine.

“I feel it is my personal tragedy when children are killed in Texas, and now in my country Russian military is killing our children,” he said.

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