Monday, June 05, 2006

Mitt Romney Calls On Senators to Support Marriage Amendment

Last week I cited (here) Fred Barnes’ assertion that the Marriage Protection Amendment has become a litmus test for Republican aspirants to national office, much as support for nearly unrestricted abortion is a litmus test for Democrat presidential hopefuls. Barnes is basically saying that in the current political climate, Dick Cheney could not be elected to his present office. I’m not certain that Barnes is completely accurate on this point, but he could be right.

Barnes thinks that GOP presidential hopeful Senator John McCain (R-AZ) is going to end up on the wrong side of this sentiment. As I understand Barnes, he sees McCain losing the GOP nomination over the senator’s refusal to vote in favor of the amendment, regardless of his principled reasons (federalism) for his stance.

On cue, another (as-yet-undeclared) Republican presidential hopeful, Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has stepped into the fray by sending a letter to all US senators asking them to support the amendment when it comes to a vote tomorrow.

Romney sees himself as uniquely qualified to address this issue because gay marriage was forced on his state two years ago by four members of the state’s supreme court. Romney starts out by saying that “Americans are tolerant, generous, and kind people.” Then he cites some of the drastic changes that have occurred in his state during the past two years, noting that parents have no control over whether young children can be exposed to material promoting homosexual lifestyles in public schools.

Romney directly takes on McCain-like arguments in favor of states rights:
“Some argue that our principles of federalism and local control require us to leave the issue of same sex marriage to the states—which means, as a practical matter, to state courts. Such an argument denies the realities of modern life and would create a chaotic patchwork of inconsistent laws throughout the country. Marriage is not just an activity or practice which is confined to the border of any one state. It is a status that is carried from state to state. Because of this, and because Americans conduct their financial and legal lives in a united country bound by interstate institutions, a national definition of marriage is necessary.”
Of course, some will be quick to note that Romney is Mormon, and that the LDS Church recently joined a group of religions and religious leaders that support the amendment (see here). The church then called on its members to contact their US senators regarding the tomorrow’s (June 6) scheduled Senate vote on the amendment (see here). (Note that Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) who is also Mormon, argues against the amendment largely along the same lines as Senator McCain—see here.)

Romney is taking a calculated risk. On the one hand, by Barnes’ assessment, Romney’s chances for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination would be toast if he didn’t support the amendment. On the other hand, his critics will be quick to suggest that supporting the amendment means that he will be a puppet for LDS Church leaders on issues they deign to speak out about.

Romney had a third option; he could have taken no public stance on the amendment at all. After all, he’s not a senator, and his state’s US senators are not going to support the amendment by any means. Romney has been very clear about his opposition to his state’s supreme court ruling legalizing gay marriage. By accounts of people of various political persuasions, Romney is a fairly principled guy. But it is possible to be principled about something without speaking out about it, especially when you have no direct control over its outcome.

In other words, Romney’s decision to speak out in favor of the amendment in a very public way is significant. I think people will argue about the ways in which it is significant, but it seems obvious that Romney believes this stance will be in his best political interest.

4 comments:

Jeff Fuller said...

This is hardly a new issue for Romney. He's been publicly outspoken against gay marriage for years. This article http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/gallagher200406250924.asp shows that he has been a champion of this cause for years and is not coming out as a "puppet" of the LDS church just days after the sacrament meeting announcement.

Jeff Fuller said...

I liked your commentary and the background info on how this issue will be so important for GOP presidential hopefuls in 2008. I have linked to your entry at http://iowansforromney.blogspot.com/ and http://blog.electromneyin2008.com/

Keep up the good blogs!

Reach Upward said...

Thanks, Jeff. I agree that Romney has been an outspoken advocate for protecting traditional marriage. He has strongly supported amending his state's constitution. But amending the US Constitution is a different issue. Some marriage protection advocates argue that it is not the right way to accomplish the desired result. I wrote the post because wanted to provide some analysis of how Romney's decision to publicly and vocally support amending the US Constitution will impact his impending presidential campaign.

myclob said...

Great article. I recently saw Mitt Romney respond to questions about his faith, and typed up his responce.

I put all this work into typing it up, and am looking for places to post it.

I hope you see it as relevant to your article...

This exchange takes place at about 12:20 into the video at this location:

http://video.google.com/videosearch?q=mitt+romney

(The punctuation and spelling are by me).

Guest host Judy Woodruff: …Religion really played a role sense JFK, do you think it would play a role if you ran?

Mitt Romney: Oh, I think initially. Some people would say, Gosh, I don't know much about your faith, tell me about it. And I’d probably outline the fundamentals. I’m a religious person. I believe that Jesus Christ is my Savior. But then as you get into the details of doctrines I’d probably say look time out, let’s focus on the values that we share. And fundamentally the values of my faith are very much like the values of other Judeo-Christian tradition values. And I think Americans want to have a leader who is a person of faith, but their not going to get terribly involved in the differences of doctrine, as long as the values we share are common.

Guest host Judy Woodruff: John Kennedy, we remember, looked for and found a venue where he could talk about his catholic faith. The Houston ministry is a very famous speech that he gave. Would you look for and are you looking for a place were you can make a statement like this and are you looking for the right place and time?

Mitt Romney: Not really. Not at this stage. You know its possible that there will come some point were there is a question that galvanizes interest and there is an occasion to say something that cuts through the confusion that may develop but at this stage it is kind of hard to predict what will happen. I mean I remember in the race with Ronald Reagan, it was in his debate that he said, “I’m not going to let your youth and inexperience become an issue in this campaign”. That sort of put aside his age issue. And there may well be something of that nature. I just don’t think Americans will do something the constitution forbids. The constitution says that no religious test shall ever be required for qualification for office in these United States, and I don’t think my party or the American people would ever do that.

Guest host Judy Woodruff: But there are some aspects of Mormonism that many Americans might not understand… are these legitimate issues for people to ask you about?

Mitt Romney: There is a leap of faith associated with every religion. You haven't exactly got those doctrines right, but if you have doctrines you want to talk about go talk to the church, because that's not my job. But the most unusual thing in my church is that we believe there was once a flood upon the earth and that a man took a boat and put two of each animal inside the boat and saved humanity by doing that.

Guest host Judy Woodruff: We are familiar with that story.

Mitt Romney: There are unusual beliefs associated with each faith and I’m proud of my faith and happy to talk to people about it but fundamentally my race for governor, my race for senator before that, and if I run for nationally its going to be about the values that I have, and the values that I think should be emphasized in this country and answers to the kind of challenges that we face, because I believe that America is at a critical time, and I believe those are the types of issues that people will focus on.

I wish those who are trying to tear down Mitt Because of his faith would listen to this quote, by one of our church leaders:

When you go into a neighborhood to preach the Gospel, never attempt to tear down a man’s house, so to speak, before you build him a better one; never, in fact, attack any one’s religion, wherever you go. Be willing to let every man enjoy his own religion. It is his right to do that. If he does not accept your testimony with regard to the Gospel of Christ, that is his affair, and not yours. Do not spend your time in pulling down other sects and parties. We haven’t time to do that. It is never right to do that.

Contributor, August 1895, pp.636–37.