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Romney’s evolving legacy on LGBTQ issues

Sen. Mitt Romney Evolves on LGBT Issues: A Journey of Changing Views

As Utah’s U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney announces his retirement from the U.S. Senate, it will also likely be his final hurrah for politics in general.

As he leaves, we look at his journey on LGBT issues. From the early stages of his political career to his role as a U.S. Senator from Utah in 2019, Romney’s positions on LGBT rights, gay marriage, and civil unions have undergone a series of transformations. Here’s a comprehensive look at his changing views over the years:

1994: A Strong Advocate for Gay Rights Romney began his political career with a promise to be a staunch advocate for gay rights. During his 1994 Senate campaign, he sent a letter to the Log Cabin Republicans, declaring his commitment to making equality for gays and lesbians a mainstream concern. Lobbyist Arlene Isaacson said Romney’s campaign distributed pink flyers at the gay Pride parade that asserted that he would be a better and a stronger advocate than Kennedy.

At the time, the Boy Scouts of America was embroiled in controversy over its policy of excluding gay scouts from participating. During a televised debate against Kennedy, Romney, who was serving on the organization’s National Executive Board, said, “I feel that all people should be able to participate in the Boy Scouts regardless of their sexual orientation.”

2002: Support for Domestic Partnership Benefits During his 2002 Massachusetts gubernatorial campaign, Romney voiced support for domestic partnership benefits, emphasizing that all citizens deserve equal rights, regardless of their sexual orientation. He believed domestic partnership status should encompass health benefits and survivorship rights.

2003: Opposition to Same-Sex Marriage In response to a Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling requiring the legalization of same-sex marriage, Romney supported a state constitutional amendment that would have legalized civil unions while banning same-sex marriage. He aimed to limit the scope of the court’s ruling without triggering a constitutional crisis.

2006: Support for Federal Marriage Amendment Romney’s opposition to same-sex marriage became evident during his 2006 presidential campaign when he endorsed the Federal Marriage Amendment, which aimed to constitutionally define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

2012: Mixed Record and Presidential Bid During his 2012 presidential campaign, Romney’s stance on LGBT issues remained complex. He opposed same-sex marriage and civil unions but supported domestic partnership benefits, hospital visitation rights, and non-discrimination laws at the state level.

2019: The Fairness for All Act As a U.S. Senator from Utah in 2019, Romney expressed appreciation for the proposed Fairness for All Act, which sought to prohibit discrimination against LGBT individuals while including exemptions for religious groups and small businesses with religious foundations.

2021: Equality Act Romney said he opposed the Equality Act, legislation to expand the prohibition on anti-LGBTQ discrimination under federal law, throwing a massive wrench into the plans of the bill’s supporters to guide it into law.

“Sen. Romney believes that strong religious liberty protections are essential to any legislation on this issue, and since those provisions are absent from this particular bill, he is not able to support it,” said Arielle Mueller, a Romney spokesperson.

2021: Transgender Girls in School Sports Romney noted photos of his eight granddaughters among his grandsons on the wall of his office, saying, “They shouldn’t be competing with people who are physiologically in an entirely different category, and I think boys should be competing with boys and girls should be competing with (girls) on the athletic field.”

2022: Support for the Respect for Marriage Act In a notable move, Romney voted in 2022 to advance the Respect for Marriage Act, which aimed to protect existing same-sex and interracial marriages outside of Supreme Court precedents like Obergefell v. Hodges. Despite his continued personal opposition to same-sex marriage, Romney cited fairness to already-married same-sex couples as a reason for his vote.

Romney was one of only 12 Republicans to vote in favor of the Act.

“While I believe in traditional marriage, Obergefell is and has been the law of the land upon which LGBTQ individuals have relied. This legislation provides certainty to many LGBTQ Americans, and it signals that Congress — and I — esteem and love all of our fellow Americans equally,” Romney released in a statement. “This legislation provides important protections for religious liberty—measures which are particularly important to protect the religious freedoms of our faith-based institutions. I appreciate the efforts of Senators Baldwin, Collins, and others to address this concern, and heartily support their legislation.”

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