In his current bid for the presidency, Mitt Romney has said he supports the right of same sex couples to adopt, but not marry. It’s certainly not how he’d prefer things, but Romney said in May that he accepts that it does happen.
“I know many gay couples are able to adopt children. That is fine,” Romney told Fox. “But my preference is we encourage the marriage of a man and a woman and we continue to define marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman.”
He wasn’t always so accommodating in his language. (Neither were most other national politicians in the not too distant past.) Back in 2005, as he prepared his first run for the White House, Romney openly mocked same sex couples seeking parental rights even as he made it very difficult for couples to obtain those rights.
Last week, the Boston Globe reported that while governor of Massachusetts, Romney stepped in to prevent a state agency from creating new birth certificate forms that allowed same-sex couples to be listed as the parents of their children. The decision to create the new forms came in the wake of the state Supreme Court granting same sex couples the right to marry, a ruling Romney adamantly opposed and fought as governor.
Romney “rejected” the state agency plan for new forms “and insisted that his top legal staff individually review the circumstances of every birth to same-sex parents,” the Globe reported. “Only after winning approval from Romney’s lawyers could hospital officials and town clerks across the state be permitted to cross out by hand the word ‘father’ on individual birth certificates, and then write in ‘second parent,’ in ink.”
Romney’s interventions mostly resulted in delays awarding birth certificates for women married to same-sex partners who gave birth. Gay men seeking parental rights were required to take a different route, by obtaining a court order. By law, birth certificates must be issued within 10 days of birth, and in some instances, those deadlines were not met.
The birth certificate dispute became an anecdote in a 2005 speech Romney gave to the Spartanburg, South Carolina Republican Party ahead of his first bid for the White House. At the time the Globe reported Romney “struck a pose of amused indignation” as he discussed the issue of gay marriage and parenting.
“We’ve been asked to change their birth certificates to remove the phrase ‘mother and father’ and replace it with ‘parent A and parent B,’” Romney said. “It’s not right on paper, it’s not right in fact. Every child has the right to have a mother and a father.”
Here’s video, clipped by Murray Waas, the reporter on the story for the Globe:
On the substance of it, Romney was wrong in the 2005 speech. The proposed forms never called for “parent A and parent B” as he described it in the 2005 speech. (“The box for ‘father’ would be relabeled ‘father or second parent,’” in the revised forms, according to the Globe.) The “parent A and parent B” line cast the proposed new forms in way that played to conservative opponents of same sex marriage (and adoption for that matter), who argue that LGBT rights advocates are opposed to the traditional family setup.
In 2004 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the subject of same sex marriage, Romney laid out that line of reasoning.
The children of america have the right to have a mother and a father. Of course today, circumstances can take a parent from the home. But the child still has a mother and a father. If the parents are unmarried or divorced, the child can visit each of them. If a mother or a a father is deceased, the child can learn about the qualities of their departed parent. His or her psychological development can still be influenced by the contrasting features of both genders. Are we ready to usher in a society indifferent about having mothers and fathers? Will our children be indifferent about having a mother and a father?
(Video of the testimony is here, beginning at the 6:11 mark.)
Politically, the South Carolina speech was part of Romney’s hard shift to the right in advance of his 2008 presidential bid. A few years earlier he had run as the gay rights candidate in the Senate race against Ted Kennedy. By the time of his 2012 presidential bid he had evolved into a politician who touted his fight to end same sex marriage in Massachusetts as part of his “severely conservative” record.
Romney has been consistent in that he has made clear his preference is that children not be raised in same-sex households. But his language on the topic has changed from that 2005 speech, where he spoke disdainfully about the push for same sex parental rights to the Fox interview in May where his begrudging acceptance of same sex couple adoption rights was touted a moderate stance.