President Obama‘s endorsement of marriage equality today completes an “evolution” that many advocates of same-sex marriage found maddeningly slow, but presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney reminded Americans, on this day, that he stands with those who haven’t reached the “standing erect” phase of their evolution on the subject. Earlier, he expressed opposition to gay marriage, but in other remarks to reporters, reiterated opposition even to civil unions.
Romney’s gentle-sounding remarks about his “own preference” on a “tender and sensitive topic” might give people the impression that he’s not necessarily in favor of imposing that preference on others, or at least, is open to granting legal recognition short of marriage, which used to be an acceptable position for some Republicans.
In other remarks, though, Romney made clear that his views in the subject haven’t softened a bit. He told one reporter “My view is the same as it has been since the beginning which is I don’t favor civil union if it is identical to marriage, and I don’t favor marriage between people of the same gender.”
He told another reporter “I pointed out that I’m in favor of traditional marriage between a man and a woman. And I don’t favor civil union or gay marriage.”
Of Romney’s many flip-flops, this is one area in which he has been fairly consistent. In 1994, he told a local Log Cabin Republican group “I am more convinced than ever before that as we seek to establish full equality for America’s gay and lesbian citizens, I will provide more effective leadership than my opponent,” but never explicitly addressed marriage or civil unions.
While the President’s announcement carries some political risk, as gay marriage only just polls at 50%, and lower in many swing states, Romney’s anti-civil union stance clearly puts him outside the mainstream. Recognition of same sex marriage and/or civil unions consistently polls at around 70%, and has been the majority position for a long time.
With so much attention being paid to this issue in the wake of the President’s announcement, it will be interesting to see if Romney shakes up that Etch-a-Sketch again. Opposition to gay marriage isn’t quite a clear loser, but civil unions have huge popular support. Laying down this marker today could hurt Romney.
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