Massachusetts's gay marriage ruling has presented Republican governor Mitt Romney with a politically dicey challenge that could affect his legacy and his viability in future campaigns. Romney, the state's first Mormon chief executive, drew the wrath of gay rights advocates by immediately denouncing last week's high court decision, which ruled it unconstitutional to bar gay couples from marriage. The first-term governor reiterated his opposition Monday, despite weekend polls reflecting support in the state for gay marriage. He repeated his goal of passing civil unions legislation that would grant same-sex couples the benefits of marriage without the title, and he reiterated his support for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
While Romney may believe that this stance could serve him well in his rumored aspirations for national office, some political observers say it could strand him historically on the losing side of a swiftly evolving civil rights battle. "When you block that doorway, you're locked in history," said Michael Goldman, a Democratic political consultant. "Romney has to be careful here. If you are perceived to be on the wrong side of these culture war issues, it does dramatically hurt the perceptions of you by future generations."
Others argue that Romney's response has struck a delicate balance between appeasement of the conservative side of his party and acknowledgment of the political reality that gay couples will soon win new rights, whether it be through civil unions or marriage. "It could be a problem for him if his position were antigay," said Mickey Edwards, a former Republican congressman who now lectures at Harvard University. "But instead he's been saying that gays ought to be entitled to all of the privileges and benefits that anybody else has, which is really a pro-gay position."