WASHINGTON, D.C. — Mitt Romney came out swinging against marriage equality during his Friday CPAC address, claiming he “prevented Massachusetts from becoming the Las Vegas of gay marriage.”
That zinger, accompanied by reiterated pledges to defend the Defense of Marriage Act and support a federal marriage amendment, showed a side of Romney eager for social conservative cred — this one month after he told a New Hampshire debate audience that “if people are looking for someone who will discriminate against gays or will in any way try and suggest that people that have different sexual orientations don't have full rights in this country, they won't find that in me.”
On Friday, Romney told the CPAC audience that as Massachusetts governor, “Our conservative values also came under attack. Less than a year after I took office, the state’s supreme court inexplicably found a right to same-sex marriage in the constitution written by John Adams. I presume he’d be surprised.”
“When I am president, I will defend the Defense of Marriage Act,” Romney continued. “And I will fight for an amendment to our constitution that defines marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman.”
His pronouncement against same-sex marriage came during a conference where antigay rhetoric has not so far been a major rhetorical focus. Rick Santorum, who took the main stage a few hours before Romney, did not directly mention marriage, though he said as president his administration would “surround ourselves … with people who share our values,” namely the belief that rights don’t originate from government, but from “a higher authority.”
Romney’s remarks were met with moderate, if not electric, applause from the audience, which saved its heartiest responses for his pledge to repeal the health care law, his no-apologies quip for being a successful businessman, and his characterization of President Obama as “the poster child for the arrogance of government.”
GOProud executive director Jimmy LaSalvia, who has been a personal supporter of Romney, said Friday of the candidate’s statements, “We are deeply disappointed with Governor Romney’s speech at CPAC today. Instead of simply saying that he opposed gay marriage, Romney instead chose to play to the ugliest and most divisive impulses in this country. If he thinks this is the way to appeal to Tea Party conservatives who have reservations about his candidacy, he is dead wrong.”
Text of Romney’s remarks:
"During my term in office, our conservative values also came under attack. Less than a year after I took office, the state’s supreme court inexplicably found a right to same-sex marriage in the constitution written by John Adams. I presume he’d be surprised. I fought to have a stay on that decision then pushed for a marriage amendment to our constitution. We lost by only one vote in the legislature. And I successfully prohibited out-of-state couples from coming to our state to get married and then going home. On my watch, we fought hard and prevented Massachusetts from becoming the Las Vegas of gay marriage.
"When I am president, I will defend the Defense of Marriage Act. And I will fight for an amendment to our constitution that defines marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman."