presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's political record is
relatively brief: four years as governor of Massachusetts
and a failed campaign for the U.S. Senate. That's
enough, however, for Brian Camenker, a conservative
gadfly and longtime thorn in Romney's side, to write a
28-page report that portrays Romney as sympathetic to gay
rights and sexual behavior that clashes with his
burnished image as a defender of traditional values.
Camenker's report, which has been making the
rounds of conservative blogs and Web sites, threatens
to undermine Romney's carefully crafted image,
portraying him as far more liberal on social issues,
particularly gay rights. Detailed in the report, which
includes five pages of footnotes and sources, are
several mostly obscure incidents during Romney's
four-year tenure as governor: a news release by a state
advisory commission on gay youth, a proclamation
hailing a gay pride parade, and distribution of a
safer-sex pamphlet, among others.
Romney's record on such touchstone social issues
as gay rights is crucial as he pitches himself to
conservative Republican voters as a bulwark against
same-sex marriage in the only state that allows it. ''The
biggest problem is that Romney is so clearly and blatantly
faking this. He's a fraud,'' Camenker said.
Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom dismissed
Camenker's report, saying Romney governed as a
''mainstream conservative.'' ''Politics has always had
a fringe element,'' Fehrnstrom said. ''We can't be
distracted by those who scream and shout their opinion
with a total disregard for the facts.''
In a radio interview Wednesday, Romney said he
was ''wrong on some issues back then,'' adding, ''If
you want to know where I stand, by the way, you don't
just have to listen to my words, you can...look at my record
Camenker agrees, but he offers a different take
on that record. As an example he points to a question
on the Boy Scouts and gays that got minimal notice in
a 1994 Senate debate between Romney and Democratic
incumbent Edward M. Kennedy. When asked about the Boy
Scouts' ban on gays as scoutmasters, Romney, then a
member of the group's executive board, initially
defended the right of the Boy Scouts to set a tough policy.
But he added: ''I feel that all people should be
allowed to participate in the Boy Scouts regardless of
their sexual orientation.''
Last April, Camenker's group MassResistance
pressured Romney to end a state advisory commission on
gay youth after showing administration officials a
news release on an annual parade featuring a cross-dressing
master of ceremonies and embracing transgender teens. The
release included Romney's name but wasn't vetted by
Romney, who had signed a proclamation hailing
the same parade in 2003, moved to kill the commission.
The head of the commission said she received a call
from Romney's chief of staff saying he had issued an
executive order revoking the commission.
Fehrnstrom later confirmed Romney considered the
move but ''thought that was too harsh.'' Instead,
Romney ordered the commission to focus on its original
mission of suicide prevention among gay and lesbian teens.
He eventually abolished it after state lawmakers
created a similar commission out of his reach.
Camenker's report also takes Romney to task for
not firing any state workers after a pamphlet called
''The Little Black Book: Queer in the 21st Century''
was distributed at a high school conference on gay and
The pamphlet, produced by the nonprofit AIDS
Action Committee and discovered by Camenker's group,
goes into graphic detail about safer-sex practices.
The pamphlet acknowledged the help of the state Department
of Public Health, which was under Romney's control.
School officials said the pamphlet was intended for
adults and was mistakenly made available at the event.
''We're not saying he wrote it or anything like
that, but you would like to think that there would be
a little more to get to the bottom of it and find out
who had a hand in publishing something as horrible as
that,'' Camenker said.
At the time, Romney distanced himself from the
incident, saying that the state did not directly fund
the booklet, and denounced the distribution of
''graphic pornographic material on the gay lifestyle'' in schools.
Another section of the report criticizes Romney
for naming as his transportation secretary Daniel
Grabauskas, who is gay and had previously been
registrar of motor vehicles. ''Grabauskas, for
example...instituted a policy of placing a sex-change
check-off box on driver's license renewal forms,'' the
report reads. Amy Breton, a spokeswoman for the
registrar, said the box was added over the objections of gay
rights advocates as a law enforcement tool to help
police verify gender when making arrests.
For his part, Romney has defended statements
he's made in the past in support of gay rights. ''I
don't think there's any conflict between feeling that
all people deserve respect and tolerance and that
discrimination is wrong and a belief that marriage is
between a man and a woman,'' he said recently.
Romney's defenders say his conservative bona
fides are unshakable. ''He's been rock-solid on the
issue of marriage,'' said Kris Mineau of the
Massachusetts Family Institute, which pushed a proposed
constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage.
But Camenker's report and other reports of
pro-gay statements by Romney have struck a nerve with
some conservatives. ''He does need to address better
the comments he made in the past if he truly wants to court
social conservatives,'' said Tom McClusky, spokesman
for the conservative Family Research Council. ''Too
many people are going to be cynical and wonder if his
actions are politically motivated.'' (Steve LeBlanc, AP)