Metro Weekly

Romney Silent on ENDA Position After Log Cabin Endorsement

Thumbnail image for Mitt Romney.jpgMembers of the left and the right are demanding answers after rumors that Log Cabin Republicans endorsed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in exchange for promises regarding workplace nondiscrimination.

Metro Weekly first reported that discussions between LCR and the Romney campaign centered around workplace nondiscrimination following the endorsement announcement from the group of gay Republicans.

In a phone interview minutes after the endorsement was announced Tuesday morning, LCR Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper said “actual tangibles” were discussed with the Romney campaign, including workplace nondiscrimination, but he did not name any specific promises.

“We walked through things he could do as president and it’s safe to say in a Romney presidency there are some tangibles there that he has experience on as governor that I believe we will see in place and practice,” Cooper said.

Cooper has reiterated these comments to other news outlets, including The Nation, which speculated yesterday that a secret deal had been struck between Romney and LCR for his support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in return for LCR’s endorsement.

Cooper has flatly denied that any promises were made regarding ENDA, but has reiterated that discussions with the campaign have assured him gains would be made on LGBT issues under a Romney presidency.

Romney has said he opposes EDNA and believes such protections should be implemented at the state level. It does not appear Romney’s position has changed since he stated it on NBC’s Meet the Press in December 2007.

Speaking to host Tim Russert, Romney said workplace nondiscrimination should be implemented at the state rather than the federal level.

“I don’t believe in discriminating against someone based upon their sexual orientation,” Romney said. “And so I would be effective in trying to bring greater recognition of the, of the rights of people not, not to be discriminated against.”

RUSSERT: You said that you would sponsor the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Do you still support it?

ROMNEY: At the state level. I think it makes sense at the state level for states to put in provision of this.

RUSSERT: Now, you said you would sponsor it at the federal level.

ROMNEY: I would not support at the federal level, and I changed in that regard because I think that policy makes more sense to be evaluated or to be implemented at the state level. And let me describe why.

RUSSERT: So you did – you did change.

ROMNEY: Oh, Tim, if you’re looking for someone who’s never changed any positions on any policies, then I’m not your guy.  I, I do learn from experience. If you want someone who doesn’t learn from experience, who stubbornly takes a, a position on, on a particular act and says, “Well, I’m never changing my view based on what I’ve learned,” that, that doesn’t make sense to me.

Russert’s questions revolved around a promise Romney made to LCR in a 1994 letter while seeking their endorsement during his Senate race against Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy.

In the letter, Romney promised to become a co-sponsor of ENDA, originally sponsored by Kennedy himself, if elected to the Senate. Romney also promised to broaden ENDA to include protections for housing and credit.

“If we are to achieve the goals we share, we must make equality for gays and lesbians a mainstream concern,” Romney wrote. “My opponent cannot do this. I can and will.”

Romney lost his race against Kennedy and after serving as governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007, evolved on ENDA.

Speaking to National Journal in 2006, Romney said he no longer supported ENDA, a statement he would reiterate during his interview with Russert.

“I don’t see the need for new or special legislation,” Romney said. “My experience over the past several years as governor has convinced me that ENDA would be an overly broad law that would open a litigation floodgate and unfairly penalize employers at the hands of activist judges.”

Although the campaign has given no indication that Romney has changed his position on workplace nondiscrimination, what impact he could have as president if his position has changed appears limited.

According to Crosby Burns, a research associate at the Center for American Progress specializing in LGBT workplace issues, Romney could expand Executive Order 11246 prohibiting federal contractors from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Signing such an order would extend protections that already apply to race, color, religion, sex and national origin, affecting 26 million workers.

“It would be huge,” Burns told Metro Weekly, particularly because Romney’s opposition to ENDA gives no indication he would issue such an executive order. “But it would be pretty hard to imagine Republicans on the Hill would be okay with that.”

Indeed, congressional Republicans would remain an obstacle for federal legislation as well. If Romney did do an about-face on ENDA, which President Barack Obama supports and which would protect LGBT workers across the country from workplace discrimination, it would not guarantee its passage. Legislation similar to ENDA has been introduced in Congress since the 1970s and faced continuous opposition from Republicans.

“Gov. Romney has said time and again that he opposes federal legislation,” said Burns. “There’s no indication from the Romney campaign to believe otherwise.”

Following LCR’s endorsement, what Romney believes remains hazy, and LGBT voters aren’t the only ones questioning Romney’s stance on workplace nondiscrimination.

Bryan Fischer of the anti-gay American Family Association took to Twitter yesterday to demand clarity from the Romney campaign.

“ENDA will be the official end of religious liberty in America,” Fischer declared, adding, “Bottom line: we need a clear, unambiguous, no loophole denial from Gov. Romney that he will support ENDA as president.”

The Romney campaign has not responded to repeated requests for comment from Metro Weekly.

[Photo: Mitt Romney (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).]

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Justin Snow is Metro Weekly's former political editor and White House correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @JustinCSnow.

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