Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Mitt Romney on Social Issues

This is the third in a series of entries revisiting Mitt Romney's policies as stated in the debates. The first covered foreign policy, including immigration, trade and defense, as well as policies toward some specific countries and regions. The second covered Romney's seven-point plan for economic growth and connected policy areas, including taxes, regulations, energy, the rule of law, education and fiscal responsibility. This entry covers the social issues of religion, gay marriage, contraception, abortion, and guns.


As is well known, Mitt Romney is a Mormon. Along with the other Mormon in the race at the time, Jon Huntsman, Romney declined to participate in the Thanksgiving Family Forum, which was by far the most religiously-oriented of the debates and the only one to take place in a church.

In the 2nd debate, Romney took a strong position on religious tolerance, saying "People of all faiths are welcome in this country. We treat people with respect regardless of their religious persuasion." In later debates, he said we should not elect people on the basis of their religion or where they go to church. While he would seek God's guidance on critical decisions, for the most part his religious beliefs would not affect his Presidential decisions. In the 20th debate, he said, "I don't think we've seen in the history of this country the kind of attack on religious conscience, religious freedom, religious tolerance that we've seen under Barack Obama."

Gay Marriage

Romney believes that gay people forming "loving, committed, long-term relationships" is "a wonderful thing to do," and they have the right to do so as long as they don't use the word marriage to describe it. (Quote from the 14th debate.) He supports amending the US Constitution to ban gay marriage, and thinks DADT should have been kept in place. He was the first governor of Massachusetts to grant marriage licenses to gay couples, but said he only did so because the state Supreme Court told him to. After saying in the 15th debate that he supported laws banning sexual orientation discrimination, he was asked when was the last time he advocated expanding gay rights, and he responded, "Right now."


The issue of contraception arose first in the 14th debate, before the national contraception mandate controversy broke out. At the time, Romney called it an "unusual topic," and expressed disbelief that anyone would be talking about banning contraception. He said states should not be allowed to ban contraception, but also said none were trying to.

Regarding the contraception mandate, Romney said he included in Romneycare a provision that Massachusites did not have to buy insurance coverage for treatments or medical devices which violated their religious beliefs. His opposition to the contraception mandate was based not on a belief that the mandate was wrong in general, but rather that it applied to those who had religious objections to contraception. He seemed to agree with Santorum in the 20th debate that contraception leads to children being born out of wedlock and undermines the institution of the family, saying "Rick is absolutely right."


In the 13th debate, Romney said he was only ever pro-choice to the extent that he did not want to actively change the laws in Massachusetts. He says he became pro-life while governor, and now wants to "protect the sanctity of life." In the 16th debate, he said he had always been pro-life, and said, "I thought I could go in that narrow path between my personal belief and letting government stay out of the issue," but ultimately decided while governor that he couldn't. As governor, he vetoed a bill defining life as starting at implantation rather than conception.

He says he would appoint judges who would follow the constitution, and he does not use abortion as a "litmus test" for judicial appointments. In a later debate, he said he did not believe the constitution contained a right to privacy.


Romney thinks rather than enacting new gun laws, we should just enforce the laws we already have. In Massachusetts, he signed a bill that was supported by both the pro-gun and anti-gun lobbies that banned assault weapons and raised gun fees 400%, but also opened up the right to cross a road with a gun while hunting, among other gun rights. When asked in the 13th debate about his changing positions of gay marriage, abortion and guns, he ignored the guns part of the question.

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