On Tuesday night, the board of directors of GOProud, a group of gay conservatives and their allies, endorsed former Gov. Mitt Romney for president, despite his opposition to same-sex marriage and civil unions.
The endorsement does not surprise political observers as GOProud has previously said that it would back any Republican presidential candidate. GOProud's executive director, Jimmy LaSalvia, told The Huffington Post that Romney's opposition to same-sex marriage did not affect his group's endorsement. While he does not agree with Romney's stance on marriage, he concurs with many other of his positions, on Social Security reform and health care, for example.
LaSalvia is more concerned about the debt ceiling than marriage, he said: "We're on the brink" of a debt crisis, "and that will affect everything in our lives."
"Every issue is a gay issue," LaSalvia continued. "We know what we need to know: Governor Romney's record and President [Barack] Obama's record."
On gay rights, that record is clear. This year's election presents the sharpest contrast between presidential candidates' views on gay rights since 1992 when Bill Clinton pledged to lift the ban on gays serving in the military and George H.W. Bush opposed such a move.
Since Obama told ABC's Robin Roberts last month that he believed same-sex couples "should be able to get married," some gay Republicans have reconsidered their support for Romney. A day after Obama's statement, Romney affirmed his opposition to same-sex marriages and civil unions.
Romney's position on marriage is not new, but his stance against civil unions has shifted somewhat from his views while governor of Massachusetts. It also makes him more opposed to gay rights than George W. Bush or Dick Cheney; Bush supported civil unions while Cheney has backed same-sex marriage.
The other prominent gay Republican group, Log Cabin Republicans, thus far has not made a presidential endorsement. The group does not always support the Republican candidate and did not back Bush in 2004 because of his support for a federal marriage amendment. In an email, the group's deputy executive director, Christian Berle, said he "looks forward to seeing Republicans in the White House," but he believes the party needs to "promote a vision that keeps the focus on the economy, not by alienating moderates, women and younger voters with static on social issues."
For same-sex marriage advocates, a Romney win would be a blow, particularly as a lawsuit on the marriage issue could be heard by the Supreme Court next year.
Last summer, Romney signed a pledge issued by the leading group advocating against same-sex marriage, the National Organization for Marriage: He committed to support a federal marriage amendment defining marriage as being only between a man and a woman. The pledge also commits him to nominating judges to the Supreme Court who are opposed to same-sex marriage and to "vigorously" defending the Defense of Marriage Act in court. (Obama has said he will not defend the act's constitutionality.)
"The urgency of creating the right climate and having the right justices has never been higher," said Evan Wolfson, the president of Freedom to Marry, a national organization advocating for same-sex marriage. Freedom to Marry does not endorse candidates and has frequently worked with Republicans to pass legislation.
Still, Wolfson does not think that a Romney win would benefit gay people, he said. "On the one hand you have a president that's taken strong and courageous steps to begin dismantling discrimination," Wolfson said. "And on the other you have Mitt Romney, now on record as favoring inserting legal discrimination into our Constitution and using a litmus test of hostility to gay people when he makes appointments to the Supreme Court."
"You want to vote for a candidate that has the most things that you like, but I can't do that if that candidate sees me as less of a citizen," Chris England, a gay republican from Las Vegas, told the Huffington Post last month after Romney and Obama's statements. England said he can't bring himself to vote for either candidate.
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