When will Mitt Romney get it? The sheer number of contortions he has performed on the issue of adoption by gay and lesbian parents has earned him a gold medal for political flip-flopping. He's morphed from the congenial former governor of blue-saturated Massachusetts, where gay adoption is both legal and supported by a majority of the populace, to the Republican candidate for president in a party that has lurched far right for a cuddle in the arms of anti-equality crusaders.
Apparently, behind the scenes at last month's Republican National Convention in Tampa, there was quite a showdown between social conservatives and more moderate voices over whether or not to add language to the GOP platform condemning adoption by same-sex couples. Socially conservative members of the GOP platform committee attempted to wrestle their opposition to gay adoption into the formal document. Insiders report that members of the committee belonging to the Log Cabin Republicans, a national political organization that represents gay and lesbian issues, torpedoed the attempt. As for Romney? It seems he remained mute on the issue.
Currently, gay adoption laws vary widely across the United States. Openly gay couples are legally permitted to adopt in just 13 jurisdictions (D.C., New Jersey, New York, Indiana, Maine, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont, Florida, and Guam), and although single gay and lesbians are generally able to adopt, most states continue to ban adoption by gay couples. (As a side note, Paul Ryan has sided with those who oppose equal parental rights for gays and lesbians, voting against allowing gay adoptions in the District of Columbia).
So, where is Romney on the issue? Well, a better question might be: Where isn't he? Over the past several years he's taken both sides of the issue and filled in each with shades of grey.
In 2006, while he was working to exempt religious organizations from allowing gay couples to adopt in Massachusetts, he told the Boston Globe, "I know that there will be some gay couples who will say that this could be discriminatory against us, except that there are many, many other agencies that can meet the needs of those gay couples, and I recognize that they have a legitimate interest in being able to receive adoptive services."
In a strange turn of events the following year, Romney, who had never before been a vocal supporter of adoption by same-sex couples, took this more forceful position in favor of such adoptions: "There are other ways to raise kids that's fine: single moms, grandparents raising kids, gay couples raising kids. That's the American way, to have people have their freedom of choice."
By 2011, as his gaze returned to presidential politics, his support for gay adoptions become more measured. "I happen to believe that the best setting for raising a child is where this is the opportunity to a mom and a dad to be in the home," he said. "I know there are many circumstances where that is not possible, through death or divorce. I also know many gay couples are able to adopt children. That's fine."
But, of course, that was so last year. In May of this year, as the presumptive nominee of a now-firmly far-right Republican Party, Romney pivoted again. This time he walked back on his formerly laissez-faire attitude on the issue and offered this statement: "I simply acknowledge the fact that gay adoption is legal in all states but one."
The problem for Romney is that a recent Pew report, which found that a majority of Americans support adoptions by same-sex couples, may have him shifting once again to align himself with voters.
As the group hug with the GOP faithful in Tampa recedes into memory and Romney stares down the mounting support for adoptions by gay and lesbian couples, get ready for yet another performance by American's leading contortionist.