So, in his capacity as a politician who takes positions on civil rights legislation and enforcement, is it even true that Romney opposes workplace discrimination against gays? It’s unclear, and it appears that he has indeed flip-flopped on that essential question. Back in Romney’s 1994 Senate race against Ted Kennedy, Romney pledged in a letter to the Log Cabin Republicans: “As we seek to establish full equality for America’s gay and lesbian citizens, I will provide more effective leadership than my opponent.” He reiterated that promise in interviews throughout the campaign. Specifically, he promised to co-sponsor the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in the Senate. He never got the chance, having lost to Kennedy.
In December 2007 Romney appeared on Meet the Press and was asked by Tim Russert whether he still supports ENDA. Here’s how the exchange went:
MR. RUSSERT: You said [in 1994] that you would sponsor [Sen. Ted Kennedy's federal] Employment Nondiscrimination Act. Do you still support it?
GOV. ROMNEY: At the state level. I think it makes sense at the state level for states to put in provision of this.
MR. RUSSERT: Now, you said you would sponsor it at the federal level.
GOV. 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.
If this sounds familiar to you, it should. Saying “this progressive reform is great at the state level but tyranny at the federal level” is Romney’s defense for having signed a universal health insurance law as governor of Massachusetts. Romney’s effort to toss gays under the bus to further his presidential ambitions met with limited success at the time. Some social conservatives attacked him for backing ENDA even at the state level. Obviously, as president he would only be able to sign or veto federal legislation. So he is, for all intents and purposes, against civil rights for gays in the workplace.