I continue to be amazed at the lengths to which Mitt Romney will go in his quest to demonstrate his fealty to the far right wing of his party. His latest display of "severe conservatism" will play out Saturday at Liberty University when Romney delivers the commencement speech for the 2012 graduating class.
Romney is still frantic to shore up the conservative base that has repeatedly eschewed him. Even before he caved to the extreme wing of his party by refusing to defend his only openly gay staffer, this would be a problem for Mitt Romney.
As Romney makes his pilgrimage to Lynchburg, LGBT voters should ask themselves - how many of Liberty's extremist views will Mitt Romney adopt? How many of those views does he already hold?
We already know Romney agrees with Liberty founder Jerry Falwell when it comes to marriage equality. Jerry Falwell in 2004:
You're either going to take your stand to support the family, the 6,000-year historic family, one man married to one woman, or you're not going to take it...
Mitt Romney in 2003:
I agree with 3,000 years of recorded history. I disagree with the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. Marriage is an institution between a man and a woman. I will support an amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution to make that expressly clear.
Barring the 3,000 year discrepancy in their view of the historical record, it's pretty clear that Romney and Falwell were singing from the same songbook.
Before he died, Falwell was one of the most virulently anti-LGBT extremists on the right. Whether he was blaming "the gays and lesbians," "feminists," and "abortionists" for the attacks on September 11, 2001 or claiming AIDS is not only "God's punishment for homosexuals," but "God's punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals," Falwell was one of the most radical to take up the mantle of intolerance.
But what about some of the more extreme statements that have been made by Liberty's current leadership? Just last year, Matt Barber, Associate Dean at the Liberty University School of Law claimed that the high rate of teen suicide in the LGBT community was because, "they know what they are doing is unnatural, is wrong, is immoral." Also last year, Barber, in an interview with Liberty Law Professor Judith Reisman, insinuated that organizations that advocate for LGBT-positive curriculum in schools are secretly working to indoctrinate children to make them receptive to pedophiles.
In 2009, Liberty's Vice President of Student Affairs, Mark Hine, dissolved the school's fledgling College Democrats club claiming it, "advocates repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, promotes the 'LGBT' agenda, Hate Crimes, which include sexual orientation and gender identity, socialism, etc." (Notice the scare quotes around LGBT for added effect.)
Could it be any more clear that Romney is running into the embrace of the religious right? We cannot and should not trust someone who clearly has no core values - no moral compass - to guide his thinking. Rather, we should be afraid of any candidate for the presidency who displays such flexibility of principle and who is so willing to kowtow to the ideologues of his party.
Mitt Romney not only opposes same sex marriage, but he believes we should amend the U.S. Constitution to prevent committed gay and lesbian couples from marrying. Romney's federal marriage amendment would be the first time the nation amended the Constitution to deny Americans equal rights. Mitt Romney also opposes civil unions, which could rollback a whole range of equal rights and benefits for gay and lesbian Americans.
LGBT voters should not be fooled by Romney's agenda. If signing the National Organization of Marriage pledge to enshrine discrimination into the constitution wasn't enough; if abandoning his only openly gay staffer wasn't enough; then his claim as a standard bearer of the right wing should certainly be enough to convince any American - LGBT or otherwise - that Mitt Romney is by no means worthy of holding the highest office in the land.
Full disclosure: I am the Executive Director of National Stonewall Democrats, the nation's only independent organization representing LGBT Democrats. Learn more at stonewalldemocrats.org/