Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's record on LGBT issues has been scrutinized by media watchdogs such as Equality Matters as well as LGBT organizations such as eQualityGiving,org. NOM Exposed, a project of the Human Rights Campaign and Good As You's Jeremy Hooper, has also tracked Romney's association with the National Organization for Marriage. Last March, HRC released documents indicating that Romney contributed to the pro-Prop 8 effort in 2008, a campaign that made NOM (in)famous.
In January, it was revealed that as a church leader, Romney gave the Mormon Church $1.8 million in 2008, according to the tax filings (he released two years, 2008 and 2009). The Mormon Church helped underwrite the Prop 8 campaign. But without seeing more of his tax returns - which he refuses to release - we may not know the extent to which Romney is bankrolling the antigay activities of the church or other antigay groups. It is not a stretch to think that if Romney is elected President of the United States, he would encourage and perhaps bankroll the rolling back of LGBT equality.
Romney has always been a major donor to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which requires that members "tithe," or give 10 percent of their income to the church. His family charity, called the Tyler Foundation, has given more than $4 million to the church in the past five years, including $1.8 million in 2008 and $600,000 in 2009. But because Romney, whose fortune has been estimated at $250 million, has never released his personal tax returns, the full extent of his giving has never been public.
"They were in Prop. 22 [the anti-gay marriage initiative passed by voters in 2000]. They've been involved in every single election--invisibly--until we caught them. And they've not stopped because they don't," Karger said, noting that they continue to be involved, albeit invisibly. "They don't back away until they get a revelation, and they've only had two of those under duress--when the IRS came down on them for polygamy and for not allowing African-Americans membership in the church. That was the most recent--1978."
Karger also believes that a member's obedience to the LDS Church supersedes loyalty to family and country, and hence, if Mormon Mitt Romney were to become president, he would have no choice but to obey an order from the president of the Mormon Church.
Courage Campaign founder Rick Jacobs and SCLC/LA President Rev Eric Lee protesting the Mormon Church's stance on Prop 8 at LDS headquarters in LA in 2008 (Photo by Karen Ocamb)
That's perhaps an open question - but given the Mormon Church's antigay history, it is logical to speculate that if Romney became president, he would make efforts to roll back LGBT rights - whether ordered to by the church, living up to his NOM pledge or on his own.
It is that character issue that a new Courage Campaign Super PAC - in conjunction with openly gay Media Matters founder David Brock and his American Bridge 21 Century Super PAC - intends to expose. The Mitt Gets Worse campaign, a not-so-subtle reference to the "It Gets Better" Project, uses Romney's own words over the years as well as personal video testimonies from those who've encountered Romney to illuminate the flip-flopping, do-anything-to-win candidate's insensitivity and political callousness.
One of the campaign's first videos is of Julie Goodridge - lead plaintiff in Goodridge v. Dept of Public Health DOMA case - who talks about her encounters with Romney when he was governor. Jennifer Chrisler, Executive Director of the Family Equality Council, and Courage Campaign's own Adam Bink, who once worked for the late liberal lion Sen. Ted Kennedy, also tell their stories.
Goodridge thinks limiting LGBT rights would actually "become a core focus of a Romney presidency." From the Courage Campaign press release:
"I believe he will be responsible for a major backlash," said Julie Goodridge, a star plaintiff in the lawsuit that led to legal same-sex marriage in Massachusetts in 2004.
In one of the campaign's first videos, Goodridge recalls a meeting with Romney, who was then the governor of Massachusetts.
"I looked him in the eye as we were leaving the meeting," Goodridge says in the video, "and I said in exasperation, 'Governor Romney, tell me, what would you suggest I say to my 8-year-old daughter about why her mommy and her ma can't get married? Because you, the governor of her state, is going to block our marriage.' "
"And he looked at me," Goodridge continues in the video, "and he said, kind of looked over my shoulder with this blank stare and said, 'I don't really care what you tell your adopted daughter. Why don't you just tell her what you've been telling her for the last eight years?' "
Courage is hoping more people will sign up for the campaign so they can roll out more oral history videos and help enlighten the voting public about the mercurial, Etch-a-Sketch and apparently antigay character of this man who would be president. Click here to sign up and take action.