February 1st, 2010
From Ben Smith’s Politico column – January 20, 2010:
GAY GROUP TARGETS ROMNEY
My colleague Ken Vogel reports that a California political operative whose hardball opposition to California’s 2008 anti-same-sex-marriage initiative generated controversy has set his sights on Mitt Romney:
Fred Karger, a prominent gay rights activist, later this week will launch a campaign urging Romney to lobby the Mormon Church to back down from its opposition to same-sex marriage.
Romney’s Mormonism hurt him during his unsuccessful 2008 bid for the GOP presidential nomination. And Karger’s campaign nods toward Romney’s 2012 presidential ambitions. Not only is it debuting roughly two years before New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary, but it will launch with an ad on the websites of the New Hampshire Union-Leader, the Boston Globe and The Salt Lake Tribune.
The ad will link to the website of a new group called Rights Equal Rights, which is funded in part by Californians Against Hate, a leading opponent of the anti-same-sex ballot initiative. The website asserts that “as a national political leader and influential member of the Mormon Church, Mitt Romney could persuade church leaders to end their 15 years of active involvement, including their massive financial support, to oppose equal rights for gay and lesbian Americans.”
Kim Farrah, a spokeswoman for the Mormon Church, pointed out that the church itself “did not spend tens of millions of dollars in campaigns to ban gay marriages” — as Rights Equal Rights’ website claims — but also defended the church’s ability “to speak out on moral issues as part of the Democratic process.”
Though Romney holds no official role within the church beyond being a member, its leaders and membership strongly backed his 2008 presidential campaign and can be expected to align behind him if he runs again in 2012.
While reminders of Romney’s Mormonism won’t help him with the broader GOP electorate, reminders of his opposition to same-sex marriage might buoy his standing with social conservatives. In 2008, they held against him a pledge he made (http://www.politico.com/blogs/jonathanmartin/0807/Romneys_tonal_shift.html) during a 1994 Senate race to be a stronger advocate for gay rights than his opponent, the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), a champion of the gay community.
A Romney spokesman declined to comment on Karger’s effort, though during the presidential campaign, his aides asserted that his stances never shifted on gay issues. They pointed out that he had long been on record opposed to same-sex marriage, as well as discrimination against gays.
But Karger charged Romney had “flip-flopped. The new Mitt Romney would be a disaster for the gay community as president.”
Still, Karger asserted the target of his campaign is not Romney but, rather, the Mormon Church, which supported the California initiative.