Mitt’s Trick | News | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Mitt’s Trick 

Mitt Romney stokes homophobia while battling Momophobia. Is it smart?

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The 2008 race for president promises everything the races in 2000 and 2004 lacked: suspense, drama, great personalities and, most noticeably, diversity. Thus far, the two most talked-about candidates are a practicing Mormon from Massachusetts and the only African-American currently serving in the U.S. Senate.

nn

As always, the almighty religious right is playing the field for favorites. Barack Obama is persona non grata for his views on a woman’s right to choose while Mitt Romney, who didn’t exactly make his position regarding abortion loud and clear while courting the governorship of Massachusetts, is the religious right’s current darling.

nn

Everyone knows Romney is smart. What else are you gonna call someone who graduated from the top 5 percent of both Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School? While most states were happy to sit on their hands where health care was concerned, he navigated a proposal as governor of Massachusetts to provide health care for the Commonwealth’s uninsured. His repugnance of government spending and waste is his best attribute, however, and it’s a tradition more Republicans would do well to revive.

nn

What a shame, then, that Romney can’t see his own current focus on campaign issues for what it most certainly is: a waste. Is this because he can’t let go of gay marriage as a central issue? Or is it because, due to his religion, he hasn’t a chance of winning the White House?

nn

It’s both, as a matter of fact. Think about this long enough, and it’s not hard to see why.

nn

Poll results vary, but it’s well known by now, and especially here in Utah, that between 37 and 43 percent the American public have said they cannot abide having a Mormon as president. Every time another poll reveals this open bias, we in Utah are shocked and amazed to learn such a large percentage of the country shows its distrust of Mormons. “Don’t they know we’re Christians?” we ask. “Don’t they know we’re their friends and neighbors?”

nn

It’s one of life’s enduring mysteries that people who’ve been insulted, demeaned or harassed to some extent'and that includes most of us, doesn’t it?'can’t see the hypocrisy of insulting, demeaning or harassing someone because of a personal attribute of theirs we don’t particularly care for, be it race, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation. Living in Salt Lake City, it’s one of our enduring local mysteries that a religion insulted, demeaned and even harassed at one point in its history still thinks little or nothing of keeping gay men and lesbian women forever in their place. That is, removed from the benefits of equality before the law.

nn

As many have already observed, most astutely Time magazine columnist and prolific blogger Andrew Sullivan, Mitt Romney cannot have it both ways. That is, he cannot berate those who don’t like his religion while openly pandering to the religious right over the nonissue of gay marriage. Or, as Sullivan has put it in so many words, when you live by fundamentalism, you also die by fundamentalism.

nn

Forget for a moment all the flaccid arguments about why gay marriage should not be allowed. That heterosexual marriage alone deserves honor and protection because it alone is the institution in which children are created and nurtured. (Should we then deny its benefits to childless heterosexual marriages or infertile couples?) That heterosexual marriage alone is the bedrock of our civilization. (There’ve been 8,000 gay or lesbian marriages in Massachusetts since 2003, and last I heard from my brother in Jamaica Plain, cars still stop for red lights and most children still mind their parents.) The fact is that Romney can’t maintain this sort of hypocrisy with a straight face, and it’s doubtful this sort of double standard speaks well for a man who wants to lead the nation.

nn

It’s just a shame that Romney can’t let this go. If he did, and studied up on his foreign policy enough to offer some viable solutions to our quagmire in Iraq, I’ve no doubt he’d make one of the best presidents our country’s seen in a long, long time.

nn

Yet he pours on the homophobia, threatening to bring the matter of gay marriage to ballot if Massachusetts’s Legislature won’t do it itself. Federalism holds that states have the right to decide certain matters for themselves, yet he crusades for a constitutional amendment banning the possibility forever. He courts the evangelical power base of South Carolina, a crucial primary state. His refusal to grant gays the same legal recognition allowed heterosexuals is no different than the Jim Crow slogan of the Old South, the bizarre paradox of “separate but equal.”

nn

When confronted with the question of his religion in public or in the media, Romney rightfully calls it a private matter. Too bad he can’t grant homosexuals that same deference, rather than capitalizing on homophobia for political gain.

nn

There is one option open to Romney if he’s serious about kicking his campaign into high gear. Since the LDS Church and the religious right view homosexuality as a choice open to “reorientation” and “reassignment,” he can easily switch religions. After all, if you believe a gay person not only can but should reform for the good of themselves and society, he should see no problem in leaving his religion behind for the good of a nation he presumably wants to lead.

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