Right-Wing Romney: Gay Spokesman Quits Campaign

Wed. May 2, 2012 12:00 AM
by Waymon Hudson

It looks like the Mitt Romney "etch-a-sketch" general campaign strategy isn't quite shaping up like everyone thought-- at least when it comes to moderating on LGBT rights.

Richard Grenell, the openly gay national security and foreign policy spokesman for the Romney campaign (who also made headlines for sexist and offensive tweets prior to being hired), resigned his position after facing stiff and continuous opposition from the anti-gay forces on the right-wing of the Republican movement. Grenell released a statement, blaming "hyper-partisanship" in campaigns, saying, "my ability to speak clearly and forcefully on the issues has been greatly diminished by the hyper-partisan discussion of personal issues that sometimes comes from a presidential campaign."

"Hyper-partisan" discussion? I guess it was partisan, since only one party was discussing Grenell's sexual orientation in a negative way-- conservative Republicans. Bryan Fischer, of the virulently anti-gay hate group the American Family Foundation, had been relentlessly attacking the campaign for hiring Grenell and condemned Romney for bringing him on board. Fischer's only solution? Dump Grenell or face the wrath of social conservatives, a group already unhappy with the Romney nomination.

The Romney campaign was certainly feeling the heat-- and responding to it. The campaign refused to send Grenell out as a spokesman as the right-wing controversy swirled, leaving him frustrated and with no real job to do. The Washington Post quotes sources close to Grenell who said, "Grenell decided to resign after being kept under wraps during a time when national security issues, including the president's ad concerning Osama bin Laden, had emerged front and center in the campaign." On top of keeping Grenell hidden while the far right whipped up controversy, there was no public statement of support for him by the campaign in the two weeks since he was brought on.

The Romney campaign's crumpling to right-wing pressure did not go unnoticed. When Bryan Fischer heard the news of Grenell leaving the campaign, he declared it a "huge win" for the Religious Right. And it was. The most extreme voices of the far-right forced Romney to abandon someone for the sole reason of his sexual orientation, even after saying he was qualified for a job.

And they wonder why the LGBT community needs ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act...

This also leaves many of the conservative gay organizations, like the Log Cabin Republicans and GoProud, in a bit of a lurch. They sang Grenell's appointment from the rooftops as proof of the inclusive views of Romney and the GOP in general. Oddly enough, I agree with them. Grenell's appointment to the campaign, then silencing by anti-gay forces in the party, and eventual departure for no other reason but his sexual orientation reflect the views of the Republican party perfectly. Silencing gay voices, even hyper-conservative ones like Grenell that tow the party's most polarizing lines, is par for the course for today's GOP.

How's that "big tent" Republican Party looking now?

But this all really begs the bigger question-- if Romney will capitulate to the most extreme voices in his party on even this small issue, is there anything he won't bow to them on? It's a telling example of the dangers of a weak and malleable Mitt.

To appease the right-wing in the primary, Romney called himself the "severe conservative." He said he prevented Massachusetts from "becoming the Las Vegas of gay marriage" AND that he supports a federal constitutional amendment banning marriage equality. He also supports reinstating "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", has vowed to defend the odious "Defense of Marriage Act" from court challenges, and even questions the rights of gay people to adopt.

So what does Romney really think and believe? Who knows. He is being shaped by the views of the Republican party around him. Romney doesn't lead as much as follow the loudest voices in his party-- and those loudest GOP voices right now are perhaps the scariest they have been in generations.