Not for the first time, some Massachusetts pro-lifers give Mitt Romney support in gratitude for his record on marriage, life, and religious freedom. An open letter released last night addresses some specific and frequent criticisms about the issuing of marriage licenses after the Massachusetts supreme-court ruling in November 2003.
In full after the break:
An Open Letter Regarding Governor Mitt Romney
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December 30, 2011
Dear conservative friends:
We hail from a broad spectrum of organizations dedicated to fighting for the pro-family agenda in Massachusetts. As you know, Mitt Romney served as the governor of our state from January 2, 2003 to January 3, 2007. During that time, we worked closely with him and his excellent staff on that agenda.
Some press accounts and bloggers have described Governor Romney in terms we neither have observed nor can we accept. To the contrary, we, who have been fighting here for the values you also hold, are indebted to him and his responsive staff in demonstrating solid social conservative credentials by undertaking the following actions here in Massachusetts. The following is not an endorsement of Governor Romney but our account of the facts to set the record straight.
· Staunchly defended traditional marriage. Governor Romney immediately and strongly condemned the November 18, 2003 Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) decision that legalized “same-sex marriage” in our state. More importantly, he followed up on that denunciation with action – action that saved our nation from a constitutional crisis over the definition of marriage. He and his staff identified and enforced a little-known 1913 law that allowed them to order local clerks not to issue marriage licenses to out-of-state couples. Absent this action, homosexual couples would surely have flooded into Massachusetts from other states to get “married” and then demanded that their home states recognize the “marriages,” putting the nation only one court decision away from nationalizing “same-sex marriage.”
o We do not agree with the claims that Gov. Romney had bogus Party A and Party B marriage licenses printed and ordered Justices of the Peace and Town Clerks to perform same-sex “marriages” when asked or be fired. As May 17, 2004 (the SJC’s declaratory judgment date) approached, the Governor’s Office of Legal Counsel issued provisional advisory instructions to the justices of the peace and prepared revised license applications. These executive actions did not result in the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples before May 17. The new policies were carried out only after and as a direct result of the judiciary’s final action in Goodridge on May 17. They did not generate same-sex marriages; that responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.
o We do not agree with the claims that Gov. Romney issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The governor does not issue marriage licenses in Massachusetts. Only the town clerks can do that. But the governor can issue one-day justice of the peace authorizations to an individual who wants to perform a marriage ceremony but is not a licensed minister, town clerk or justice of the peace. The governor’s office issues thousands of those in a four year term with the only criteria being that the individual doing the ceremony is in good standing and the parties getting married have a valid marriage license.
· Worked hard to overturn “same-sex marriage” in the Commonwealth with substantial results. In 2004 he lobbied hard, before a very hostile legislature, for a constitutional amendment protecting marriage – an amendment later changed by the legislature to include civil unions, which the Governor and many marriage amendment supporters opposed. Working with the Governor, we were successful in defeating this amendment.
· Provided strong, active support for a record-setting citizen petition drive in 2005 to advance a clean constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The petition drive collected the largest number of signatures in Massachusetts history.
· Rallied thousands of citizens around the state to focus public and media attention on the failure of legislators, through repeated delays, to perform their constitutional obligation and vote on the marriage amendment. In November of 2006, Gov. Romney held the largest State House rally in Massachusetts history with over 7000 supporters of traditional marriage.
· Filed suit before the Supreme Judicial Court asking the court to clarify the legislators’ duty to vote and failing that, to place the amendment on the 2008 ballot. That lawsuit, perhaps more than any other single action, was by all accounts instrumental in bringing the ultimate pressure on the legislators to vote. The SJC unanimously ruled that the Legislature must vote and the historic vote was taken on January 2, 2007 winning legislative support. This cleared a major hurdle in the three year effort to restore traditional marriage in the Commonwealth.
· Fought for abstinence education. In 2006, under Governor Romney’s leadership, Massachusetts’ public schools began to offer a classroom program on abstinence from the faith-based Boston group Healthy Futures to middle school students. Promoting the program, Governor Romney stated, “I’ve never had anyone complain to me that their kids are not learning enough about sex in school. However, a number of people have asked me why it is that we do not speak more about abstinence as a safe and preventative health practice.”
· Affirmed the culture of life. Governor Romney vetoed bills to provide access to the so-called “morning-after pill,” which is an abortifacient, as well as a bill providing for expansive, embryo-destroying stem cell research. He vetoed the latter bill in 2005 because he could not “in good conscience allow this bill to become law.”
o We do not agree with the claims that Gov. Romney is responsible for tax payer funded abortion under the Massachusetts health care system. That blame lies solely on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court who ruled in 1981 that the Massachusetts Constitution required payment for abortions for Medicaid-eligible women. In 1997, the Court reaffirmed its position that a state-subsidized plan must offer “medically necessary abortions.”
· Stood for religious freedom. Governor Romney was stalwart in defense of the right of Catholic Charities of Boston to refuse to allow homosexual couples to adopt children in its care. Catholic Charities was loudly accused of “discrimination,” but Governor Romney correctly pointed out that it is unjust to force a religious agency to violate the tenets of its faith in order to placate a special-interest group.
· Filed “An Act Protecting Religious Freedom” in the Massachusetts legislature to save Catholic Charities of Boston and other religious groups from being forced to violate their moral principles or stop doing important charitable work.
All of this may explain why John J. Miller, the national political reporter of National Review, wrote that “a good case can be made that Romney has fought harder for social conservatives than any other governor in America, and it is difficult to imagine his doing so in a more daunting political environment.”
We are aware of the 1994 comments of Senate candidate Romney, which have been the subject of much recent discussion. While they are, taken by themselves, obviously worrisome to social conservatives including ourselves, they do not dovetail with the actions of Governor Romney from 2003 until now – and those actions have positively and demonstrably impacted the social climate of Massachusetts.
Since well before 2003, we have been laboring in the trenches of Massachusetts, fighting for the family values you and we share. It is difficult work indeed – not for the faint of heart. In this challenging environment, Governor Romney has proven that he shares our values, as well as our determination to protect them.
For four years, Governor Romney was right there beside us, providing leadership on key issues – whether it was politically expedient to do so or not. He has stood on principle, and we have benefited greatly from having him with us.
It is clear that Governor Romney has learned much since 1994 – to the benefit of our movement and our Commonwealth. In fact, the entire nation has benefited from his socially conservative, pro-family actions in office. As we explained earlier, his leadership on the marriage issue helped prevent our nation from being plunged into even worse legal turmoil following the court decision that forced “gay marriage” upon our Commonwealth.
For that our country ought to be thankful. We certainly are.
President, Morality in Media Massachusetts
Gerald D. D’Avolio
Former Executive Director, Massachusetts Catholic Conference
Raymond L. Flynn
Former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See
Professor Mary Ann Glendon
Harvard Law School
Former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See
President, Massachusetts Family Institute
Dr. Roberto Miranda
COPAHNI Fellowship of Hispanic Pastors of New England
James F. Morgan
Chairman, Institute for Family Development
Former Chairman of the Board, Massachusetts Citizens for Life
Thomas A. Shields
Chairman, Coalition for Marriage and Family
Note: The signatories are all acting as individual citizens, and not as representatives of their respective organizations. Organizational affiliations appear for identification purposes only.