Walking a careful line, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Friday he had wanted an openly gay spokesman who resigned from his campaign this week to stay on. Hours later, he worked to court the party's conservative wing by meeting with former rival Rick Santorum. In an interview with Fox News, Romney said his campaign hires people "not based upon their ethnicity, or their sexual preference or their gender but upon their capability." He called the former spokesman, Richard Grenell, a "capable individual" and said many senior campaign aides urged him not to leave.
In April, Mitt Romney hired Richard Grenell, an openly gay man, to serve as his campaign's national security spokesman. Within hours, Grenell was being attacked by a Christian radio talk show host named Bryan Fischer, whose Focal Point call-in show reaches more than 1 million listeners a day. Nine days after Fischer began his on-air attack, Grenell resigned. He had been the only openly gay member of Romney's campaign staff.
Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul told the AP that Romney’s position has not changed since 1994, when he said, “I support the right of the Boy Scouts of America to decide what it wants to do on that issue. I feel that all people should be able to participate in the Boy Scouts regardless of their sexual orientation.” The Boy Scouts of America affirmed its controversial ban on openly gay scouts and leaders last month after a formal review of the policy.
"The story on same-sex marriage is that I have the same position on that I had when I ran from the very beginning," Romney said in an interview last month with the Nashua Telegraph in New Hampshire. "I'm in favor of traditional marriage. I oppose same-sex marriage. At the same time, I don't believe in discriminating in employment or opportunity for gay individuals. So I favor gay rights; I do not favor same-sex marriage. That has been my position all along."
Q: You said that you would sponsor the Employment Nondiscrimination Act [banning gays from being fired]. Do you still support it?
A: At the state level. I think it makes sense for states to put in provision of this. I would not support at the federal level, and I changed in that regard because I think that policy makes more sense to be implemented at the state level. If you’re looking for someone who’s never changed any positions on any policies, then I’m not your guy. I learn from experience.
"I do not support creating a special law or a special status. I've learned through my experience over the last decade that when you single out a particular population group for special status, it opens the door to a whole series of lawsuits, many of them frivolous and very burdensome to our employment community, and so I do not favor a specific law of that nature. What I do favor is people doing what I did, or what I tried to do, and not discriminate against people who are gay."
"I can tell you this, which is I believe gay individuals should enjoy tolerance and respect," Romney says. "They should have equal opportunities in housing and employment. We shouldn't discriminate against people based upon their sexual preference or orientation."