Does religion matter in the race for president? It seems like a simple question with a simple answer, doesn't it? But this year it might not be, since the Republican candidate is a Mormon, and not only a Mormon, but a member of the Mormon clergy, a bishop (similar to a pastor in other religions) and a stake president, where he presided over several congregations.
Considering the teachings regarding the LGBT community by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and how diligently they worked to pass Proposition 8 in California, this might seem alarming. But wait: There's a true Mitt Romney twist. During the late 1980s and early '90s, when he served as bishop in Boston, he didn't always follow the letter of the Mormon law. He allowed divorced men to continue in leadership positions, and allowed a couple of divorced parents to adopt. (The church later changed its policy to allow this.)
Of course, this all served him well when he decided to run for governor in liberal Massachusetts. However, he's not running for governor this time: He's running for president, with a different demographic slant.
Many know that Romney was the former governor of Massachusetts. In 1994, he stepped down as bishop to run for his first public office in a campaign against Sen. Ted Kennedy for the U.S. Senate. During the campaign, he stated he was better on gay rights than Kennedy. Unable to unseat Kennedy, public office called Romney again and, in 2002, he was elected governor. He nominated LGBT people as judges and backed a universal health-care act and, as he stated at the time, in 2004 he reluctantly instructed town clerks to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. In 2005, he endorsed an effort to amend the Massachusetts Constitution to ban same-sex marriage, with no provision for civil unions in the petition.
He decided not to run for re-election in 2006 and, instead, planned a campaign for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. It was also the same year John McCain was up for the same prize, but it was McCain's second round and he understood the Republican base.
McCain showed Romney that to be nominated, you must be a bona fide conservative. And so he spent the last four years attempting to prove his conservative values. Those values are more in line with the Mormon Church but, as we've seen, Romney doesn't always follow the church, although he always works with it. It's not his Mormonism that one has to worry about. After all, John Kennedy, America's first Catholic president, made his independence known and stood for civil rights.
Can we say the same about Romney?
Philadelphia Gay News Publisher Mark Segal is the nation's most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. He can be reached at email@example.com .