BOSTON — In 2003, while Governor of Massachusetts, GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who publicly said he opposed child-rearing by gay and lesbian couples, insisted that his top legal staff individually review the circumstances of every birth to same-sex parents.
Following the 2003 ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, which legalized same-sex marriage, the state’s Registry of Vital Records and Statistics set-out to comply with the ruling by revising its birth certificate forms for children born to same-sex couples. The box for “father” would be relabeled “father or second parent,” reflecting the new law.
But according to a report Thursday by The Boston Globe, then-Governor Romney rejected the Registry of Vital Records plan, and only after winning a case-by-case approval from Romney’s lawyers could hospital officials and town clerks across the state be permitted to cross out by hand the word “father” on individual birth certificates, and then write in “second parent,” in ink.
The Boston Globe details the extraordinary effort by Romney to prevent routine recording of births to gay parents:
Deliberations about the policies, including dozens of exchanges about the marriages and births of individual families, are recounted in e-mails and legal memos sent between the governor’s office and lawyers at the Department of Public Health, which oversees the Registry of Vital Records. Romney’s insistence on scrutiny harmed the ‘integrity of the vital record-keeping system,’ one official said.
The practice of requiring high-level legal review continued for the rest of Romney’s term, despite a warning from a Department of Public Health lawyer who said such a system placed the children of same-sex parents at an unfair disadvantage. Crossouts and handwritten alterations constituted “violations of existing statutes’’ and harmed “the integrity of the vital record-keeping system,’’ the deputy general counsel of the department, Peggy Wiesenberg, warned in a confidential December 13, 2004, memo to Mark Nielsen, Romney’s general counsel.
The changes also would impair law enforcement and security efforts in a post-9/11 world, she said, and children with altered certificates would be likely to “encounter [difficulties] later in life . . . as they try to register for school, or apply for a passport or a driver’s license, or enlist in the military, or register to vote.”
Romney’s interventions mostly resulted in delays awarding birth certificates for women married to same sex partners who gave birth. Gay men seeking parental rights were required to take a different route, by obtaining a court order.
The birth-certificates episode reflects the constantly evolving approach regarding LGBT rights by Romney.
In 1994, while campaigning for a Senate seat against then incumbent Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy, Romney promised to be a moderate champion of gay rights. Later, while governor as well as during his first run for president in 2008, Romney hardened his stance.
After the Supreme Judicial Court ruling, he actively supported efforts in Massachusetts for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. In 2008, he sought support from the religious conservatives who vote disproportionately in Republican presidential primaries.
In his current presidential campaign, Romney continues to oppose same-sex marriage and has said he supports amending the U.S. Constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman. LGBT equality rights advocates have denounced Romney’s intervention.
“It’s appalling that Mitt Romney would create so many additional obstacles for same-sex parents, particularly when the path to starting a family is already so hard for LGBT people,” said HRC President Chad Griffin.
“Romney prioritized his own distaste for LGBT people over the well-being of children in Massachusetts. Mitt Romney didn’t care that these children would face a lifetime of obstacles in obtaining legal documentation for things like getting a driver’s license or registering to vote; he only cared about making sure same-sex parents felt abnormal and isolated simply because they wanted to start a family,” said Griffin.
Earlier this year, Romney said adoption for same-sex couples was legal in all states but one, when in fact, laws in seven states restrict same-sex couples from adopting altogether. And in the vast majority of states, adoption by LGB individuals and families is unclear and left to the discretion of judges, state agencies and adoption agencies.