Rep. Barney Frank tore into Mitt Romney for his anti-gay positions Tuesday night, calling the presumptive Republican presidential nominee “despicable.”
The gay lawmaker, who late last year announced his retirement after serving 31 years in Congress, made the comments about Romney during an interview with the Washington Blade following his keynote speech at the National Stonewall Democrats’ Capital Champions reception in D.C.
Barney Frank. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key.)
Frank took issue with what he said was Romney’s “willingness … to switch and become very anti-gay” after pledging in 1994 to be better on LGBT issues than the late Sen. Edward Kennedy. He also criticized Romney for statements that Frank said “trivialize our marriages.” During a speech in February, Romney said he “fought hard and prevented Massachusetts from becoming the Las Vegas of gay marriage.”
“That’s saying our marriages were a trick, were a sham,” Frank said. ”He’s clearly prepared to embrace the most — oh, and supporting a constitutional amendment. What that says is that existing marriages are abolished. That’s just outrageous.”
Frank criticized Romney on the same night that the candidate swept five Republican primaries in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New York. Following Romney’s wins, multiple media outlets reported that former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich would suspend his campaign next week. Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, Romney’s main challenger in the primary contests, exited the race earlier this month.
While widely viewed as more moderate than his primary opponents, Romney signed a pledge from the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage committing himself to back a U.S. constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court and set up a commission on religious liberty to investigate the alleged harassment of same-sex marriage opponents. NOM has also endorsed Romney.
Although Romney has said he opposes discrimination, Frank claimed he’s being disingenuous because Romney hasn’t articulated any ways in which he would work to bar discrimination against LGBT people. In 1994, Romney said he supported the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, but he has since disavowed that support, saying in 2006 that he sees no need for it, then in 2007 that employment non-discrimination should be a state issue.
“He’s lying,” Frank said. “What does that mean? How does he oppose discrimination? He’s not for any legislation that would make it illegal. So how does he oppose it? He is for a discrimination that would dissolve all the existing marriages. So what does that mean when he says that?”
Frank also said Romney doesn’t deserve credit from the LGBT community for last week hiring Richard Grenell, an openly gay man, as his spokesperson for national security and foreign affairs issues.
“He’s got one openly gay person,” Frank said. “How many people is he going to hire? He had some openly gay people work for him when he was in Massachusetts. We’re beyond giving people credit for not overtly discriminating.”
Frank refrained from criticizing President Obama for his decision not to issue an executive order at this time barring LGBT workplace discrimination among federal contractors.