First we had the disturbing news that an overwhelming percentage of those North Carolinians who voted did so to enshrine bigotry against same-sex couples in their state constitution. While polls showed that the ballot provision would be approved, the same polls indicated that roughly the same percentage approved of civil unions but not marriage. The approved amendment to the Constitution, of course, outlawed civil unions as well as marriage. It is difficult to come up with a silver lining to either the approved bigotry or the awareness that voters did not know what they were voting on.
The next day, President Obama came out in support of gay and lesbian couples having the same right to marry as heterosexual couples. Predictably, the response from the Main Stream Media and much of the blogosphere has centered on the political consequences and whether it was a moment of courage or political calculation. Having a high regard for the President’s political skills, I think there was without doubt an element of calculation, not exactly a shocking revelation regarding an incumbent president running for reelection. But I also think there was a moment of real leadership there. While cynics may dispute whether he had actually “evolved” on the issue, how many of us who now support marriage equality did so even 10 years ago?
Yesterday brought us a piece by Jason Horowitz in The Washington Post about Mitt Romney’s prep school days. In Horowitz’ article, he describes an incident in which the 18-year old Romney was offended that a schoolmate had bleached blond hair that hung down over one eye. He assembled a posse that went to the youngster’s room, where he was tackled and subdued so Romney could cut his hair as the kid screamed and cried. Romney then led a triumphant group back to his room to celebrate. The victim of this assault, who later came out as gay, is now deceased. The article also cites the sources saying that Romney would shout “Atta girl” when a then-closeted gay student would speak during class. I assume because there were five sources (four identified) for Horowitz’ article, Romney did not deny the facts of the story, but did say he did not remember them. He proceeded to issue the politician’s pro forma apology:
Back in high school, I did some dumb things and if anybody was hurt by that or offended, obviously I apologize. I participated in a lot of hijinks and pranks during high school and some might have gone too far and for that, I apologize. I certainly don’t believe that I thought the fellow was homosexual. That was the furthest thing from our minds back in the 1960’s.
(Emphasis added.) Now, I have done and said more than my fair share of stupid things for which I am embarrassed, and not all of them occurred when I was a callow teenager. But Romney and I are about the same age, and I can say authoritatively that homosexuality was something one was well aware of even back in the 60’s. Not everyone had what we could call an enlightened view of homosexuals back then; indeed, the opposite was more likely the norm. That’s a far cry, however, from actively engaging in persecuting someone. While Romney may characterize these incidents as “hijinks” or “pranks,” I think a more apt description would be “bullying.”
I do not believe Romney when he says that he does not remember these incidents. Back in the day when I was employed gainfully, one of my responsibilities was to investigate employee misconduct. A sure-fire indicator that someone was lying was when they did not deny a significant accusation, but instead stated “I don’t remember.” Some of those quoted in the Horowitz article who participated with Romney in assaulting the kid not only have a vivid memory, but the appropriate level of remorse for engaging in an act of cruelty.
But let’s end on a positive note. Here is what the President said in explaining his position on marriage equality in his interview on ABC News. The quote is taken from Andrew Sullivan’s post on The Daily Beast.
In the end the values that I care most deeply about and [Michelle] cares most deeply about is how we treat other people and, you know, I, you know, we are both practicing Christians and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others but, you know, when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule, you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated.