Romney Didn’t Stop Bullying As A Kid, Went After LGBT Commission As Gov

Once a bully always a bully: Talking Points Memo has learned that an all-grown-up Gov. Mitt Romney went after a state-run gay-youth organization, decrying its involvement in a Pride parade and eventually putting the kibosh on the group.

Romney’s Republican predecessor, William Weld, created the Governor’s Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth in 1992 to stem high LGBT-teen suicide rates and harassment in schools. In addition to providing teacher and administrator training, the commission funded GSAs throughout the state.

Two years after taking office, Romney started trying to dismantle the group:

Romney continued its existence upon taking office, but a rift began in 2005, when he vetoed a $100,000 increase in its budget, prompting the state legislature to overturn his move and restore funding. Conservative anti-gay activists, who had mobilized in the wake of the state’s gay marriage fight, publicly opposed the commission’s budget request.

Romney’s office reiterated at the time that the governor’s initial objection was over funding levels, and not the group’s goal of helping gay youth, which he supported.

Commission co-chair Kathleen Henry defended Romney, and the next year the governor doubled his requested funding for the group. But while the budget fight subsided, relations between the governor and commission collapsed in mid-2006, after the commission lent its name to materials promoting a long-running annual Pride parade for LGBT youth that it helped organize using private funds. Romney, incensed at being officially associated with a gay Pride event, threatened to dissolve the commission on the spot.

Guess that wasn’t the Pride parade Mitt was allegedly going to attend, huh?

Romney’s bitterness toward the commission seems to stem from Brian Camenker, then director of the Article 8 Alliance, a group fighting same-sex marriage in Massachusetts. Camenker showed Romney’s aides pictures of a Pride march where gay teens were apparently in drag. ”They had boys dressed as women embracing. We presented stuff, and they were visibly sickened by what they saw,” Camenker told the Boston Globe. “I said, basically, this group has to go.”

Oh well, if some nutbag from what the Southern Poverty Law Center calls a hate group says jump, you better ask “how high,” right? (Ironically Camenker later went after Romney for being too liberal.)

The commission didn’t fund the parade but Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said the Governor was troubled that an unauthorized press release on state letterhead was promoting an event “hosted by a crossdresser and celebrating, among other things, transgenderism.” Oddly, Romney had been supportive of similar marches in 2003 and 2004.

Of courses that was before he got stars in his eyes.

Romney backed down from killing the commission but decided he wanted to revamp it—so it wouldn’t specifically address the needs of LGBT victims of bullying—and bring in all new members. Democratic legislators, already furious over Romney’s threats, created a new committee, one focused on “school-based and community-based programs focusing on suicide prevention, violence intervention and the promotion of zero-tolerance policies regarding harassment and discrimination against gay and lesbian youth.” Wow—years before the rest of the country noticed gay kids were getting their asses kicked!

So what did Romney do? First he tried to veto approval for the new group. And when that didn’t work, he nixed the Governor’s Commission, claiming it was redundant.

In a really sad and twisted way, this anecdote will only serve to endear Romney to the reactionary GOP base, who’ve been worrying that he’s too damn soft on them homosexuals.

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