The Romney campaign has tried their darndest to divert the media and wipe their hands clean of Richard Grenell after the national security spokesperson abruptly resigned his post yesterday afternoon. When the news leaked to The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin, it was immediately framed in terms of Grenell's status as an openly gay man in a party that advocates against LGBT civil rights. However Rubin didn't mince words in explaining Grenell's departure. "The ongoing pressure from social conservatives over his appointment and the reluctance of the Romney campaign to send Grenell out as a spokesman while controversy swirled left Grenell essentially with no job," she wrote.
The last thing Romney wants is a string of stories accusing the presumptive Republican nominee of being a homophobe. Romney's campaign manager Matt Rhodes issued a release claiming that they were "disappointed" by Grenell's decision, and they contacted publications such as Politico to change the narrative, claiming that a string of senior campaign officials had called Grenell to discourage him from quitting. Their counterargument seems absurd at face value. If the Romney team truly had no concern with his sexual orientation they would have issued public releases disowning the attacks from Bryan Fischer and other evangelical conservatives. It's hard to imagine any political operative resigning a plum position if the possible future president was willing to offer public support. Instead, they took the fearful tact, terrified of offending the social conservatives who have yet to fully accept Romney as the party's new leader. As Dave Weigel said, "You certainly can't look at this and think, 'There's a campaign that's confident of holding on to evangelical voters.'"
Like most current Republicans, Romney is no strong ally for LGBT rights. But he's smart enough to recognize the trends in wider culture, and made every effort during the primary to avoid the label of bigot. "I don't discriminate," Romney said in response to a debate question on how he has supported gay rights. "In the appointments made when I was governor of Massachusetts a member of my cabinet was gay. I appointed people to the bench regardless of their sexual orientation. Made it very clear that in my view we should not discriminate in hiring policies, in legal policies." Romney reiterated his opposition to same-sex marriage by tried to carve out a middle ground. "If people are looking for someone who will discriminate against gays," he continued, "or will in any way try and suggest that people who have different sexual orientations don't have full rights in this country, they won't find that in me."
Don't let the Romney campaign's protestations distract from the truth: they sided with the homophobic views of the far right over a forceful defense of Grenell. Apparently employment in a Republican presidential campaign isn't included in those "full rights."
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