This bit of business came up yesterday, but I didn’t have time to blog about it. It came across my radar around the same time as Newt Gingrich’s bombastic bleating that being gay is a choice.

However, it’s Mittens that takes the cake, because the former Massachusetts governor is engaging in some painful squirming on the subject of marriage equality that it cannot go unmentioned.

During an interview with the Boston Herald on Wednesday, Mitt Romney reiterated his support for a federal amendment to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman, but also said that he would establish three different tiers of marriage specifically for gay people:

Expressed support for a constitutional amendment that could create a complex three-tier system of marriage — maintaining marriage rights for straight couples, allowing gays who have already married to remain married, but barring future same-sex marriages.

“I think it would keep intact those marriages which had occurred under the law but maintain future plans based on marriage being between a man and a woman,” Romney said.

WTF? Boy, that really craptastic news for all married same-sex couples, who get watered-down rights —  and if they ever divorce, they’ll never be able to marry another same-sex partner in Romney’s America.

Over half of the country supports marriage equality at this time, so to openly support separate and unequal, especially in this level of specificity looks, well, stupid, because it doesn’t please the fundies or marriage equality advocates (are you listening, Mr. President?) or even the mighty middle. It only serves to show Mittens can’t stand the prospect of settling on one opinion on difficult topics, something that already makes GOP primary voters queasy.

The Log Cabin Republicans released a statement observing the hilarious futility of Romney’s epic contortions.

“Governor Romney is contorting himself into a pretzel trying to avoid the simplest solution to a purely political problem. The best way to strengthen all families is to grant equal access to civil marriage for all couples regardless of their orientation,” said R. Clarke Cooper, Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director. “Governor Romney’s proposal to create a stratified system is a recipe for legal chaos. It is an offense to the rights of states like New Hampshire that have chosen to legalize marriage equality, and would, for the first time since the Civil War, enshrine second class citizenship in the American Constitution. On the state level, California is already struggling to deal with the fallout of multiple classes of marriage rights imposed by Proposition 8, proving that this system simply doesn’t work. Log Cabin Republicans appreciate the governor’s efforts to find middle ground, but this is not an acceptable solution.”

Hat tip goes to Ned Flaherty of MarriageEquality.org, who sums up this latest Mittens evolution/contortion quite nicely:

  • For several years, Mitt Romney supported only one-man-one-woman marriage.
  • On 13 December 2011, he was criticized in 2 broadcasts:
    • a video interview in which Army veteran Bob Garon and his husband challenged Romney’s opposition to full marriage equality;
    • an audio interview in which Marriage Equality USA’s Ned Flaherty challenged Romney’s claim to concurrently support both gay rights and DOMA.
  • The next day, Romney proposed 3 new classes of federal marriage rights starting in 2013:
    • full, permanent rights to marry and re-marry (opposite-sex couples only);
    • partial, temporary, same-sex marriage rights to stay married (only for existing couples who were legally wed 2004 – 2012);
    • no same-sex marriage rights for anyone who is ever divorced, widowed, or never-married, in any state.

Hello out there to Iowans voting in the Caucuses — is this the guy you want at the top of the ticket?

Just to show how useless his three-tier position is in terms of inoculating him on the issue, last night Rick Santorum slammed Mittens. Romney’s defense of what happened in Massachusetts? He was just obeying the court’s orders.

Think Progress on Santorum’s reaction to Mittens’ answer:

The answer didn’t satisfy Rick Santorum, however, who dredged up false accusations that Romney voluntarily signed same-sex marriage licenses himself. Santorum’s claim is a popular misconception put forward by right-wing groups that conflates the state’s One Day Marriage Designation with actual marriage licenses. As the Massachusetts state website explains, “[t]he One-Day Marriage Designation is not a marriage license,” but rather a certificate the governor can issue to “designate non-clergy individuals to solemnize a marriage.” Once same-sex marriage became legal in Massachusetts, the Romney administration granted designation applications to same and opposite sex couples.

In reality, Romney tried to limit the impact of the ruling by ordering town clerks to enforce a little-known 1913 law to deny licenses to out-of-state couples and even testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of a federal marriage amendment.