IN ATTEMPTING to make points with national conservative audiences, Governor Romney is denigrating gay families, practicing divisive, mean-spirited politics. He is also peddling ignorance.
To say, as he did last week in Utah, that gay marriage is ''a blow to the family" misrepresents the commitment lived by same-sex couples here and all over the world. To say, as he did in South Carolina two weeks ago, that gay couples ''are actually having children born to them" castigates a loving relationship as somehow shameful.
Romney has taken a page from President Bush's illogic by insisting that every child ''has a right to a mother and a father," implying that two women or two men could not possibly do the job. But many studies have shown that, while children fare better having two parents, the sexual orientation of those parents is inconsequential.
Professional organizations -- including the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Psychoanalytic Association, the American Psychological Association, and the National Association of Social Workers -- supported plaintiffs Hillary and Julie Goodridge in their case leading to the landmark 2003 ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court legalizing gay marriage. The Goodridges have been together 17 years and have a 9-year-old daughter.
Eleven year-old Emmett Bragdon-Hess, whose parents are lesbians, made his case with simple eloquence at a demonstration last week outside the governor's office at the State House. ''My family is just an ordinary family, and I don't know why we can't live together and be happy," he said.
Would Romney support dissolving that child's family? Would he prevent gay couples from adopting needy children -- products of often abusive homes or dissolved heterosexual unions?
Romney press spokesman Felix Browne answered ''no" to both questions in a phone interview Tuesday but adds that while the governor realizes that an intact home with a mother and a father is ''not the only environment where children are raised in the Commonwealth," he does feels that such a home is ''the ideal environment."
That kind of thinking relegates gay couples and their children to second-class citizenship. It is the kind of thinking that barred black people from white lunch counters and kept women in the secretarial pool. It is the kind of thinking that had some people attacking Romney on the basis of his religion in his 1994 Senate bid -- something this page deplored.
Tearing people down because of their beliefs, skin color, gender, sexual orientation -- or anything else that is a description, not a character flaw -- has no place in enlightened political debate. Romney would do more for the country by using his nice-guy image to elevate the discussion rather than stooping to pander to the rigid right.