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Romney Goes to Bat for Same-Sex Marriage Ban

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) is circulating a letter to senators urging them to support a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, a measure the Senate is expected to vote on tomorrow.

Gov. Mitt Romney
The Senate debate on banning same-sex marriage is giving Massachusetts Gov. Romney a chance to court conservative voters. (AP File Photo)

"As governor of the state most affected by this amendment, I hope my perspective will encourage you to vote 'yes'," Romney writes.

Massachusetts became the testing ground for same-sex marriage when its Supreme Court ruled in 2004 that a state law defining marriage between one man and one woman was unconstitutional. Since that time 8,000 same-sex marriages have been performed in the state.

Romney argues in the letter that the negative impact of the decision is already being felt. For example, birth certificates that read "mother" and "father" are being challenged in hopes of changing them to read "parent A" and "parent B." He also says "in our schools children are being instructed that there is no difference between same-sex marriage and traditional marriage."

Echoing the stump speech he's been making as he tests the 2008 presidential waters, Romney writes that defining marriage is not fundamentally about adults but rather children. "Marriage is principally about the nurturing and development of our children," he says. "And the successful development of children is critical to the preservation and success of our nation."

Romney's lobbying effort is as much about a presidential run as it about influencing the outcome of this week's Senate debate. Republicans acknowledge they are nowhere near the 67 votes they need to push the constitutional amendment forward but are hoping a recorded vote will help revive the issue for the midterm elections.

For Romney, playing a high-profile role in the fight to define marriage serves an important purpose. One of the major challenges Romney must face in the coming months is the image most conservative voters have about his state -- a liberal bastion that is represented by such Democratic stalwarts as Rep. Barney Frank and Sens. Edward Kennedy and John Kerry. Romney's outspokenness is an attempt to reassure these conservatives that while he may come from Massachusetts he is nothing like most of the politicians from the state.

The same-sex marriage debate is simply the latest in a series of moves Romney has made to court the conservative base that will play an outsized role in choosing the Republican presidential nominee in 2008. He has come out as a strong defender of the sanctity of human life (a flip-flop some say) and often refers to himself in speeches as the "conservative Republican governor of the bluest state in the country."

Romney has catapulted himself into the top tier of 2008 candidates thanks to this kind of rhetoric as well as his telegenic good looks and ability to win office in a Democratic state. But much work needs to be done before Romney can call himself the chosen candidate of conservatives -- especially those for whom social issues --like gay marriage -- predominate. One major hurdle in that effort will be Romney's Mormon faith, which observers speculate will scare off some evangelical Christians.

For more on the politics and public sentiment surrounding the ongoing gay marriage debate, make sure to check The Fix tomorrow morning when we devote this week's "Parsing the Polls" to analyzing the topic.

By Chris Cillizza  |  June 6, 2006; 2:34 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
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