Former openly gay Romney spokesman Richard Grenell tells Newsmax that support for gay marriage is consistent with conservative principles of “personal responsibility” and “less government control in our lives.”
Commenting on this week’s Supreme Court hearings on gay marriage, Grenell also said on Tuesday that his decision to step down from the Romney campaign had nothing to do with his former boss’ position on the issue of gay rights.
“I stepped aside from the Romney campaign because it was an uber partisan atmosphere where the far left gay leaders were playing politics with the fact that I was a conservative gay guy, and the far right’s religious community was playing politics with the fact that I was gay conservative,” Grenell explained in an exclusive interview.
He said that former Vice President Dick Cheney had already clearly articulated years before that “he felt confident that it was a conservative principle to say that two people should be able to petition their government — much like any other two people — and be able to enter into that contract” prior to the 2012 presidential campaign.
Nevertheless, the issue has attracted new attention in recent months as prominent Republicans such as Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, who has a gay son, have publicly endorsed same-sex marriage.
“I think that there is a growing number of conservatives that recognize that they’re being very consistent when they advocate for the conservative principle of personal responsibility and less government control in our lives,” said Grenell, who was appointed in 2001 by President George W. Bush to serve as director of communications and public diplomacy for the U.S. permanent representative to the U.N.
“I think there’s always been a difficult conversation for Republicans on many social issues to really bifurcate your own personal — possibly religious view — on some social issues, with whether or not government should be involved,” he explained.
Cheney, whose daughter Mary is a lesbian, spoke supportively about gay relationships, as early as 2004, when he said at a campaign rally in Iowa “freedom means freedom for everyone.”
Earlier this month, Portman became the first Republican in the Senate to openly support gay marriage, a reversal of his previous stand, which he said was brought on after learning two years earlier that his son, Will, was gay.
Grenell said that the left has long sought to use the issue as a political wedge between Democrats and Republicans.
“They have realized early on . . . that the young people just don’t care,” he said. “They are not interested in alienating their gay friends from the institution of marriage — and because the Democratic Party recognized that voting block early on — they’ve done a very good job of protecting that voting block by pretending that conservatives were against them, and telling the young people, ‘conservatives are against you on this.’”
He said that the leaders of the Republican Party have been unable to effectively counter the misinformation.
“The leaders of the Republican Party have been so far unable to figure out how do you have that conversation with the young people to say that’s not necessarily true,” he explained. “There are some in our party who have that view, but our party is the party of small government. We don’t want government involved in our lives. We want people to be personally responsible for their own lives. And so that consistent message I think just took a long time.”
He pointed to Cheney’s position and that of former first lady Laura Bush, Portman and others as evidence that Republicans are more comfortable with same-sex marriage, even when it remains contrary to their religious beliefs.
“I think Republicans are getting more comfortable with the fact that it is a very conservative position,” Grenell insisted, adding that Republicans, who support same-sex marriage are not asking religious institutions such as the Catholic church to sanction such unions.
Prior to his stint as spokesman for the Romney campaign on national security issues, Grenell served eight years at the U.N. in another highly visible position.
“I was hired because Mitt Romney thought I was perfect for the job and I wanted to do that job and be the guy who was the spokesman for foreign policy issues,” Grenell said. “Clearly when you’re on a presidential campaign — and I get this game — the uber partisanship of a political campaign — becomes theater. And so I became a distraction because the far left and the far right were trying to play political games.”
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