Catholic League Chief ‘Astonished’ By Romney Chick-fil-A Stance

Monday, 06 Aug 2012 01:49 PM

By David A. Patten

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The Romney campaign’s decision to duck the Chick-fil-A controversy over gay-marriage appears to have reopened old wounds with social conservatives, who were never fully sold that the former Massachusetts governor would represent their concerns in the marbled halls of Washington.

“This is the most disheartened that certainly I’ve felt looking at this entire race,” said Catholic League president Bill Donohue. He told Newsmax in an exclusive interview that social conservatives will now have to decide whether to sit out the race.

On Friday, Romney told reporters he does not intend to address the controversy that was touched off when big city mayors threatened to punish the Chick-fil-A restaurant chain after its president, Dan Cathy, voiced support for the traditional definition of marriage as between a man and a woman.

Special Report: Obama’s Assault on Religion — Click Here Now

“Those are not things that are part of my campaign,” said Romney.

Romney’s aides have explained that while the presumptive GOP presidential nominee favors the traditional definition of marriage, he is trying to structure his remarks to keep the focus solely on the economy in order to have the best possible chance of defeating President Barack Obama in November.

Longtime columnist and former GOP presidential candidate Patrick J. Buchanan waded in on the issue Friday, telling Politico that Republicans must push back against gay marriage or risk losing social conservatives for a generation.

“I don’t understand why Mitt Romney doesn’t just get his Secret Service detail and take his press corps down to a Chick-fil-A and show solidarity with these people,” Buchanan said, adding: " . . . Reagan would have walked right on down there naturally.”

Donohue, pointing out that constitutional scholar Alan Dershowitz and the ACLU issued bold statements condemning the effort to punish Chick-fil-A, told Newsmax that Romney’s decision to be “agnostic on this issue” could prove to be “the defining moment” of the 2012 campaign.

“Social conservatives have to make up their mind whether they should just simply stay at home, or go out there and vote for Romney,” said Donohue. “I’m astonished that he couldn’t even come to grips with the question — leaving gays out of it — do we want the chief executives, the mayors of large cities trying to intimidate, using the power of government against private enterprises whose politics they disagree with? I think it’s a pretty simple issue.”

Donohue noted that many social conservatives were skeptical before Romney decided to sit out the controversy, which has only aggravated that uneasy relationship. He said the campaign’s response “does not bode well” for the role social conservatives and their issues will play in the upcoming convention, and beyond.

Donohue voiced his appreciation that former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a favorite of evangelicals and other conservative voters, has been invited to address the convention. But he said that placate social conservatives.

“No one’s going to be allowed to speak at any great length on this issue,” he predicted in regard to the convention. “All we’re going to hear is that marriage is between a man and a woman. That’s flatulent.”

More feedback to Romney’s no comment came from conservative direct marketing pioneer Richard Viguerie, who told Newsmax: "Governor Romney has once again disappointed the conservative base of the Republican Party by refusing to support Chick-fil-A when they were attacked by Democrat politicians and others who favor the radical homosexual agenda.

While President Obama united the base of the Democratic Party by appealing to those interests, Governor Romney's silence has merely served to unit the Fortune 500 and other establishment interests he already had behind his candidacy."

Special Report: Obama’s Assault on Religion — Click Here Now

Ralph Reed of the Faith and Freedom Coalition counseled social conservatives not to overreact to Romney’s response, however.

“I would certainly recommend Mitt Romney or any other candidate stop by a Chick-fil-A while on the campaign trail,” Reed told Newsmax.

“But on the salient and defining issue of what constitutes marriage, Romney has with great moral clarity made it unambiguously clear that he believes that marriage should be defined between a man and a woman,” said Reed. “Voters of faith will remember that when they go to the polls in November.”

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