A new revelation surfaced about Mitt Romney Thursday (October 25), revealing yet another step he took as Massachusetts governor to thwart equal treatment of gays in the state.
The Boston Globe said it was able to obtain records from an anonymous source this month that shows then Governor Romney tried to block the state Registry of Vital Records and Statistics from complying with a state supreme court decision that allowed same-sex couples to marry. The court decision required all state agencies revised documents necessary to comply with the court’s ruling and, for the Registry, that meant revising birth certificate forms to accommodate the designation of two same-sex parents instead of only a “mother” and a “father.”
The Globe said the Registry sought to change the word “father” on the birth certificate form and have it say “father or second parent” instead, in recognition of the fact that many lesbian couples were and would continue to use the forms. The Globe said Romney rejected the plan and instructed his legal staff to individually review the birth certificate applications of every same-sex couple.
“Only after winning approval from Romney’s lawyers,” said the Globe, “could hospital officials and town clerks…cross out by hand the word ‘father’ …and write in ‘second parent’.”
The Globe said it discovered the effort after reviewing dozens of emails and legal memos sent between the governor’s office and lawyers at the state Department of Health, which includes the Registry. In a December 13, 2004, email to Romney’s general counsel Mark Nielsen, the DPH’s deputy general counsel Peggy Wiesenberg warned that Romney’s instructions violated state law and compromised “the integrity of the vital record-keeping system.”
According to the Globe, Wiesenberg warned the Romney administration that Romney’s plan would likely pose problems for the children of same-sex couples later in life when they registered for school, applied for a passport or driver’s license, or registered to vote.
The Globe found few instances of Romney’s actions leading to a denial of a proper birth certificate for a child of a same-sex couple. Wiesenberg’s email refers to at least 23 cases of lesbian couples giving birth to children conceived using anonymous donors. But in all 23 of those cases, according to Wiesenberg’s email, Romney’s General Counsel “instruct[ed] the hospital to list mother & same sex spouse as the second parent on the child’s birth certificate.”
However, the Globe did find one instance in which a lesbian couple asked that the second parent be identified as “wife,” instead of “second parent.” That request, according to the Globe, was denied. And in a second case, Romney’s chief legal counsel Brian Leske rejected a request to list both same-sex parents on the birth certificate because the parents were not married.
Romney led an unsuccessful effort as governor of Massachusetts to push the legislature to try and overturn the historic 2003 state supreme court ruling in Goodridge that said the state constitution requires treating same-sex couples the same as straight couples in the issuance of marriage licensing. He also testified before Congress in favor of a U.S. constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. And he quashed an existing governor’s council to advise ways to help LGBT young people.
The Globe said birth certificates revised to comply with the Goodridge decision did not become available until after Democratic Governor Deval Patrick took office in January 2007.
The Globe said that, in June, it formally requested records related to the Romney administration’s deliberations on birth certificates but that the Department of Public Health “withheld most of the documents,” saying they reflected information protected by the attorney-client privilege. The documents were later provided to the Globe from “a source who requested anonymity.”