Romney Says He Supports ‘Partnership Agreements’ for Same-Sex Couples

By Fred Lucas | October 11, 2011 | 3:40 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) – Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney told a New Hampshire gathering that he would support “partnership agreements” for homosexual couples that would extend certain legal rights to them, but affirmed that he opposed same-sex “marriage.”

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“What I would support is letting people who are of the same gender form--if you will--partnership agreements, if they want to have a partnership with someone else and have as a result of that such things as hospital visitation rights and similar benefits of that nature,” Romney, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, said at a town hall meeting on Monday in Hopkinton, N.H.

Romney did not specify what other benefits would be included or if a “partnership agreement” is the same as civil union or domestic partnership laws adopted in several states such as California, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, Nevada, Rhode Island and Oregon. These state laws vary but they grant many of the same rights to same-sex couples that enter into legal agreements as marriage between heterosexuals under state law.

CNSNews.com contacted two spokespersons with the Romney campaign by phone and e-mail on Tuesday to ask if the other benefits mentioned by Romney would include adoption. Neither spokesperson responded before this story was posted.

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks at a town hall meeting, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011, at The Villages in Fla. (AP Photo/Reinhold Matay)

In the past, homosexual “marriage” has been an issue for Romney who, as governor, quickly and publicly denounced the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s decision in November 2003 to impose gay “marriage” on the state. However, some opponents of gay “marriage” criticized the Romney administration’s handling of the issue after the governor’s office ordered Justices of the Peace to perform the ceremonies even before the legislature acted.

During the New Hampshire town hall meeting on Monday, an audience member asked Romney about his view that families should have a mother and a father, pointing out that she was raised by her mother and grandmother.

“There are a lot of folks that get raised by one parent if they’re divorced, through death or through a parent out of wedlock,” Romney responded. “But in my view, a society recognizes that the ideal setting for raising a child is when you have the benefit of two people working together and where one is male and one is female.”

“I happen to believe that and that’s the reason I think as a society we say, ‘You know what? We’re going to call marriage what it’s been called for 6,000 years or longer: A relationship between one man and one woman,’” he said. “That’s my own view and there are alternative views.”

In a July 25, 2011 photo, lesbian couple Jennifer Tipton, left, and Olivier Odom are seen at a coffee house in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Knoxville News Sentinel, Saul Young)

An audience member then followed-up with a question about whether he would support rights for same-sex couples.

“What I would support is letting people who are of the same gender form – if you will – partnership agreements if they want to have a partnership with someone else and have as a result of that such things as hospital visitation rights and similar benefits of that nature,” Romney answered.

In April 2004, Romney's chief legal counsel, Daniel Winslow, told justices of the peace that they were required to perform gay “marriages.” If they couldn’t comply, they were expected to resign.

In a 2008 interview with CNSNews.com, Winslow said, “My message was: ‘You took an oath, and you don’t have to agree or disagree with the law, you took an oath to uphold the law. Your only job is to follow the law. We'll leave it to the courts to litigate what the law is, but once the courts have ruled, if you've taken an oath under the constitution, you have to follow your oath.” (See earlier story.)

Navy Lt. Gary Ross, right, and Dan Swezy celebrate after exchanging wedding vows on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011 in Duxbury, Vt. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

Winslow told CNSNews.com he had been dispatched to speak at a gathering of the Massachusetts Justices of the Peace Association because a number of JPs had already announced that they would refuse to perform ceremonies involving same-sex couples,  and the association had asked for guidance from the governor, who appoints all JPs.

“At the time, we were formulating the governor's legal options, which included exercising every possible legal challenge to delay or limit the impact of the Goodridge ruling,” Winslow said.

The federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) recognizes marriage as between one man and one woman and states that one state is not required to recognize a same-sex “marriage” from another state.