Mona Shield Payne
Friday, Feb. 10, 2012 | 3:33 p.m.
WASHINGTON -- In an effort to win over the Republican values voters, Mitt Romney is invoking Sin City and billing himself as the only candidate “severely conservative” enough to keep such horrors from spreading.
"On my watch we fought hard and prevented Massachusetts from becoming the Las Vegas of gay marriage," Romney told a gathering at this year’s CPAC conference in Washington, D.C., Friday.
Romney was governor of Massachusetts -- “a deep blue state” as he likes to remind people -- when that state became the first in the country to declare gay marriage legal in 2003. Though it was a decision of the state Supreme Court, Romney has been criticized for failing to stop it in its tracks.
Romney used part of his time at CPAC to convince Republicans that he had done everything in his power to counteract the ruling, including push an amendment to the state constitution that failed by just one vote, and limit the reach of the law such that gay couples from other states couldn’t come to Massachusetts for the sole purpose of getting married and then go home again -- hence the Vegas reference.
But as much as the simile of a Vegas marriage may work as a popular reference -- and it certainly worked for the CPAC crowd -- it’s an odd comparison based on the facts.
Massachusetts never outlawed gay marriage, but Nevada has. In 2002, the Silver State passed an amendment with almost two-thirds of the popular vote -- something Romney was not able to do in Massachusetts.
In 2009, a Democrat-led Legislature approved recognition of same-sex civil unions, overriding then-Gov. Jim Gibbons’ veto. Still, civil unions are legal in lots of states: 13 at last count.
The idea that Massachusetts could emulate Las Vegas-style marriage, gay or straight, is also far-fetched: There are neither the quick-turnout waiting periods to get a marriage license, nor the support industries -- including the 24 hour bars -- that get people from the proposal to the altar in record time and droves.
As for Las Vegas, a campaign to push for ordinances to challenge the state constitution by recognizing gay marriage haven’t built up much steam. Mayor Carolyn Goodman has not signed a national petition to encourage recognition of gay marriages.