(CNSNews.com) - Since 2004, when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ordered state lawmakers to create homosexual marriage in the state, then-Gov. Mitt Romney has cast himself as a staunch opponent of the court's decision who fought the good fight to stop it from happening.
However, not all gay marriage opponents remember it that way. Rather, they say it was Romney who actually got gay marriage started in the state, reacting before the legislature acted and even telling local justices of the peace (JPs) to resign if they didn't think they could officiate at ceremonies involving homosexual couples.
"At least a dozen people immediately resigned," said Larry Cirignano, the former president of Catholic Citizens in Massachusetts, among the organizations that gathered signatures to amend the state's constitution to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
One JP who stepped down, Kathleen Harvey of Bellingham, Mass., said she did so out of conscience and conviction.
"I chose to resign," Harvey told Cybercast News Service. "I personally didn't feel that same-sex marriages were marriages. If they were civil unions, I don't think that would have bothered me, but I personally didn't feel they were marriages. I just didn't want to be officiating at one of those ceremonies."
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.
"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,' " Winslow told Cybercast News Service.
Winslow said 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.
But former state legislator Brian Camenker claims that Romney's moves during the period leading up to the May 17 implementation of the court's order actually helped grease the skids for gay marriage in the Bay State.
The November 2003 Massachusetts high court ruling said that the rights and privileges of marriage had to be applied to everyone -- including same-sex couples -- under the state constitution. It gave the Massachusetts Legislature 180 days to act on a homosexual marriage law.
By April 2004, lawmakers had not acted. But Romney had. Camenker said not only had the governor ordered JPs to perform gay marriages, but he also issued new marriage certificates that replaced the titles "husband" and "wife" with "Party A" and "Party B."
"The legislature never acted. He didn't have to do anything," said Camenker, who is currently president of MassResistance, a suburban Boston-based anti-gay marriage group. "Romney was a major force in creating same-sex marriage."
Those actions -- which Camenker said were "incredibly underreported" -- were overshadowed by the national attention paid to Romney when he invoked a 1913 law to block out-of-state couples from entering into marriages in Massachusetts that weren't recognized in their home state. That move was referred to in most press accounts, and Romney was labeled as a gay marriage opponent.
"He wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal and created a record for himself by going to Washington and testifying to Congress and speaking at the Heritage Foundation," Cirignano said. "But his record in Massachusetts was lacking when he could have made a difference."
'Pro-individual and pro-tradiional marriage'
The Romney campaign responded to requests for comment from Cybercast News Service by sending a statement from Kris Mineau of the Massachusetts Family Institute, who it said "had worked with the governor" on the issue:
"Within hours of the November 18, 2003, Supreme Judicial Court decision legalizing gay marriage, Governor Romney publicly denounced the court's ruling and affirmed traditional marriage," he said. "And that was just the beginning of his support for preserving traditional marriage.
"Governor Romney could not have been more public or vocal in his opposition to same-sex marriage during his entire tenure as governor," he added.
"He did not create same-sex marriage; that responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, for which Chief Justice Margaret Marshall has been pleased to accept full credit and responsibility," Mineau stated.
"The court's landmark ruling established same-sex marriage by judicially redefining the meaning of the word marriage," he noted. "This final judicial order in the form of a declaratory judgment on May 17, 2004, was what created same-sex marriage in Massachusetts.
"Any administrative policies and procedures relative to solemnizing same-sex marriages were carried out only as a direct result of the judiciary's final action in Goodridge on May 17, 2004," Mineau added. "Governor Romney is pro-individual and pro-traditional marriage . . .period."
MassResistance has no plans to go into Iowa, where the first presidential caucus is being held on Jan. 3, but will send an e-mail to "hundreds and hundreds of Republicans" in the state, Camenker said.
The Massachusetts group also plans to use its close proximity to New Hampshire, which has its primary on Jan. 8, to get the word out on Romney's record on homosexual marriage when he was governor.
Make media inquiries or request an interview with Pete Winn.
Subscribe to the free CNSNews.com daily E-brief.
E-mail a comment or news tip to Pete Winn.