Mitt Romney, U.S. Republican presidential candidate, hugs evangelical advisor Mark DeMoss at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, May 12, 2012.
Credits: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Mitt Romney signalled this weekend he won't campaign against gay rights.
The message was loud and clear in what he didn't tell a gathering of 34,000 Evangelical Christians during his keynote convocation address Saturday at Liberty University, an evangelical school that reportedly doesn't even admit openly gay students.
In front of what was his largest audience to date, Romney only mentioned the controversial issue once during his speech, and even then only reiterated his belief that marriage should be defined as between "one man and one woman."
"Culture -- what you believe, what you value, how you live -- matters. As fundamental as these principles are, they may become topics of democratic debate from time to time," Romney said at the school. "So it is today with the enduring institution of marriage. Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman."
But Romney's laser-like focus on the economy -- he had more to say Saturday about the fast-food chain Chick-fil-a than he did about same-sex marriage -- has not quelled the discussion about gay rights nationwide.
Some social conservatives, including Romney's former GOP rival Rick Santorum, called the issue a "potent weapon" over the weekend and is urging Romney to use it to energize the party's base.
And Newsweek's upcoming issue features Obama's face with a rainbow halo and the headline, "The first gay president."
(James Buchanan was, of course, the first gay president in the 1850s. He lived with Alabama Senator William Rufus King, whom everyone inside the beltway referred to as "Mrs. Buchanan," "Miss Nancy," and "Aunt Fancy," and when King became the U.S. ambassador to France, Buchanan -- a lifelong bachelor -- wrote to a friend he had, "gone a wooing to several gentlemen, but have not succeeded with any one of them.")
Meanwhile, a new Gallup poll shows nearly twice as many Americans are less likely to support Obama than those who are more likely to support him following his historic announcement last week that gay couples should be allowed to marry.
The poll found 26% are less likely to support him because of his stance, while just 13% said they were more likely to vote for Obama because of it.
And while a slew of recent polls have suggested Americans were equally divided on the issue, a new CBS News/New York Times poll better explains how people feel about same-sex unions.
The survey found 38% support legal marriage for gay couples, while 24% support legal civil unions. One in three Americans oppose any legal recognition of same-sex couples.