Op-ed: I’m a Gay Man Who Ran Against Romney. He’s a Phony.

Fred Karger (left) and Mitt Romney

On the eve of being sworn in as the freshman United States Senator from his new home state of Utah, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney lashed out at Donald Trump again, this time in the Washington Post. Why would the most prominent member of the Mormon Church do this now? One reason only: Mitt Romney has his sights set on Trump’s job. 

Trump claims that during Romney's 2012 presidential campaign, Romney begged Trump for his endorsement, even traveling to Las Vegas to meet with him to gain his support. Trump added, Romney wanted his endorsement so badly that he would have “dropped to his knees” to get it. 

Cut to four years later; Trump was the frontrunner for the GOP nomination. That’s when Romney attacked Trump in a speech at the University of Utah. He blasted Trump’s business acumen, his character, and said that when it comes to foreign policy, “he’s not very smart.” 

Romney tried to lead the "anybody but Trump" movement years ago, endorsing three different candidates running against him, Governor John Kasich, Senator Marco Rubio and eventually the last man standing, Senator Ted Cruz. 

Then after Trump won, in a major about-face, Romney campaigned actively to become his Secretary of State, meeting with the President-elect twice including the infamous dinner at Trump’s Hotel in New York. The photo from that dinner made Romney look like the proverbial deer in headlights. He was baited, caught and then clubbed over the head by Trump who never had any intention of picking him for Secretary of State. It was one of Trump’s first big paybacks after winning office. 

It was preposterous that Romney even thought he would be picked for that cabinet post. When Romney was the GOP nominee for president, he took his first trip abroad with lots of press along to try and show is foreign policy chops, a tradition of party nominees. These trips are usually well-oiled machines designed to showcase the candidate on the world stage. However, Romney’s first soiree to Europe and then Israel was universally panned and described around the world as a “Total Disaster,” leaving Romney “Stumbling on Almost Every Front,” making a “Flop in Europe.” So who’d want this guy to be Secretary of State anyway!? 

I know a lot about Romney and his Mormon Church. I discovered all that the Mormon Church did to qualify and pass California’s Prop 8 in 2008, which took marriage equality away from millions of LGBTQ people in my home state. I turned the story over to the Wall Street Journal, which broke it. The Mormon Church has not been quite the same ever since. I also know all that the Mormon Church did to stop marriage equality in 24 other states through internal church documents given to me 10 years ago. 

I’ve been researching and speaking out against the Mormon Church and Mitt Romney for the past 10 years. I even made history as the first openly gay candidate to run for president from a major party when I ran against Romney for the Republican nomination in 2012. One important reason I ran was to shine a spotlight on Romney and his church

I fear Mitt Romney. He is a true believing Mormon, which means that he is 100 percent obedient to his faith and its leaders. It’s the same faith that continues to disparage the LGBTQ community. Romney has to be in lockstep with Mormon leaders on its LGBTQ+ policies or his and his entire family’s eternity is in jeopardy. 

The Mormon Church’s LGBTQ history is abysmal, causing Utah, where it is headquartered, to have 8 times the attempted teen suicide rate of any other state. It’s where just three years ago the Mormon Church issued its cruel November Policy which deems same-sex couples apostate and forbids their children from participation in the Church. 

The Church has worked overtime during the past 40 years to demonize the LGBTQ+ community and take our rights away. That’s one good reason Church leaders have so actively supported Romney to run for the Senate — so the will of Church leaders could be carried out in Congress and eventually the Presidency. 

I’ve taken on the Mormon Church in ads, press conferences, and even a satirical animated series called “Salt Park.” Four months ago I wrote an op-ed for the Salt Lake Tribune. An Open Letter to Mitt Romney” asks Romney to use his bully pulpit as a Senate nominee to work to change his Church’s virulently anti-LGBTQ+ policies just like his father, George Romney did by speaking out forcefully for African-American civil rights when he was governor of Michigan in the 1960s. That op-ed fell on deaf ears. 

When Romney was on CNN last week, Jake Tapper asked him if he would challenge Trump in 2020, and Romney said he would not. Don’t believe him. He adheres to his Church’s 19th Century “White Horse Prophecy,” which says that a Mormon Church member would need to become president in order to save the country from the brink. As a true believing Mormon (TBM), Romney’s “obedience” must be unwavering. He could not turn down the demand by Church leaders that he and his wife move to Utah and run for U.S. Senate, nor could he do so if they ask him to run for president. As a sitting Senator, Mitt Romney is back on the national stage placing him in a far better position to either challenge Trump in 2020, or if Trump falters, he’ll be waiting in the wings. 

The LGBTQ+ community and our allies should be fearful of a Mormon president, especially Romney. This phony, fraud and hypocrite would do his Church’s bidding at every turn and could then cause so much permanent harm to millions of LGBTQ Americans just as it does to LGBTQ Mormons.

FRED KARGER is a political consultant and LGBTQ rights activist. 

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