But the issue also gave Romney a national perch. For the first time, he began calling for a federal marriage amendment and testified before the Senate about the need to "protect our societal definition of marriage." His staff started conferring regularly with advisors in the White House and Romney became one ofPresident George W. Bush's main surrogates against his 2004 Democratic opponent, Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts.
A year later, as he prepared for his first White House bid, Romney touted his opposition to gay marriage when he addressed conservative audiences.
"From Day One, I've opposed the move for same-sex marriage and its equivalent, civil unions," he told South Carolina Republicans in 2005. Calling the ruling "a blow against the family," he said that some gay couples "are actually having children born to them."
Romney backed up his rhetoric with money, donating $10,000 from his political action committee to a 2006 campaign to outlaw same-sex marriage in South Carolina. The same year, he directed tens of thousands of dollars from his personal family foundation to several conservative groups, including $10,000 to the Massachusetts Family Institute. Mineau said the funds helped defray the $500,000 the group spent on its petition drive for the constitutional amendment.
Romney did not return to his campaign promises of expanding protections for gays and lesbians.
"He didn't care about his constituents and their rights," said Julie Goodridge, one of the lead plaintiffs in the original court case, who sued after her partner was barred from her hospital room while she underwent emergency surgery. "He cared about his future as a presidential candidate."