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Web campaign targets Romney’s ‘extreme anti-LGBT agenda’

Mitt Romney spoke in Houston last week.

Evan Vucci/Associated Press/File

Mitt Romney spoke in Houston last week.

A pair of liberal super PACs are teaming up on a new Web campaign that accuses Mitt Romney of advancing an “extreme anti-LGBT agenda” that would make life worse for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Americans.

The campaign is called “Mitt Gets Worse” -- a play on the “It Gets Better” project, which is a collection of videos designed to encourage LGBT youth. President Obama was featured in an “It Gets Better” video in October 2010.

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The “Mitt Gets Worse” campaign, launched Wednesday by the Courage Campaign Super PAC and American Bridge 21st Century, is a compilation of video testimonies from people who describe Romney as insensitive and willing to put his political ambitions ahead of equality. The campaign’s website also features video of Romney discussing LGBT rights as far back as 1994, when he ran unsuccessfully for US Senate.

If elected president, the super PACs suggest, Romney would roll back protections for LGBT citizens -- perhaps pushing for a federal ban on gay marriage, which he supports; defending the Defense of Marriage Act in court, which the Justice Department has ceased to do under Obama; and undermining the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

“I believe he will be responsible for a major backlash,” said Julie Goodridge, a star plaintiff in the lawsuit that led to legal same-sex marriage in Massachusetts in 2004.

In one of the campaign’s first videos, Goodridge recalls a meeting with Romney, who was then the governor of Massachusetts.

“I looked him in the eye as we were leaving the meeting,” Goodridge says in the video, “and I said in exasperation, ‘Governor Romney, tell me, what would you suggest I say to my 8-year-old daughter about why her mommy and her ma can’t get married? Because you, the governor of her state, is going to block our marriage.’ ”

“And he looked at me,” Goodridge continues in the video, “and he said, kind of looked over my shoulder with this blank stare and said, ‘I don’t really care what you tell your adopted daughter. Why don’t you just tell her what you’ve been telling her for the last eight years?’ ”

Romney has talked sparingly about LGBT issues during his run for the White House, except when he reaffirmed his belief that “marriage is between one man and one woman” after Obama endorsed same-sex marriage in May.

Romney’s presidential campaign has focused almost exclusively on the economy, and he has been accused of moving to the right on social issues only to appease the most conservative factions of the Republican Party.

But “Mitt Gets Worse” makes the case that limiting LGBT rights would actually “become a core focus of a Romney presidency,” as Goodridge put it.

“Even if he is tailoring his rhetoric to appeal to conservatives, there is no reason to believe he wouldn’t continue to kowtow to conservatives as president,” said David Brock, founder of American Bridge 21st Century.

“Romney seems to be able to say whatever is appropriate to get elected,” added Courage Campaign Founder Rick Jacobs. “He doesn’t seem to believe in much of anything, except that he doesn’t seem to like LGBT people.”

Brock and Jacobs cited the May resignation of Richard Grenell, an openly gay foreign policy adviser to Romney, as the genesis of the “Mitt Gets Worse” campaign.

Grenell blamed the end of his brief tenure on “hyper-partisan discussion of personal issues,” not on Romney.

“I want to thank Governor Romney for his belief in me and my abilities and his clear message to me that being openly gay was a non-issue for him and his team,” Grenell said in a statement.

But Brock noted that Romney “stopped short of making a public statement of support” for Grenell and said the episode inspired the super PACs to further explore Romney’s treatment of LGBT people.

Jacobs said the groups plan to release more videos in the near future and hope website visitors will post their own.

Callum Borchers can be reached at callum.borchers@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @callumborchers.
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