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Romney Leery Of Parade 'Hosted By Cross-Dresser'

Governor To Rein In Commission

POSTED: 6:51 pm EDT May 12, 2006
UPDATED: 6:57 pm EDT May 12, 2006
Gov. Mitt Romney flirted with abolishing a state advisory commission on gay youth for promoting a parade featuring a cross-dressing master of ceremonies and embracing transgender teens, a spokesman said Friday.

Initially, Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said the governor, who signed a proclamation hailing a similar parade in 2003, considering killing the Governor's Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth because the parade press release was issued without the administration's blessing.

On Friday, Fehrnstrom expanded on that explanation.

"This year what was brought to our attention was a press release that was not authorized by this office but which went out on state letterhead promoting a parade that was hosted by a crossdresser and celebrating, among other things, transgenderism," he said, adding Romney has instructed the commission to refocus on its core mission of suicide prevention.

Romney's actions prompted lawmakers to begin drafting legislation to take the commission -- the nation's first governor's commission on gay and lesbian youth when it was established in 1992 -- away from the governor's office and put it in the hands of the Legislature.

"We have to take the politics of this and make sure that the kids are protected," said state Rep. Carl Sciortino, D-Medford. "I think we saw yesterday a knee-jerk reaction."

Sciortino said Romney's decision to rein in the commission is likely related to the fact that Romney is weighing a run for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.

"I'm left with the question of what's changed since 2003 and I'm left with the governor's political ambitions," Sciortino, who is gay, said Friday.

Not everyone was happy with Romney's decision to keep the commission.

MassResistance president Brian Camenker said his group presented administration officials with photos from last year's parade featuring "boys dressed up in fishnet stockings, high heels and women's clothes parading down the middle of Boylston Street, boys with brassieres embracing each other."

"We met with governor's staff on Monday. You could see they were visibly sickened. You cannot look at this stuff and not know that something terribly wrong is going on," Camenker said. "This is basically just hardcore homosexual activism. This kind of thing -- normal people don't do this with other people's kids."

Fehrnstrom said administration officials met both with Camenker and commission supporters.

Commission chairwoman Kathleen Henry said she received a call shortly before 3 p.m. Thursday from Romney chief of staff Beth Myers saying that Romney "had issued an executive order revoking the commission," and then received another call a few hours later saying Romney had decided against abolishing the commission, but would call for it to refocus its efforts.

Fehrnstrom said Romney never issued an executive order and the secretary of state's office said they never received one.

Henry said she met with Romney's legal counsel on Friday but declined to say what was discussed. "It was a meeting about how the commission will move forward," she said.

The press release announced the Wizard of Oz-themed rally, set for Saturday, May 13, hosted by "drag king Heywood Wakefield" and designed to celebrate "gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer (GLBTQ) youth and their supporters."

Henry said Thursday she regretted that the press release was sent out without being vetted by Romney's office. The release included Romney and Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey's names, the state seal and the commission's name.

"It was a mistake," she said.

Henry said the commission received about $325,000 in tax dollars during the current fiscal year, but that none of the money goes to the parade. She said a separate nonprofit, the Friends of the Governor's Commission, raises money to "underwrite the kinds of activities that are hard to explain to taxpayers as beneficial to the prevention of suicide."

The rally is 12th such parade sponsored in part by the commission.

In 2003 Romney signed a proclamation hailing that year's youth gay pride march. The proclamation named May 17, 2003, "Massachusetts Gay Straight Youth Pride Day" and recognized the commission's support of "the Commonwealth's gay and lesbian youth."

The Web site for the commission could not be accessed on Thursday, but was up again Friday.

The commission was created by former Republican Gov. William F. Weld by an executive order in response to national reports about high suicide rates among gay and lesbian youths.