State Republican Party rejects national party stance on abortion

PLYMOUTH — In a partial defeat for the socially conservative wing of the Massachusetts GOP, the Republican State Committee effectively rejected the national party platform’s strict language on abortion Tuesday night.

By a voice vote, the committee voted overwhelmingly to endorse Mitt Romney’s presidential platform as an addition to the current state party platform, rather than embrace the national plan.

While the national platform condemns abortion without mentioning any exceptions for rape and incest, the Romney campaign had voiced support for such exceptions during the presidential race.

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“Really, it’s a lot more moderate,” state GOP spokesman Tim Buckley said of the Romney platform, after the vote. “It’s a lot more focused on jobs and the economy.”

The Romney platform was far from a repudiation of socially conservative values, however. The former governor went on record opposing same-sex marriage.

In September, the state committee voted to table a vote on the national platform until after the election. In addition to the antiabortion language, the national platform also rejects gay marriage. By contrast, the current state party platform, adopted two years ago, does not address abortion and makes no mention of gay marriage.

Buckley said it was unclear on Tuesday night how the state platform committee would address the gay marriage question going forward.

The language of the national platform had caused controversy in Massachusetts, where Republican candidates have traditionally found success on socially moderate stances.

Richard Tisei, an openly gay Republican who failed by a narrow margin to unseat US Representative John F. Tierney, in September urged the state committee to reconsider taking up the national plan.

And US Senator Scott Brown, who worked to burnish his moderate credentials with voters during his failed reelection bid, criticized the platform in a letter he sent in August to Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus.

On Tuesday night, former lieutenant governor Kerry Healey, now a national party committeewoman and a surrogate for Romney during the campaign, did not directly address the national platform in her remarks to the state committee.

She did say, however, that the party has to be inclusive.

“As a party, we need everyone under the tent,” she said. “We need to bring in the libertarians, we need to bring in the moderates. . . . They all need to be treated equally, and they all need to be treated with respect.”

Healey added, “If we let anyone divide us, even ourselves, we will lose and we’ve seen that and it’s a heartbreaking situation.”

During a brief public comment period, some backers of the national platform said the state party should not shy away from what they said were core conservative values.

“We cannot go wrong if we focus on a message of life, liberty, and property,” said Dave Kopacz Sr., president of the Massachusetts Republican Assembly, a conservative advocacy group.

He said there is something wrong “with a person who cannot have the most basic respect for human life. We’ve got to stop letting liberals define that for us when we adopt” a platform.

Robert A. Maginn Jr., the state party chairman, said by endorsing the Romney platform, the state GOP is “able to stand behind what he was trying to do.”

Traditionally, the state party adopts a platform, essentially an outline of its guiding principles, every four years.

Kevin Franck, a spokesman for the state Democratic Party, said his party would welcome a GOP blueprint based on Romney’s, noting that the former governor lost his home state by a wide margin on Election Day.

“If the Massachusetts Republican Party is embracing the Mitt Romney agenda, the Massachusetts Democratic Party is perfectly happy with that,” he said.