Some say Gov. Romney (R-MA) changed tune on gay civil unions in Spartanburg Mon. - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Some say Gov. Romney (R-MA) changed tune on gay civil unions in Spartanburg Mon.

(Boston-AP) Feb. 23, 2005 - Massachusetts Governor Romney is coming under fire for comments he made about gay marriage to Republican activists in South Carolina.

Romney told Monday night's gathering in Spartanburg County that he's always been opposed to same-sex marriage as well as what he called "it's equivalent, civil unions."

Romney, however, has for months backed a proposed amendment to the Massachusetts constitution that would ban gay marriage but provide for civil unions with the same rights and responsibilities as marriage.

Massachusetts State Representative Phil Travis says Romney can't be for civil unions when he's in Massachusetts and against them when he's out-of-state. Travis has been a leading opponent of same-sex unions.

Gay activists say they also find Romney's statements puzzling. Arline Isaacson with the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus says Romney isn't being consistent when it comes to civil unions.

About 150 people attended the Spartanburg event.

South Carolina votes after Iowa and New Hampshire, but the first-in-the-South primary has given the eventual GOP nominee unbeatable momentum since Ronald Reagan swept to the White House in 1980. Romney refuses to say if he will run for president in 2008, instead concentrating on a re-election bid.

Romney isn't the first potential 2008 candidate to come to South Carolina. Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani came three weeks ago. Several other candidates, like Senate Majority Leader Bill First, visited last year while campaigning for others.

Romney is not as conservative as many in the party, and Furman University political scientist Danielle Vinson says he will have an uphill climb in South Carolina.

updated 8:02am by Chris Rees

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