Romney camp: Liberty speech not place for policy

Posted at 9:10 AM, May 12, 2012
and last updated 2012-05-12 01:23:31-04

By Shawna Shepherd, CNN Political Producer

(CNN) - Although Mitt Romney's commencement address Saturday at Liberty University is expected to focus mainly on non-policy related topics, he is expected to discuss his position on same-sex marriage in his speech to the evangelical Christian college.

A Romney campaign official, speaking on background in a conference call with reporters, said the presumptive Republican presidential nominee will share some of his life experiences and lessons.

"He will talk about personal responsibility, the dignity of hard work, and the commitments of family," the official said. "Marriage isn't the focus of the speech but he will mention the fact that marriage is an enduring institution which deserves to be defended."

On Wednesday President Barack Obama announced for the first time that he supports same-sex marriage. On the same day, Romney reaffirmed his belief that marriage is between a man and a woman, but believes states should have the ability to extend certain rights to gay couples, short of marriage.

On Thursday, Romney reiterated a stance, long held, that states should be able to decide whether or not same-sex couples can adopt children.

"I know many gay couples are able to adopt children," Romney said in an interview with Fox News. "That is fine. But my preference is we encourage the marriage of a man and a woman and we continue to define marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman."

The businessman and former Massachusetts governor criticized the president this week for fundraising off the issue of same-sex marriage, saying it wasn't an issue that should be made into a pitch for donations.

"I don't think the matter of marriage is really a fundraising matter, either for the president, and it is certainly not for me," Romney said Thursday on Fox News.

He added, "I hope the issue as tender and sensitive as the marriage issue is not a source of fundraising for either of us."

On Friday, Romney campaigned in North Carolina, which recently passed a referendum that constitutionally bans same-sex marriage. In his speech, Romney focused on the economy in his remarks at the Charlotte Pipe and Foundry Company.

"The reason the governor got into the race for president is because of the dismal state of the economy," the official said on Friday's conference call. "Jobs and the economy is the message that carried him through the primaries, it's what he takes with him into the general election, and it is why he's going to win in November."

CNN's Jim Acosta contributed to this report.