The presumptive Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, has said that he wanted Richard Grenell, who is openly gay and supports marriage equality, to stay on in his capacity as foreign policy spokesperson.

Mr Grenell was appointed to his position just over a fortnight ago, but resigned earlier in the week, citing “hyper-partisan” disputes over his personal life. The religious right, in particular, denounced his appointment, with a series of editorials suggesting his appointment would constitute a threat to national security.

Since then, people familiar with the matter have leaked further information to US media, suggesting that he was asked to “shut up” in front of junior colleagues, and never allowed to front the Romney campaign on issues related to foreign policy.

Earlier today, Mr Romney spoke to the conservative-leaning Fox News, and said that his campaign hired people “not based upon their ethnicity, or their sexual preference [sic] or their gender but upon their capability.” He added that Mr Grenell was “a capable individual” whom many senior campaign aides urged not to resign.

Gay rights activists in the US have been quick to point out that Mr Romney never defended Mr Grenell until this morning, and that he was conspicuously absent in the public during a week dominated by discussions on national security.

Meanwhile, Eric Fehrnstrom, spokesperson for the Romney campaign, appeared on MSNBC, and said that Mr Romney has in the past denounced the very “voices of intolerance that expressed themselves during this debate.” He was referring to Mr Romney’s condemnation of “the poisonous language” used by Byran Fischer during a Republican summit in 2011, Mr Fischer also being one of the first to denounce Mr Grenell’s appointment.

Mr Grenell himself has yet to comment further on the issue.