Huntsman: Marriage Equality is Conservative


Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman has come out rather boldly in favor of marriage equality, and is arguing in an article at The American Conservative that allowing gay couples to marry fits well with what he regards as genuine conservatism. He urges conservatives to lead the fight for equality rather than opposing it:

While serving as governor of Utah, I pushed for civil unions and expanded reciprocal benefits for gay citizens. I did so not because of political pressure—indeed, at the time 70 percent of Utahns were opposed—but because as governor my role was to work for everybody, even those who didn’t have access to a powerful lobby. Civil unions, I believed, were a practical step that would bring all citizens more fully into the fabric of a state they already were—and always had been—a part of.

That was four years ago. Today we have an opportunity to do more: conservatives should start to lead again and push their states to join the nine others that allow all their citizens to marry. I’ve been married for 29 years. My marriage has been the greatest joy of my life. There is nothing conservative about denying other Americans the ability to forge that same relationship with the person they love.

All Americans should be treated equally by the law, whether they marry in a church, another religious institution, or a town hall. This does not mean that any religious group would be forced by the state to recognize relationships that run counter to their conscience. Civil equality is compatible with, and indeed promotes, freedom of conscience.

Well said. And bravo.

Comments

  1. Gvlgeologist, FCD says

    The only problem with that statement (and I agree, bravo) is that in today’s conservative movement, right wing christians demand bigotry.

  2. tynk says

    a couple things:

    1: During the republican primary run up, I had stated that of all the candidates, John Huntsman was the only one that would make me question who I was voting for. I knew he didn’t have a chance, but that said more about the party than the candidate. So thank you Mr. Huntsman for considering me a person.

    2: What the heck is a “Utahns “?

  3. Phillip IV says

    While serving as governor of Utah, I pushed for civil unions and expanded reciprocal benefits for gay citizens.

    Yeah, and while he was at that about every second sentence from him was “But I firmly believe that marriage is only between a man and a woman”. Seems that part has fallen victim to an expedient little ret-con.

    But at this point I’m not even sure whether Huntsman’s ‘evolution’ is a positive sign or not: Did he change his position because he feels it’s becoming increasingly acceptable within his party, or has he just resigned himself to the fact that the Tea Party wing will never forgive him the civil unions thing, anyway, so he might as well got the whole way?

  4. says

    I guess he’s given up on the idea of running for President, unless he’s foolish enough to believe enough of the Republican Party will change their mind on gay marriage soon enough for him to try again.

    I have every expectation that the Republican Party will stop fighting this losing cause once they see that public opinion is dead set against them, but there is a difference between not fighting it and embracing it — which is what Huntsman is doing. For that, he’ll be left out in the cold.

  5. says

    And let’s not forget Ted Olsen:

    Many of my fellow conservatives have an almost knee-jerk hostility toward gay marriage. This does not make sense, because same-sex unions promote the values conservatives prize. Marriage is one of the basic building blocks of our neighborhoods and our nation. At its best, it is a stable bond between two individuals who work to create a loving household and a social and economic partnership. We encourage couples to marry because the commitments they make to one another provide benefits not only to themselves but also to their families and communities. Marriage requires thinking beyond one’s own needs. It transforms two individuals into a union based on shared aspirations, and in doing so establishes a formal investment in the well-being of society. The fact that individuals who happen to be gay want to share in this vital social institution is evidence that conservative ideals enjoy widespread acceptance. Conservatives should celebrate this, rather than lament it.

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2010/01/08/the-conservative-case-for-gay-marriage.html

  6. says

    I’m sure I’d have my share of disagreements with Huntsman on other issues, but I give him major kudos for this. It can’t be easy to be one of the few sane Republicans in these insane times.

  7. Alverant says

    While I agree that Huntsman is the only member of the GOP I’d consider voting for, his “genuine conservatism” smacks of “no true Scotsman” and an attempt to redefine conservative “values” from what values the majority of conservatives practice.

  8. Rip Steakface says

    And so the long-prophesied “conservatives were at the forefront of the push for marriage equality in the 2000s!” cry from the right has begun. It was a good joke, Huntsman, why’d you have to fulfill it?

    I guess it only makes sense, though. If we can get impassioned stands for gay rights from frickin’ rappers, it was only a matter of time until conservatives start calling for marriage equality.

  9. M, Supreme Anarch of the Queer Illuminati says

    It’s funny how we* seem to have the habit of claiming broad values as specific to our political ideologies. For instance, Huntsman considers it “conservative” to promote

    a practical step that would bring all citizens more fully into the fabric of a state they already were—and always had been—a part of.

    I’m all for taking steps to incorporate everybody comfortably into the social fabric — but I would have called that a socialist value. I guess values tend to look different in the context of different sets of other values — hierarchy and authority vs. commonality and solidarity.

    *(where “we” includes, at the very least, me and Jon Huntsman, though I rather suspect it isn’t just the two of us)

  10. says

    And so the long-prophesied “conservatives were at the forefront of the push for marriage equality in the 2000s!” cry from the right has begun. It was a good joke, Huntsman, why’d you have to fulfill it?

    “While serving as governor of Utah, I pushed for civil unions and expanded reciprocal benefits for gay citizens”

    ! =

    “conservatives were at the forefront of the push for marriage equality in the 2000s!”

    Not even close.

  11. eamick says

    What the heck is a “Utahns”?

    A Utahn is a person from Utah. I think it’s actually preferred by the locals over Utahan.

  12. Rip Steakface says

    @10

    It’s baby steps. We’ve already seen conservatives claim they were totally pushing for race equality in the 50s and 60s in the last few years. Who’s to say that won’t be the case in 2055? All Huntsman is doing is laying a foundation.

  13. says

    All Huntsman is doing is laying a foundation.

    No; the retroactive claim that conservatives have always supported gay equality is a lie.

    Are you saying that Huntsman’s claim that he personally has supported gay rights when he says he has, in the way he has, is also a lie?

    If not, then he’s not “laying a foundation” for anything. He’s just refusing to be in lockstep with far right-wing conservatives on this issue. That deserves only congratulations, not this stupid conspiracy theorizing.

  14. says

    Good for Huntsman, but yet again, we have the bizarre argument that we should do policy X because it’s the conservative thing to do, not simply because it’s the right thing to do irrespective of ideology. You don’t see this kind of behavior from the liberal side. And I’m not really sure what the point is, because it results in “conservatism” meaning completely different things depending on the needs of the moment. It’s all just rationalizing.

  15. says

    Gotta go Driftlglass on this one. Like fellow moderate Republicans or Republican escapees like David Frum or Andrew Sullivan, Huntsman is in a losing fight to sell himself as a “real conservative” in the face of massive evidence that real life American Conservatism ™ has been off the rails for 30 years running. Marriage equality IS NOT a conservative value in America, its a LIBERAL value and has been for ages. If Huntsman wants to embrace it that’s great. It would just be nice if he (and his fellow moderates in and around the GOP) would admit that this is something Liberal’s have been on the right side of for our entire lifetime.

    And they can’t do that, because then no one would ask them onto the TeeVee machine to opine about “real conservatism” anymore.

  16. Michael Heath says

    While I applaud Mr. Huntsman’s argument, let’s not forget that Andrew Sullivan remains by far the most long-time, prolific, eloquent, and evident advocate making the conservative case for gay marriage.

  17. lancifer says

    Last night I heard an extensive interview with Huntsman on the BBC. It was pretty much the BBC interviewer excoriating the Republican party with Huntsman as the apologetic whipping boy.

    I’m no Republican (having not voted for a Republican in a national election in over 20 years) but the interviewer was clearly expressing opinions, rather than asking questions, and Huntsman was (mostly) eager to agree that the Republicans were wrong on almost all of the issues.

    Even if I agree, this isn’t likely to ingratiate him to the party in the future.

    Perhaps he is pulling an Arlen Specter and is laying the groundwork for a switch to the Democratic party.

    In any event the Republican party is too dependent on the evangelical right to take the lead in the push for gay marriage. They may step aside and let it happen but they aren’t going to antagonize the Christian right.

    This is one of the reasons I haven’t voted for a Republican in 20 years.

  18. says

    Good for Huntsman, but yet again, we have the bizarre argument that we should do policy X because it’s the conservative thing to do, not simply because it’s the right thing to do irrespective of ideology. You don’t see this kind of behavior from the liberal side.

    Liberals generally don’t need to be persuaded to accept gay rights.

  19. schweinhundt says

    I’ve been watching Huntsman with some interest. He’s been staking out a position as a moderate Republican outlier with comments like these since he dropped out of the primary race. I’m convinced he has future political ambitions but am unclear on what his intended endgame is.

  20. schweinhundt says

    lancifer,

    I could easily be wrong, but I don’t think a party switch is in his future. He has no chance of winning a Democrat presidential primary and a Hillary-Huntsman* ticket doesn’t seem too likely. He’d probably jump at the chance to be Secretary of State in a Democrat administration but I don’t know if that’s tenable/his goal.

    (*Obviously the primary is years away; I used that example because Clinton is the very early frontrunner.)

  21. Gvlgeologist, FCD says

    This:

    Good for Huntsman, but yet again, we have the bizarre argument that we should do policy X because it’s the conservative thing to do, not simply because it’s the right thing to do irrespective of ideology. You don’t see this kind of behavior from the liberal side.

    is a very good point, but it illustrates the authoritarian attitude that is part and parcel of modern conservative philosophy. You simply cannot do something only because it’s the right thing to do. Tribalism DEMANDS that only ideas labeled “conservative” are good and proper. Thus, if an idea is decided to be “good” or “right”, it must, by definition, also be a conservative idea. A liberal idea is, by definition, “bad”.

  22. lancifer says

    slc1,

    Yes, I disagree with Huntsman’s views on climate change but that is only a small part of why I rejected him as a presidential candidate. Believe it or not I can disagree with someone about a particular issue and not find them to be “anathema”.

    I had read a bit about the the study to which you link. I’d rather not discuss it on this thread as it would be wildly off topic, but thanks for the link anyway.

  23. lancifer says

    schweinhundt,

    After listening to the BBC interview I was convinced that Huntsman still has political ambitions but I’m not sure what they may be. He was busily burning bridges with the current Republican leadership in his remarks so either he is hoping for a radical change in the Republican power structure or positioning himself for a jump to another party.

  24. richenry says

    A few years ago David Cameron (UK PM) made a speech declaring “I do not support gay marriage in spite of being a conservitive, I do it because I am a conservative.”
    A motion recently passed in the house of commons to legalise gay marriage. He achieved this without the support of the Conservative party.

    I suspect Huntsman has seen where the world is headed, and has all but stolen his words from Cameron verbatim.
    This smells of politiks, nothing else.

  25. Michael Heath says

    Area Man writes:

    Good for Huntsman, but yet again, we have the bizarre argument that we should do policy X because it’s the conservative thing to do, not simply because it’s the right thing to do irrespective of ideology. You don’t see this kind of behavior from the liberal side.

    I agree one type of bad argument is asserting that X should be supported because it’s the conservative (or liberal) thing to do. That’s a perceptive observation and I’m glad you brought it up.

    However I’m a little skeptical we don’t see this kind of behavior from at least some liberals; at least enough we can’t claim it’s an attribute of liberals not to make such invalid arguments. “Little” since no examples come immediately to mind where I’m still skeptical because I continually observe some liberals dependent on the same type of tribalistic arguments to defend indefensible positions they want to continue to hold. Using the very defectively structured arguments we encounter from devout members of other political ideologies, i.e., we don’t need a different set of logical fallacies to call out these liberals, they use the same set of fallacies conservatives and libertarians use.

    On a slightly related aspect, we frequently observe liberal sacred cows protected because it’s part of liberal theology, including in this venue. For example and just recently in this very venue, we encountered fierce avoidance to being open to considering causal evidence tying violent video gaming to actual violence; the motivation seems obvious. It’s because the implications threaten the speech rights of some. Instead there was an effort to reject any such consideration until the case could be proven. We also observe selective confirmation bias that increasing capital gains taxes on the rich is good while avoiding a sufficiently framed context needed to make such conclusions.

    It is of course the liberal position to take in both cases, but not a rational position based on the full set of premises needed to take a defensible position.

  26. slc1 says

    It should be pointed out that as recently as 2008, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama both opposed same sex marriage but supported civil unions. That’s the same position that former Governor and former Ambassador Huntsman held as governor of Utah. Clinton and Obama have “evolved”. If one is going to criticize Huntsman for “evolving” on the issue as political expediency, one must also criticize Clinton and Obama for the same “offense”.

  27. says

    slc1:

    Clinton and Obama both risked substantial political capital in doing what they did. Huntsman’s either committing political suicide (as if the GOP hadn’t already told him to fuck off) or delusionally thinking that his “Run from JESUS” moment will help him with the Teabaggaliban.

  28. thumper1990 says

    This does not mean that any religious group would be forced by the state to recognize relationships that run counter to their conscience. Civil equality is compatible with, and indeed promotes, freedom of conscience.

    Thank you. Finally, a conservative with a brain.

  29. slc1 says

    Re democommie @ #32

    Since Ms. Clinton wasn’t running for anything at the time, what political capital did she risk? The fact is that two of her potential rivals for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, Governors Cuomo and O’Malley pushed same sex marriage bills through their state legislatures so, IMHO, she had no choice in the matter except to evolve. It’s not clear what Huntsman has in mind relative to his political future so we can’t say, as we sit here today that his “evolution” was risk free.

  30. says

    slc1:

    On the surface your argument is certinly compelling. The thing is that Mrs. Clinton (who is not one of my favorite people) took the position that teh GAY deserve the same benefits of being married as heterosexuals a bit earlier, if we can believe this:

    “However, in October 2006 Hillary Clinton was quoted by 365gay.com as saying,”I believe in full equality of benefits, nothing left out. From my perspective there is a greater likelihood of us getting to that point in civil unions or domestic partnerships and that is my very considered assessment.”

    from here (http://lesbianlife.about.com/od/lesbianactivism/p/HillaryClinton.htm)

    There are a lot of GBLT groups that still, apparently, think she is not doing enough for them but then there are a lot of people who are so pissed off at Obama, for not doing enough of whatever their particular peeve is about, that they voted for Romney or Ronfucking Paul.

    FWIW, Hilary has said that she will not be involved, in future, in running for office. I find this “promise” as compelling as that made by to scorpion to the frog.

  31. =8)-DX says

    I always thought conservatism was (unlike progressivism), the idea that new ideas are accepted only after their merit has been conclusively proven and slowly accepted by the populace, while old ideas are preserved and only rejected after they have been shown thoroughly harmful/without merit or rejected by a majority of the populace.

    This approach is supposed to support stable societies and protect them from radicalism.

    From this standpoint the slow, gradual acceptance of LGBTQ people and their relationships, as well as full same-sex marriage has been in some ways a rather conservative one worldwide.

    What is so stupid is that giving LGBTQ people equality is as far as I can see entirely risk-free. All the conservative approach does is to support a bunch of fears, predjudices and unjustifiable hatred – unustified because gays can bring up children as well as anyone else, aren’t pedophiles, don’t want to corrupt the youth, gay sex is (or can be practiced) generally safe and healthy, sexual orientation is NOT a choice. With such information pretty much only the progressive approach of full equality, acceptance and support right here, right now has been justifiable on this issue. Which is why conservatives have only hindered legitimate progress. And as someone previously largely conservative, it was this information that convinced me of the necessity of LGBTQ equality.

    But that doesn’t mean the conservative approach isn’t more appropriate in other cases where we are looking for solutions to more complex (wicked) social problems.

  32. =8)-DX says

    To clarify, the more accurate information one has on the efficacy of a given policy, the less conservatism/progressivism comes into play, once you know there are no risks and substantive benefits, there is only the difference between a good policy (removing sodomy laws, marriage equality) and a harmful one (DOMA, DADT).

    The conservative/progressive divide only becomes relevant when we don’t have enough information on an issue to decide on the merits.

    And sadly this seems to lead to conservative approaches protecting the status quo in situations where new information changes everything. The off side would be that progressives should also be a little wary of “wonderful new ideas”.

  33. slc1 says

    Re democommie @ #35

    During the Democratic debates in 2008 between Clinton and Obama, it is my information that both of them endorsed civil unions but opposed same sex marriage.

    I would also add that another potential Clinton rival, Vice President Joe Biden also endorsed same sex marriage before Obama did, perhaps hastening his endorsement (I frankly don’t see Biden as a viable candidate, based on his age with will be 74 in 2016).

    As we sit here today, the only potential candidate on the Democratic side who has not endorsed same sex marriage is Virginia Senator Mark Warner. Now there’s someone who is really between a rock and a hard place and would really be taking a political risk (as Virginia is rather behind Maryland and New York on this issue) and who expects to run for reelection to the Senate in 2014.

  34. brucegee1962 says

    Prediction: 10 years from now, GOPers will be saying, “Hey, we’ve been the party that’s been in the forefront of supporting gay marriage all along!”

  35. =8)-DX says

    @brucegee1962 #39
    There’s must be some general principle at work here. I mean in a way doesn’t it make sense that when conservatives finally turn over another leaf and are on the same page with progressives, stuff can get done? The progressives were right all along and did the heavy lifting, but actually succeeding in making people let go of their outmoded ideas, bigots to reject their bigotry is pretty crucial as well, and a commendable effort on the part of the (no longer) bigots.

  36. Dennis N says

    MH: Let’s also not forget that Andrew Sullivan remains by far the most long-time, prolific, eloquent, and high-profile advocate of racial intelligence theory and the Bell Curve.

  37. Michael Heath says

    Dennis N writes:

    Let’s also not forget that Andrew Sullivan remains by far the most long-time, prolific, eloquent, and high-profile advocate of racial intelligence theory and the Bell Curve.

    Your post comes across as a post hoc ad hominem; I presume in hopes of canceling out any kudos Mr. Sullivan rightly deserves on making a conservative case for gay marriage.

    As a ten year daily reader of Sullivan, I’m also skeptical you’ve fully described Sullivan’s position on racial intelligence research. Here’s his latest point: http://dish.andrewsullivan.com/2011/11/21/the-study-of-intelligence/ . People with open personalities as opposed to closed (conservatives, zealous partisan liberals) want objective truth, even if its painful. That’s a feature and not a bug.

    I’m also not comfortable going back decades on anyone who is continually and therefore laudably adapting their positions into increasingly defendable arguments. If you’ve got something from say, 2003 or later that we should mull over I’d like to see it. Here I absolutely agree with Sullivan’s argument in 2011 that I link to above; while not knowing how credible Jensen’s work is. I’m instead supporting the process Sullivan advocates.

  38. Ichthyic says

    I’m also not comfortable going back decades on anyone who is continually and therefore laudably adapting their positions into increasingly defendable arguments.

    Shocker.

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