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Jon Huntsman on Civil Rights

Republican UT Governor


Conservatives should push to allow gay citizens to marry

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% 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 always had been a part of.

That was 4 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.

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.

Source: OpEd by Jon Huntsman in The American Conservative , Feb 21, 2013

I believe in traditional marriage but also civil unions

Q: Your GOP opponents support traditional marriage. You support civil unions?

A: I believe in traditional marriage first and foremost. I've been married 28 years, with 7 terrific kids. But I also believe in civil unions. Because I think this nation can do a better job when it comes to equality. And I think this nation can do a better job when it comes to reciprocal beneficiary rights. And I believe that this is something that ought to be discussed among the various states. I don't have any problem with states having this discussion. But as for me, I support civil unions.

Q: So why are your GOP opponents wrong?

A: They are not wrong. All I'm saying is this ought to be an issue that takes place at the local level of government, that's where these decisions ought to be made. I believe in traditional marriage. But I also believe that subordinate to that we haven't done an adequate job when it comes to equality. That is just my personal belief. Everyone is entitled to their personal belief too.

Source: Iowa Straw Poll 2011 GOP debate in Ames Iowa , Aug 11, 2011

Supports civil unions and other rights for same-sex couples

In the days after he was nominated as U.S. ambassador to China, congratulations poured in, including one from Bob Page, a North Carolina businessman. "I write to thank you for your leadership and outspoken support of civil legal recognition for same-sex couples," wrote Page, who is raising twin sons he and his partner adopted from Vietnam. "I have been deeply offended by attempts to scapegoat gays and lesbians in an effort to turn out voters," Page wrote. "I appreciate more than I can say your courageous recognition that this serves no productive purpose."

The ambassador nominee jotted a handwritten note to Page, thanking him for his kind support. "Let's hope that someday--all people are seen as equal under the laws of our land. With very best wishes--Jon."

Huntsman drew national attention in 2009 with his public support for civil unions and other rights for same-sex couples--a sharp break from the Republican orthodoxy, especially in conservative Utah.

Source: Robert Gehrke in The Salt Lake Tribune , May 11, 2011

2008: agreed to extend some rights to gay people

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said that discriminating against gay people shouldn't be illegal, although he would prefer that everyone be treated with respect. Herbert told reporters he doesn't believe sexual orientation should be a protected class in the way that race, gender and religion are.

In Utah, it is legal to fire someone for being gay or transgender. The gay rights advocacy group Equality Utah has been trying to change state law for several years but has been rebuffed by the Republican-controlled Legislature. Last year, the group got then-Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.'s support for extending some rights to gay people, although none of the bills became law.

Huntsman resigned this month to become U.S. ambassador to China, leaving Herbert, who was lieutenant governor, in charge until a special election in 2010. Both are Republican. Salt Lake City is considering an anti-discrimination ordinance, but conservative state lawmakers are eyeing passage of a law that would trump it.

Source: Associated Press, "Gays aren't in protected class" , Aug 28, 2009

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Page last updated: Mar 24, 2013