SALT LAKE CITY — Peter Cooke, the Democratic candidate for Governor of Utah, is distancing himself from the party’s national platform by declaring his opposition to marriage equality, civil unions and abortion.
Vowing to represent “Utah values,’ Cooke said his opposition to same-sex marriage stems from his faith — he is a member of the Mormon church, which has actively opposed gay unions in California and elsewhere.
“To me gay marriage is part of my religious belief and I support that and I respect other religious beliefs and I support and love those who are in the gay community,” Cooke said. “I think what needs to be done in Utah is for us to all live together, be compassionate. That’s what the Democratic Party is showing.”
Cooke’s public remarks come less than two days after the Democratic National Party voted to include language in the party’s platform that calls for recognition of same-sex marriages and defense of legal abortions.
While he opposes same-sex marriage, Cooke told The Salt Lake Tribune that he supports a state law that would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, which the Mormon church has also supported.
Cooke, who is challenging incumbent Republican Gov. Gary Herbert in November, said he wanted to make his positions clear on these issues, so he Herbert can have a substantive debate on the issues he believes Utahns care about — funding education, fostering good-paying jobs, protecting Hill Air Force Base and showing leadership in state government.
Despite his differences with the national Democratic Party, Cooke said he will be voting for President Barack Obama over the presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney, although he said that he could work with either as governor.
Cooke also supports allowing same-sex couples the right to adopt children — a practice currently prohibited under Utah law.