ARLINGTON, Va. — Jon Huntsman, a former GOP presidential contender and Utah governor, on Thursday urged the Republican party to embrace marriage equality for gays and lesbians, and warned that failure to do so will continue to result in the electorate becoming further disenchanted with the party.
In an op-ed entitled “Marriage Equality is a Conservative Cause,” published Thursday in The American Conservative magazine, Huntsman wrote, “Americans will not coalesce around Republicans’ free market ideas if we stand against their friends, family, and individual liberty.”
Huntsman, a Mormon, bucked his church and others in the GOP when he supported legislation that would have allowed civil unions for same-sex couples in Utah, but until now has shied away from endorsing same-sex marriage.
In a June 2011 interview on MSNBC, Huntsman said, “I think redefining marriage is something that would be impossible and it’s something I would not be in favor of. But I believe, just subordinate to marriage we have not done an adequate job in the area of equality and reciprocal beneficiary rights.”
But, “That was four years ago,” Huntsman now writes:
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.
“Governor Jon Huntsman is one of a growing number of Republicans to embrace the idea that marriage should be for all Americans,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin, in a statement. “From former Vice President Dick Cheney to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Huntsman is yet another high profile Republican official to make the case that treating people equally under the law is an American value.”
The former governor also served as the U.S. Ambassador to China from August 2009 to April 2011, and U.S. Ambassador to Singapore from August 1992 to June 1993. He served as Governor of Utah from January 2005 to August 2009.