Former GOP Presidential candidate and Utah governor Jon Huntsman has endorsed marriage equality. Huntsman, a Mormon whose previous support for civil unions set him (and libertarian Gary Johnson) apart from an otherwise virulently anti-gay field, came out in favor of equal marriage rights in an essay in The American Conservative entitled “Marriage Equality Is a Conservative Cause.” In the piece, Huntsman argued that if the Republican Party wants to survive, it needs to be able to appeal to gay Americans and the growing majority of all Americans that support marriage equality:
[I]t’s difficult to get people even to consider your reform ideas if they think, with good reason, you don’t like or respect them. Building a winning coalition to tackle the looming fiscal and trust deficits will be impossible if we continue to alienate broad segments of the population. We must be happy warriors who refuse to tolerate those who want Hispanic votes but not Hispanic neighbors. We should applaud states that lead on reforming drug policy. And, consistent with the Republican Party’s origins, we must demand equality under the law for all Americans…
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.
Huntsman has a bit of an uphill climb in persuading the rest of the Republican Party to join his inclusive vision of conservatism. Republicans in Congress are still resolutely defending the Defense Of Marriage Act, whose provisions denying equal rights to gay couples in areas ranging from immigration to health care benefits are widely viewed as discriminatory. However, a handful of influential Republicans have come to recognize that the GOP has lost this fight.
The former Utah governor has a long history of iconoclasty. During his 2012 campaign for President, Huntsman got in hot water for saying “I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.” He also suggested the GOP had lurched so far to the right that Ronald Reagan wouldn’t make it through a primary.