Former Utah Gov. and Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman (R) announced this morning that he is running for president. In advance of that announcement, a campaign consultant from the California chapter of The Log Cabin Republicans, the conservative gay-rights advocacy group, circulated a fundraising letter seeking to capitalize on Huntsman’s support for civil unions while he was governor.
The letter, written by California Log Cabin Republicans Vice Chairman and Huntsman campaign employee Charles T. Moran, states plainly that Huntsman “signed into law Utah’s first Civil Unions legislation” — a simplistic declaration that could easily mislead voters into believing Huntsman actually signed legislation to legalize civil unions in Utah:
On the domestic front, and as it specifically pertains to our greater LGBT community, Governor and Mrs. Huntsman are particularly supportive of our issues. Governor Huntsman signed into law Utah’s first Civil Unions legislation — a politically courageous move on his part given that state’s politics.
In 2008, Huntsman signed legislation expanding domestic partner benefits for Utah’s unmarried couples, including gays. But legislation legalizing civil unions never passed, making it impossible for Huntsman to sign it into law. And while he supported expanding hospital visitation rights and other “contractual” rights for gay couples, most of those initiatives died in the state Legislature.
Huntsman has consistently supported civil unions, and as he recently told ThinkProgress, he intends to continue supporting them despite the fact that it may hurt him with social conservative voters. Now that he is officially in the race, he is the most inclusive of the Republican candidates when it comes to reaching out to conservative LGBT groups. It is unfortunate, then, that his campaign feels the need to exaggerate his experience and mislead voters on the issue.