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Why Jon Huntsman’s Policy Of Showing ‘A Little More Equality And Respect’ To Gays Doesn’t Make Sense

Jon Huntsman reiterated his standard talking points on same-sex marriage during an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan last night, stressing that while he only believes in so-called traditional marriage, he would support civil unions and extending more rights to gays and lesbians:

MORGAN: The problem with running for president is that people want to see a fully rounded picture of the character of the man or woman that’s going to be in the White House. For argument sake, a hot issue of this show, which was when I asked Christine O’Donnell about her view of gay marriage. And she simply walks out. Michele Bachmann has pretty strong views on that. What is your view?

HUNTSMAN: On gay marriage?

MORGAN: Yeah.

HUNTSMAN: I believe in civil unions. I think we can do a better job in this country as it relates to equality and basic reciprocal beneficiary rights. I’m in favor of traditional marriage. I don’t think you can redefine it without getting in trouble.

But I think along with that, we can have civil unions. I think this country has arrived at a point in time where we can show a little more equality and respect. Leave it to the states, I think it’s a state issue that ought to be driven by discussions in various states. And you’ve got the Defense of Marriage Act that basically is a safeguard that allows that to happen.

Huntsman has given this answer for months and it usually gets an “okay” and move on from political journalists who understand that Obama’s former ambassador to China is hoping to appeal to the moderate middle and possibly lay the groundwork for a successful run for the nomination in 2016. But that doesn’t mean that the policy makes any sense. If anything Huntsman’s reply is as nonsensical as when the Democrats deployed it back in 2007.

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First, one can’t both support extending benefits to same-sex couples and maintaining DOMA. Section 3 of that Act actually denies federal marriage benefits to gay couples, forcing them to jump through hoops when filing their tax returns or trying to find affordable health insurance coverage. Secondly, the federal government doesn’t recognize civil unions and Huntsman has yet to lay out a plan by which to formalize his “belief” into any sort of actual benefit. As Kerry Eleveld explained in a recent Washington Post op-ed criticizing Obama’s very similar position, “advocates of civil unions, Obama included, are suggesting for lesbian and gay couples a status for which the federal government has no definition and no frame of reference within its codes, and one that provides no path to legal recognition.” And so Huntsman has adopted a position that won’t even meet his own standard of offering just “a little more equality and respect” to gays and lesbians. If anything, it sounds like a nicer way to describe the status quo.