Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman announced his support yesterday for the legalization of same-sex marriage in the latest edition of The American Conservative magazine.
In the Op-Ed, Huntsman called on all Republicans to support marriage equality saying [quote] “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.”
“He’s been an ally for the LGBT community for a very long time," said Brandi Balkin, Executive Director of Equality Utah. Balkin was not surprised to hear the announcement. As governor of Utah Huntsman pushed for civil unions in the state but stopped short of supporting same-sex marriage. Huntsman has since evolved on the issue; an evolution that from a policy standpoint, Balkin says is taking place in Utah.
“You know a number of the cities and counties who have passed workplace and housing protections were headed by Republican mayors and Republican council members," Balkin said. "And I think that demonstrates a greater understanding and a greater willingness to include many more voices at the table.”
Joel Wright is a Utah County Republican who ran for county commissioner back in 2010. He believes Utah isn’t quite ready for full marriage equality, but he recognizes a changing tied in Utah and national politics.
“I think myself and Governor Huntsman and younger Republicans are deeply concerned about fiscal issues and entitlement issues and what that means for the future of our country," Wright said. "And I think we are not going to be able to get together a majority to win the Electoral College in this next generation unless we bring the gay community and Hispanic community into our party.”
Bill Duncan is director of the Marriage Law Foundation. He says Governor Huntsman has pushed a left leaning agenda on a number of issues and doesn’t currently have much sway in Utah politics.
“I don’t sense that he has a strong constituency in the state that’s going to say well gosh, we we’re wrong about the way we defined marriage before because a governor from a number of years ago said he thinks it’s a good idea," Duncan said.
Duncan said if Huntsman were to announce a bid for the 2016 presidential race, Huntsman’s position on same-sex marriage would cause him to reevaluate his support for the Republican.
The Utah State Republican Party platform recognizes the traditional family as the fundamental unit of society. In his op-ed Huntsman said [quote] “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.