Jon Huntsman: Gay Marriage Is A Conservative Cause



Jon Huntsman could be the man to save the GOP from itself. His new op-ed at The American Conservative is an absolute must read. Not only does he express his own support for marriage equality, he gives conservatives everywhere the much needed rationale to change their minds on the issue. Instead of giving you a recap, I’ve decided to post his op-ed in its entirety.  I promise you its worth your time.

The party of Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan has now lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections. The marketplace of ideas will render us irrelevant, and soon, if we are not honest about our time and place in history. Unfortunately, much of the discussion has focused on cosmetic solutions to, say, our underperformance among ethnic and young voters. This is a mistake: we cannot cross this river by feeling for stones. Instead, we need to take a hard look at what today’s conservatism stands for.

Conservatives can start by examining how Republicans working with Democrats have governed in several successful states, including Utah; free-market-based healthcare reform, tax reform that eliminated deductions and closed loopholes to bring down rates, and practical education reforms that spoke to 21st-century realities.

Instead of using immigration reform as a wedge issue, like many leaders in Washington, Utah passed legislation to help manage immigration based on our real economic needs. If conservatives come to the table with solutions that put our communities first, it will go a long way toward winning elections.

But it’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.

While serving as governor of Utah, I pushed for civil unions and expanded reciprocal benefits for gay citizens. I did so not because of political pressure—indeed, at the time 70 percent of Utahns were opposed—but because as governor my role was to work for everybody, even those who didn’t have access to a powerful lobby. Civil unions, I believed, were a practical step that would bring all citizens more fully into the fabric of a state they already were—and always had been—a part of.

That was four years ago. 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.

Marriage is not an issue that people rationalize through the abstract lens of the law; rather it is something understood emotionally through one’s own experience with family, neighbors, and friends. The party of Lincoln should stand with our best tradition of equality and support full civil marriage for all Americans.

This is both the right thing to do and will better allow us to confront the real choice our country is facing: a choice between the Founders’ vision of a limited government that empowers free markets, with a level playing field giving opportunity to all, and a world of crony capitalism and rent-seeking by the most powerful economic interests.

Adam Smith was not only an architect of the modern world of extraordinary economic opportunity, he was a moralist whose first book was The Theory of Moral Sentiments. The foundation of his thought was his insight that free markets and open commerce strengthened our moral fiber by reinforcing the community of shared and reciprocal economic interests. Government, he thought, had to be limited lest it be captured and corrupted by special business interests who wanted protection from competition and the reciprocal requirements of community.

We are at a crossroads. I believe the American people will vote for free markets under equal rules of the game—because there is no opportunity or job growth any other way. But the American people will not hear us out if we stand against their friends, family, and individual liberty.

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12 Responses to Jon Huntsman: Gay Marriage Is A Conservative Cause

  1. ronarruejo says:

    I can’t say enough good things about Jon Huntsman. I always preferred someone who was a governor and who was moderate. Additionally, he had substantial knowledge and experience in foreign policy that I would have trusted. If I had the chance, I would have voted for him in the general election. However, he unfortunately could not get through the most right-wing of the party, and thus could not exemplify the part of the GOP that voters would agree or understand.

  2. Jarret R. says:

    This is an excellent op-ed that succinctly expresses what same-sex marriage is the right thing to do legally and morally. That said, have you heard Huntsman comment much on where Republican economic thinking should go in the future? My concern is Huntman’s mention of Adam Smith here:

    “Government, he thought, had to be limited lest it be captured and corrupted by special business interests who wanted protection from competition and the reciprocal requirements of community.”

    One of my problems with conservatism in general is that historically, it tends to foster just such a scenario. By keeping government “limited” and out of the markets, bigger business interests are, and have been, free to collude, consolidate, and, especially in the past, form trusts that stifle competition and impede market functions. It was, after all, the conservatives of the Gilded Age who vehemently opposed anti-trust laws, and during the Great Depression, conservatives opposed New Deal banking regulations like the Securities and Exchange Commission.

    We use government to temper the market’s own natural anti-competitive leanings, and while there can be such a thing as too much state interference in the market, conservatives of the last thirty years have not taken kindly to any amount of regulatory action. Huntsman, for example, proposed a 2011 “Jobs Plan” that would, among other things, repeal the Affordable Health Care Act and the Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Bill, slash corporate tax rates, and weaken the regulatory power of agencies like the National Labor Relations Board, His plan does have some good ideas, like ending subsidies for foreign oil, but it’s mostly standard right-wing boilerplate. Its great to see Huntsman embrace worthy social causes like Marriage Equality, but I’m still wary of him and other allegedly Republican “moderates” when it comes to fundamental issues regarding socio-economic organization.

    • Well, the good thing about moderates like Huntsman is you were able to find things you agreed with. Can you imagine saying that about Jim DeMints plan? Or Ted Cruz? Or Michelle Bachman?

      Moderate Republicans would make a far better bargaining partner than the rigid ideologues in the party right now. I can’t see someone like Huntsman holding fast to all those propositions in his 2011 plan when sitting at the bargaining table with Dems. He’d pick the items that were most important to him, and negotiate to get something done.

      I’d also point out that there is a line of thought within conservatives that looks skeptically at both big government and big business, and seeks a balance between them. Huntsman was the only candidate, including President Obama to my knowledge, that offered a solution for ‘to big to fail.’

  3. Love Huntsman and love what he wrote. Thanks for sharing. Definitely a leading candidate in my book.

    Btw do you want me to let you know if you have grammatical errors? Not sure because I don’t want to be rude. Although some guy last week was hard on you on your grammar and you were okay with it.

    I would double check your first paragraph. I would want you to do the same for me. Hope you don’t get mad.

  4. Mark says:

    This is very similar to what David Cameron has said over here to justify the recent same-sex marriage bill. He said be supported because, rather than in spite, of his conservatism – defence of marriage and all. I’m not a conservative by any means but I feel he raised a crucial point.

  5. Barneysday says:

    Excellent Post. I always believed Huntsman was the right man for the party, and that he was left behind by those who hijacked Republican ideals. I admired that he later admitted that he made a mistake by saying he would not give up $10 in entitlement reductions for even $1 in tax increases. If he could have stood apart at that time in the debates, his outcome may have been better.

    Thanks for sharing

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