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May, 12th 2011

Huntsman's letter to a gay supporter

– Liz Mair

Last night, Ben Smith reported the following:

When I was down in South Carolina last week, a couple of prominent Republicans waved off the possibility of Jon Huntsman's getting the nomination because, they vaguely thought, he'd supported same-sex marriage in Utah.

The truth is that while he was liberal on the issue, he was liberal in the context of very conservative Utah. That meant signing civil union legislation that stops symbolically short of the current, fast-advancing battle lines, and is more or less the position of George W. Bush when he left office.

The Salt Lake Tribune, however, reports that Huntsman leaned a bit further forward in a letter to a gay supporter:

“I write to thank you for your leadership and outspoken support of civil legal recognition for same-sex couples,” wrote Page, who is raising twin sons he and his partner had adopted from Vietnam....

The Ambassador-select jotted a handwritten thank you note to Page, thanking him for his kind support.

“Let’s hope that someday — all people are seen as equal under the laws of our land. With very best wishes — Jon.”

Ben writes that:

That's a generic statement, not an explicit endorsement of same-sex marriage, though it's possible to read it that way. It also fits the Ron Paul libertarian position, which is that the state should leave marriage and its rules to churches, though that would require some unlikely fiddling with the tax code and other laws.

But there's another way to read that statement.  Most people who back civil unions, whether or not they back gay marriage (and I know plenty of people who do not), recognize that state recognition of same-sex relationships in some form is desirable from an equality/rights-accordance-and-protection perspective.  Yet, to take my current state of residency-- Virginia-- as an example, not all states have proven willing to even endorse the civil union, quite apart from same-sex marriage, concept.  Our constitutional ban does not just cover same-sex marriage.  It extends to civil unions and domestic partnerships.

It's not that hard to find public figures, elected officials and indeed candidates for public office who oppose gay marriage, but think that bans on civil unions and domestic partnerships go too far and/or generate questions with regard to rights-accordance-and-protection-- even while recognizing that marriage questions are a matter best left to individual states to decide, as they historically have been. 

Maybe Huntsman is one.  I haven't asked him.  But it seems like another possibility.[intro]

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