Jon Huntsman: Marriage Equality Is A Conservative Cause
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.
Huntsman is absolutely right, of course. The arguments in favor of same-sex marriage have been stated here before and don’t really need to be restated again. The arguments against, which generally just boil down appeals to tradition and religion that become less persuasive as time goes on. There’s nothing necessarily remarkable about Huntsman joining the growing ranks of conservatives coming out in favor of marriage equality, of course, but I would suggest that it’s at least somewhat significant that the former Governor of what is arguably one of the most socially conservative states in the nation doing so is at least somewhat significant.
More importantly, though, I’d argue that Huntsman’s argument that support for marriage equality is a conservative cause is significant for reasons that don’t necessarily have anything to do with politics. As a cultural matter, there are mountains of social science studies that show that relationships involving committed couples, regardless of the gender pairings involved, are far more stable that “casual” relationships. Additionally, it’s fairly clear that established families are far better for children than single parent families, and the evolving practice of homosexuals either bearing children via artificial insemination or adoption has shown that such relationships are just as beneficial for children as heterosexual relationships. What all of this suggests is that allowing gays and lesbians to enter into a legal marriage tends to lead to exactly the kind of social stability that conservatives claim that they support.
Sadly, I’m fairly sure that most conservatives will reject Huntsman’s argument out of hand.