Will Huntsman Defend DOMA?

Jim Burroway

June 22nd, 2011

Former Utah governor and ambassador to China Jon Huntsman has officially announced that he is running for the GOP nomination for President. Coinciding with that announcement were moves to position him as the most gay-friendly of all the major GOP candidates (leaving aside openly gay Fred Karger). Charles T. Moran, a vice chair for the California Log Cabin Republicans and a political consultant for the Huntsman campaign, released a letter touting Huntsman’s support for the LGBT community, adding as Utah’s governor he’s “talked the talk and walked the walk,” and is “unique in his desire to have a fully inclusive campaign.” He added:

On the domestic front, and as it specifically pertains to our greater LGBT community, Governor and Mrs. Huntsman are particularly supportive of our issues. Governor Huntsman signed into law Utah’s first Civil Unions legislation – a politically courageous move on his part given that state’s politics.

In the relative terms of Utah politics, Huntsman was relatively supportive: he supports civil unions (a position confirmed by a campaign spokesman), but he never actually signed a civil unions bill into law. As anyone who has been remotely paying attention, Utah does not have civil unions. What he did do was sign a bill into law that would allow municipalities to offer domestic partner benefits as long as they weren’t called domestic partner benefits. There is a massive difference between getting a family library card and a civil union. Believe me, the only scenario under which civil unions could come to Utah would be if there was a big empty shell where the LDS headquarters used to be.

Yesterday, Huntsman sought to burnish his pro-gay credentials further, by saying that if New York passes marriage equality into law, he “would respect the state’s decision on that.” It’s not clear however what he means by respecting the state’s decision. The Defense of Marriage Act actually prohibits the federal government, including the president, from respecting any state’s decision to provide marriage equality.

President Barack Obama also supports civil unions but not full marriage equality — a position similar to Huntsman’s — but he says his position is “still evolving.” Some of that evolution appears to include the recognition that DOMA is a discriminatory law that was the product of animus toward a minority, making heightened scrutiny the legal standard under which the law’s constitutionality is to be judged. As a result, last February the Justice Department announced that they could not defend the law under heightened scrutiny in Federal Court.

It’s a fair question to ask whether Huntsman’s respect for a state’s decision extends to recognizing that DOMA as a discriminatory law. We don’t know, but early indications suggest that having staked out a ground that is clearly different from the other major GOP candidates, he now recognizes that he first has to get through the GOP primaries:

REPORTER: Governor, you support civil unions for gays and lesbians like the President does. He suggested he’s evolving on that issue. Can you imagine ever being open to legalized gay marriage?

HUNTSMAN: I think redefining marriage is something that would be impossible and it’s something I would not be in favor of. But I believe, just subordinate to marriage we have not done an adequate job in the area of equality and reciprocal beneficiary rights. And I’ve spoken out about that, my support of civil unions. Some people like it, some people don’t. And folks have said, they’ve said people are going to hold it against you in the Republican primaries. I answer that question all the time and I say it is where I am and it is who I am, and people can take it any way they want.

Richard Socarides, president of Equality Matters, told The Daily Beast, “If you want to vote for a Republican, Huntsman is probably your best option.” In the relative terms of Republican politics, Huntsman’s position is clearly ahead of the others. But there is still plenty of grey areas that he hasn’t addressed — DOMA chief among them, but also anti-discrimination laws and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — that we still need to hear from him on.

Rick James

June 22nd, 2011

Anybody else see a problem with Huntsman’s use of the words “just subordinate to” and “equality” in the same sentence?


June 22nd, 2011

More important than ANY of that is, WHO WOULD HE PUT ON THE SUPREME COURT? That’s where is Republican bonafides would really shine and where the gay community would really get the screws.

Not to mention, he outright said that gay couples should get a “subordinate” designation. At least he’s honest about his desire to have a second class citizen legal status for gay people. Obama hasn’t yet found the courage to admit that that is what he believes too.

F Young

June 22nd, 2011

While Huntsman now claims to support civil unions, as Governor, he supported a constitutional amendment that not only bans same-sex marriage, but also any “other domestic union, however denominated.” This was designed specifically to ban same-sex civil unions.

Ben in Atlanta

June 22nd, 2011

Is he going to cook and eat Boyd Packer publicly? Or at least send him into exile?

“Go sell crazy someplace else, we’re all stocked up here”.

Timothy Kincaid

June 22nd, 2011


History suggests that judicial appointments are about as predictable as next year’s weather. As I sit here thinking, to the best of my recollection most every major judicial advancement we’ve had has been authored by a Republican appointee from Margaret Mitchell to Kennedy to Walker to Ware (whose decision on judicial recusal is probably much more important than we are noting).

I understand your point (Scalia, Thomas) but it just isn’t as straight forward as that. And we just don’t know that Huntsman would select a Scalia instead of an O’Conner.

Priya Lynn

June 22nd, 2011

It’s true that Republican judicial apointees sometimes end up voting liberally, but how often do Democrat judicial apointees end up voting conservatively? Not very often, I imagine.


June 22nd, 2011

Huntsman isn’t being pro-gay. He’s being diplomatic.


June 24th, 2011

Huntsman CANNOT gain the GOP nomination if he opposes DOMA, period.

He will be vague and ride the fence, feigning empathy toward gays in an effort to gain support, but he will NEVER, EVER oppose the GOP Party Line.

Remember McCain vehemently opposing Bush Tax Cuts, but then when running for the GOP nomination he flipped like a pancake?

Timothy Kincaid

June 24th, 2011

It’s true that Republican judicial apointees sometimes end up voting liberally, but how often do Democrat judicial apointees end up voting conservatively? Not very often, I imagine.


You’re going to counter-argue based on your imagination?


Priya Lynn

June 24th, 2011

Just a figure of speech Timothy, don’t get bent out of shape.

Timothy Kincaid

June 24th, 2011

My point is this:

In your rush to disagree, you didn’t see any need to research your position. You just declared the opposite as though it had equal merit. And when you’re proven wrong (as on another thread) you point out the “IF” as your qualifier.

Look, you are entitled to your opinions. And you are entitled to disagree with absolutely every comment I make. Literally every single one, if you like. And, Priya, sometimes it really seems to me that this is your favorite passtime.

But while it is annoying to have someone constantly just disagree, on everything, it’s doubly annoying that you don’t even have the courtesy to do the research before you announce that I’m wrong.

You do understand why that annoys me, right?

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