Huntsman Indicated Support for Gay Rights in 2009

Letter reveals unpopular position among Republican primary voters

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When a supporter wrote to Jon Huntsman in 2009 to thank him for his position on civil unions, Huntsman wrote back, "Let's hope that someday--all people are seen as equal under the laws of our land." Though the statement is vague, it could be interpreted as support for gay rights, which could be a problem for the former ambassador to China and Utah governor as he feels out a Republican campaign for president in 2012. Though a plurality of Americans now approve of gay marriage, gay rights is still an extremely controversial subject within the Republican Party.

Politico's Ben Smith notes that as he traveled through 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." But on that issue, Smith writes, Huntsman "was liberal in the context of very conservative Utah." Nevertheless, Smith thinks Huntsman's letter will keep him from winning over conservative voters in South Carolina and Iowa.

In fact, gay rights is an easier area in which to pin Huntsman down than many. Huntsman joked to Time's Melinda Henneberger that the setting for their interview suggested he'd have to endure "enhanced interrogation," but he managed to dodge most questions. A couple hours of interviews over a week reveal little:

...I don't even come close to getting him to spill such puny secrets as whether he thinks we should be in Afghanistan or Libya ("There will be more to say about that"), in what ways he disagrees with Obama ("I don't want to get into specifics") or, for that matter, where he parts company with his fellow Republicans, including his distant cousin, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney ("It wouldn't be fair to offer an opinion without doing due diligence"). And as for whether or not Huntsman still belongs to the Church of Latter-day Saints, I know less than I did before I asked him. ("I'm a very spiritual person," as opposed to a religious one, he says, "and proud of my Mormon roots." Roots? That makes it sound as if you're not a member anymore. Are you? "That's tough to define," he says. "There are varying degrees. I come from a long line of saloon keepers and proselytizers, and I draw from both sides.")

It's doubtful Huntsman draws from the proselytizer side when it comes to gay marriage.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.