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Huntsman: DOMA ‘serves a useful purpose’

GOP hopeful says advocating for ‘fairness’ at home will encourage other countries

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Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman said Thursday the Defense of Marriage Act “serves a useful purpose” in allowing states to decide the issue of marriage.

“It allows states to make their own decisions, to make their own way, and the Defense of Marriage Act, I think, is a safeguard for those states to make that decision,” Huntsman said.

Huntsman made the comments in response to a question from the Washington Blade during an event at the National Press Club in D.C., where he unveiled his “Restoring Trust” plan that he would pursue upon election to the White House.

Section 3 of DOMA prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage. Another component of the law, Section 2, allows states not to recognize same-sex marriages legalized in other jurisdictions, but legal observers have said that portion of the law is unnecessary because states have traditionally decided for themselves which marriages to recognize.

It isn’t the first time Huntsman has commented on the anti-gay law. The former Utah governor’s comments similarly called DOMA a “safeguard” when asked about same-sex marriage during an Aug. 22 appearance on CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight.

But Huntsman made comments advocating for “fairness” — without an explicit mention of LGBT people — in response to another Blade question on the new Obama administration strategy and speech this week by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton advocating for LGBT human rights overseas.

Asked whether he would pursue a similar strategy upon taking office, Huntsman said “getting our house in order” in treating each other in the United States with fairness will encourage other countries to do the same.

“When we do it right in this country, we exude values that the rest of the world seems to watch and emulate — values of individual dignity, liberty, democracy, human rights and open markets,” Huntsman said. “I think we ought to focus on getting our own house in order here in terms of how we treat one another, the respect we feel for one another, getting our economy back on track and fixing our core. If we can do that, I think the rest of the world will pay us a little more attention.”

Among the GOP contenders, Huntsman has been seen as strong on foreign issues because of his work as a foreign diplomat overseas, most recently as U.S. ambassador to China.

In the course of his answer, Huntsman reiterated his support for civil unions — acknowledging some in the GOP “might not always agree with that” — and said he believes in “equality under the law.”

Huntsman didn’t answer another component of the Blade question on Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s criticism of the Obama administration’s new foreign policy strategy as being an example of the president “being at war with people of faith.”

Huntsman has been a favorite presidential candidate among LGBT Republicans. His support for civil unions and his support for generalized equality has made him distinct among other candidates.

But this support hasn’t translated to support for Huntsman nationwide. According to Gallup, Huntsman has as of Thursday support from just 1 percent of Republican registered voters nationwide. His low standing in the polls means he’ll be excluded from one of the last Republican presidential debates set for Saturday in Sioux City, Iowa.

Political observers have said Huntsman is staking his presidential campaign on the New Hampshire Republican primary, where he enjoys somewhat stronger support, although he’s still in the single digits in the polls.

A CNN/Time poll published Thursday found that Huntsman has support from 8 percent of likely Republican voters, which puts him in fourth place behind former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and libertarian Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas.).

A transcript of the exchange between the Blade and Huntsman follows:

Washington Blade: On Tuesday, the Obama administration made public a sweeping plan to confront anti-gay abuses overseas as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a high-profile speech in Geneva on the issue. Rick Perry criticized Obama for the move and said it’s an example of the administration being at war with people of faith in this country. Do you believe that advocating for LGBT people is consistent with principles of faith and would your administration take a similar stance against anti-gay abuses overseas?

Jon Huntsman: I believe in fairness. I think that should be a guiding principle of all Americans. I believe in civil unions — I know some might not always agree with that. I believe in equality under the law. I believe that, from this country, we can lead by example. I believe that we are a shining light the rest of the world looks to. I found that to be the case living overseas four times. And when we do it right in this country, we exude values that the rest of the world seems to watch and emulate — values of individual dignity, liberty, democracy, human rights and open markets. I think we ought to focus on getting our own house in order here in terms of how we treat one another, the respect we feel for one another, getting our economy back on track and fixing our core. If we can do that, I think the rest of the world will pay us a little more attention.

Blade: If I could just follow up on that really quickly, the Defense of Marriage Act prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage — even in states where it’s already legalized. As a matter of states’ rights, do you think it should be repealed?

Huntsman: I think the Defense of Marriage Act serves a useful purpose. It allows states to make their own decisions, to make their own way, and the Defense of Marriage Act, I think, is a safeguard for those states to make that decision.

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20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. David B Baker

    December 8, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    I think that this is the most progressive stance a Republican has ever taken on DOMA. He doesn’t think it should stand because he doesn’t like us, but rather because it gives states the ability to figure things out on their own. While this certainly isn’t the ideal route marriage advocates want, the mindset behind it is refreshing, especially given Perry’s God,Guns,Gays attempt of an ad.

    • SFB

      December 8, 2011 at 8:04 pm

      Absolutely. The only problem is the degree of nuance. Will the statement be interpreted as you’ve laid out, or seen as offensive by the marriage advocates before they put it in context?

  2. Frankjc

    December 9, 2011 at 12:12 am

    Who cares about politicians who pander for votes? We are in the courts now and that is all
    that should concern LGBT people. Everything else, particularly on the right is just a big
    political freak show. (Hillary Clinton’s U.N. Human Rights Council speech is one bright
    exception.)

    • I'm Just Sayin'

      December 9, 2011 at 9:11 am

      Totally agree. People tend to forget that with very few exceptions advances in equality and civil rights have been gained through the judiciary not legislatively. In fact when faced with judicial decrees, legislators have shown themselves to be quite creative in coming up with ways to maintain discriminatory practices and perpetuate the status quo, forcing the courts to act more definitively and yes, in some ways legislate from the bench.

  3. Patrick from CA

    December 9, 2011 at 1:54 am

    Yes, this is the least repulsive of the Republican candidates’ positions on same sex couples’ right to marry. But it is still repulsive. And it is wrong. DOMA does not serve to allow states to pursue their own paths, it prohibits the Federal government from conferring benefits upon legally married couples if they happen to be same-sex couples.

    Huntsman is the most palatable simply because the others are so vile.

  4. Customartist

    December 9, 2011 at 9:21 am

    Huntsman, like all other Republican Politicians, Fails to address the inherent In-Equality with the Federal Government Not Acknowledging Legal Gay Marriages.

    One can SAY they “believe in Fairness”, but NO Republican Politician ever puts his words into Deeds – There have been ZERO Bills proposed – NONE.

  5. Steve Davies

    December 9, 2011 at 9:46 am

    Ok, so there is simple solution to all this. Allow states (that want to) to implement ‘civil unions’ that will be the same as marriage except not in name. Then, for every federal benefit for which marriage is a factor, introduce ‘civil union’ alongside ‘marriage’ and ‘civil partner’ alongside ‘spouse’ as a legal category. This would then allow every couple in a civil union to be afforded the same rights and priviledges as those in marriages, without compromising the federal definition of ‘marriage’. This would hopefully keep the Republicans happy and all you would need is a bill to introduce the ‘civil union’ and ‘civil partner’ as a category in federal law. Not idea I know, but it is certainly a realistic and acheiveable compromise.

    • sweetfunkystuff

      December 10, 2011 at 2:01 am

      You have an interesting idea there, but if the “I’m against gay marriage, but I support civil unions” people really do support civial unions with all of the rights that are conferred upon heterosexual married couples, then why hasn’t any of them introduced such a compromise? I suspect that it’s because they not only don’t want gay people to have “marriage,” they don’t want us to have anything that is marriage-like.

  6. Joel

    December 9, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    DOMA only allows states to come to ONE conclusion–that gay marriage is wrong. In the case of every state that has sided with the protections of the 14th Amendment, not one of them has had the federal government support their laws.

    DOMA is a mean-spirited, bigoted law that will die a very public and humiliating death in the Supreme Court.

  7. Spencer

    December 9, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    What if each state was given the option to decide the issue of slavery?

    • sweetfunkystuff

      December 10, 2011 at 2:03 am

      Believe me–an uncomfortable number of these people wish they had been.

  8. jason Duffy

    December 9, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    Gov. Huntsman is a breath of fresh air among G.O.P. candidates, I believe he is good man, however “marriage” in its common denominator in America is basically a “legal commitment” entered into by consenting adults, (I should know, I’ve been married 3 times) it is a “contract” legally binding, and should be open to all consenting adults, regardless of sexual orientation. Religious Conservatives love to hide behind the “scriptures” as reason to oppose this, however the scriptures also “condemn” heterosexuals “living together” unmarried, they also call for “woman to be silent in Church” tell me one denomination that still follows these archaic “rules” I firmly believe as long as ANY 2 adults mutually agree on a “marriage contract” who is the State to deny them? J. Duffy

  9. tristram

    December 9, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    @frankjc and Spencer and anyone else who thinks the courts, specifically the Supreme Court, will rule in favor or lgbt equality in any of the pending or prospective cases:

    Get real. It is not clear that the SC as presently constituted would find DOMA, Prop. 8 (or any other discriminatory laws that are being challenged) unconstitutional or otherwise impermissible. And if a Republican (any of the possible nominees, including Huntsman) is elected President next year, there is a very good chance that the likely retirements/replacements will shift the Court sharply toward the Scalia/Thomas wing. Meaning that the Court is more likely to limit or overturn Lawrence v. Texas than it is to strike down any part of DOMA.

  10. BobN

    December 9, 2011 at 11:13 pm

    Even the most “pro-gay” GOP contender won’t clearly state his position, in the hope that it’ll please enough gays to get him some money and please enough bigots to get him some votes.

    You CANNOT simultaneously support equality and Section 3 of DOMA. Unless you’re a liar, of course.

  11. Mike K

    December 10, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    Someone needs to remind Mr Perry that what Mr Obama has done is more Christ like than he has been. Jesus stepped in and kept a prostitute from being stoned, telling the crowd that the one who is sin free should throw the first stone, no one was so they left in peace. The US stepping up and speaking out for LGBT people around the world mirrors Jesus far more than any of the hate coming from Mr. Perry’s mouth.

    As for DOMA, it is nothing but discrimination. We have been together for 11 years, legally married for 3 now, yet on my SSDI, Medicare and Medical it lists me as single. I have to pay out more for my medical expenses because I am single, if something happens to me while I am on dialysis and I die, my husband gets nothing, how is that anything but discrimination? We have paid the same taxes, played by the same rules, yet we are not treated the same.

  12. Curtis

    December 10, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    You simply cannot say you support equality under the law and also say you support DOMA. Equality, and laws like DOMA that restrict equality are fundamentally incompatible.

  13. Jon

    January 6, 2012 at 11:50 am

    We already have “civil marriage”: go to city hall and get married and God isn’t invoked at all. Why are people so willing to surrender marriage to the churches? Marriage is a right for us all, let’s keep it.

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National

In a historic first, Colorado now has a 1st gentleman as Gov. Polis marries

The governor and his now husband decided to hold their nuptials on the 18th anniversary of their first date

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Governor Jared Polis and 1st Gentleman Marlon Reis exchange vows (Screenshot via CBS News Denver)

DENVER – Colorado’s Democratic Governor Jared Polis married his longtime partner Marlon Reis in a ceremony that marked the first same-sex marriage of a sitting Out governor in the United States.

The couple was married Wednesday in a small traditional Jewish ceremony at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where Reis had matriculated and graduated from. The governor and his now husband decided to hold their nuptials on the 18th anniversary of their first date.

“We met online and went out on a date and we went to the Boulder bookstore and then went to dinner,” Polis told KCFR-FM, Colorado Public Radio (CPR).

In addition to family and close friends in attendance, the couple’s two children participated with their 7-year-old daughter serving as the flower girl and their 9-year-old son as the ring bearer.

The governor joked that their daughter was probably more thrilled than anyone about the wedding. “She was all in on being a flower girl. She’s been prancing around. She got a great dress. She’s terrific,” he said CPR reported.

Their son was also happy, but more ambivalent about it all according to Reis. “Kids are so modern that their responses to things are sometimes funny. Our son honestly asked us, ‘Why do people get married?”

Colorado’s chief executive, sworn in as the 43rd governor of Colorado in January 2019, over the course of nearly 20 years as a political activist and following in public service as an elected official has had several ‘firsts’ to his credit.

In 2008 Polis is one of the few people to be openly Out when first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as well as being the first gay parent to serve in the Congress. Then on November 6, 2018, he was the first openly gay governor elected in Colorado and in the United States.

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Gov. Jared Polis And First Gentleman Marlon Reis Are Newlyweds

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U.S. Catholic theologians call for LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections

Joint statement says church teachings support equality

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More than 750 of the nation’s leading Catholic theologians, church leaders, scholars, educators, and writers released a joint statement on Sept. 14 expressing strong support for nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people.

The six-page theological statement, “A Home for All: A Catholic Call for LGBTQ Non-Discrimination,” was scheduled to be published along with the names of its 759 signatories as a four-page advertisement on Sept. 17 in the National Catholic Reporter, a newspaper widely read by Catholic clergy and laypeople.

The statement was initiated by New Ways Ministry, a Mount Rainier, Md., based Catholic group that advocates for equality for LGBTQ people within the church and society at large.

“As Catholic theologians, scholars, church leaders, writers, and ministers, we affirm that Catholic teaching presents a positive case for ending discrimination against LGBTQ people,” the statement says. “We affirm the Second Vatican Council’s demand that ‘any kind of social or cultural discrimination…must be curbed and eradicated,’” it says.

“We affirm that Catholic teaching should not be used to further oppress LGBTQ people by denying rights rooted in their inherent human dignity and in the church’s call for social equality,” the statement adds.

The statement notes that its signers recognize that a “great debate” is currently taking place within the Catholic Church about whether same-gender relationships and transgender identities should be condoned or supported.

“That is a vital discussion for the future of Catholicism, and one to which we are whole-heartedly committed,” the statement continues. “What we are saying in this statement, however, is relatively independent of that debate, and the endorsers of this statement may hold varied, and even opposing, opinions on sexual and gender matters,” it says.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministries executive director, said his organization and the signers of the statement feel the issue of nondiscrimination for LGBTQ people can and should be supported by Catholic leaders and the church itself even if some are not yet ready to support same-sex marriage and sexual and gender identity matters.

“LGBTQ non-discrimination is being debated at all levels in our society, and the Catholic perspective on this is often misrepresented, even by some church leaders,” DeBernardo said. “Catholics who have studied and reflected deeply on this topic agree that non-discrimination is the most authentic Catholic position,” he said. 

DeBernardo said those who helped draft the statement decided it would be best to limit it to a theological appeal and argument for LGBTQ equality and non-discrimination and not to call for passage of specific legislation such as the Equality Act, the national LGBTQ civil rights bill pending in the U.S. Congress.

The Equality Act calls for amending existing federal civil rights laws to add nondiscrimination language protecting LGBTQ people in areas such as employment, housing, and public accommodations. The U.S. House approved the legislation, but the Senate has yet to act on it.

“We wanted this to be a theological statement, not a political statement,” DeBernardo said.

He said organizers of the project to prepare the statement plan to send it, among other places, to the Vatican in Rome and to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which has expressed opposition to the Equality Act.

Among the key signers of the statement were 242 administrators, faculty, and staff from Sacred Heart University, a Catholic college in Fairfield, Conn. New Ways Ministries says the statement was circulated by the school’s administration and eight of its top leaders, including President John Petillo, are among the signers.

Some of the prominent writers who signed the statement include Sister Helen Prejean, author of “Dead Man Walking;” Richard Rodriquez, author of “Hunger of Memory;” Gary Wills, author of “Lincoln at Gettysburg;” and Gregory Maguire, author of “Wicked.”

The full text of the statement and its list of signatories can be accessed at the New Ways Ministry website.

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Activists reflect on Black Trans Lives Matter movement resurgence

Blade speaks with Alex Santiago, Jasmyne Cannick

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An I Am Human Foundation billboard along Atlanta's Downtown Connector expressway on Feb. 22, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The world came to a standstill last year as a video surfaced online that showed then-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin murdering George Floyd. The video went viral and sparked numerous protests against racism and police brutality in the U.S. and around the world as many people felt it a potent time to relay their frustrations with and to their governments.

For the LGBTQ community, these protests brought to light the need for human rights for transgender individuals as the murders of people like Tony McDade in Florida and Nina Pop in Missouri reawakened the flame within the Black Trans Lives Matter movement.

A tribute to Tony McDade in downtown Asheville, N.C., in June 2020. McDade was a Black transgender man who was shot and killed by a white police officer in Tallahassee, Fla., on May 27, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The Washington Blade more than a year later spoke with Alex Santiago, executive director of the I Am Human Foundation in Atlanta, and Jasmyne Cannick, a Democratic political strategist and journalist in Los Angeles, to reflect on last year’s Black Trans Lives Matter movement, how far it has come, and what’s in store for the future. 

Uplifting voices often silenced

Participating in the Black Lives Matter protests was an easy decision for Santiago. He is a member of the Legendary House of Garcon, a ballroom house headquartered in D.C. 

Although the house is composed mostly of LGBTQ members, Santiago still felt the need to center trans voices and experiences by visually representing them during Black Lives Matter marches. 

“[I decided that] when I go I’m going to have signs that say ‘Black Trans Lives Matter.’ After talking to a couple of the people in the house, they said it was a great idea. So, they got these t-shirts made that incorporated the trans colors [baby blue, baby pink and white],” says Santiago.

Out of the 250 people in the Legendary House of Garcon, 175 showed up to D.C. from other states to march in solidarity with Black trans people. Santiago says that from what he was told, his was the largest group of activists representing Black trans lives at protests. 

“At first I thought people were going to look at us crazy, like, ‘Why are you separating yourselves or being exclusive?’. But, we got a great response from the general population that was there that day. It was a good day,” says Santiago.

Cannick, who was in Los Angeles during the protests, lent her efforts to platforming pertinent issues. She identifies herself as an ally and a “friend” to the LGBTQ community. 

“I’m active in the LA community and everybody knows me. So, whenever something happens, someone is hurt, someone is killed or someone needs to get the word out about something that’s going on particularly as it relates to the trans community, I’m always asked to get involved, and I do,” says Cannick. 

Over the past year, she reported on multiple LGBTQ issues including the trial of Ed Buck, a Democratic political fundraiser who was convicted in the deaths of two gay Black men who he injected with methamphetamine in exchange for sex.

What happened to the BTLM movement and what needs to change?

The nature of many social movements is that as the intense emotion surrounding them fades, people’s fervor for change wanes as well. This is especially true with allies who are not directly linked to the cause.

“Fatigue and frustration at the relatively slow pace of change to a growing backlash on the right against efforts to call out systemic racism and white privilege — has led to a decline in white support for the Black Lives Matter movement since last spring, when white support for social justice was at its peak,” US News reports about the Black Lives Matter movement.

Cannick believes this is the same for the Black Trans Lives Matter movement. She says Americans allow the media to dictate how it behaves and responds to issues. Thus, when stories “fall out of our media cycles … they fall out of our memories.”

“I think that’s not going to change, and that’s a psychological thing, until we learn how to not let the media necessarily dictate our issues,” says Cannick. 

She suggests that individuals remain plugged into their communities by “doing anything to make sure they keep up with an issue” including following the “right people” on social media and setting up Google alerts for any breaking news. 

Jasmyne Cannick (Photo courtesy of Jasmyne Cannick)

Santiago also echoes Cannick’s sentiments. 

“We wait until something happens before we do something. And, I don’t want to be retroactive; I want to be proactive. I want people to see me when things are going well [and when they’re not going well],” says Santiago. 

Upon returning to his home in Atlanta after the D.C. protests, Santiago contacted a billboard installation company and paid for a billboard labelled, “Black Trans Lives Matter” to be displayed on University Avenue near downtown Atlanta. He says that the billboards got attention and helped to spread much-needed awareness. Following this success, he is now in the process of installing a new billboard labelled, “Black, Trans and Visible. My life Matters.”

“Unless you’re in people’s faces or something drastic happens, people forget. Unless you’re living it, people forget,” says Santiago.

As time progresses, both Santiago and Cannick nest hope for the Black Trans Lives Matter movement. However, this hope can only persist when crucial steps are taken to ensure Black trans individuals around the country are protected, most importantly through legislation.

The New York Times reports there are close to 1,000 elected LGBTQ officials in the U.S., with at least one in each state except Mississippi. 

“We need to have more legislation. We need more voices in power like the council Biden has right now,” says Santiago. 

“You know that [Biden] has a lot of trans people and Black trans people [involved], and a part of that’s a positive step in the right direction, but we need that times 10,” says Santiago.

He believes that political representation should extend to local governance where ordinary Black trans individuals can be trained to assume leadership roles. 

Cannick’s focus is on the Black community. 

“[Trans women] are usually murdered by Black men. If we ever expect that to change, we need to start talking about that,” says Cannick.

She’s open to having conversations that put people, including her as a cis-identifying woman, in uncomfortable and awkward spaces. 

She hosts a podcast titled “Str8 No Chaser” and recently aired an episode, “Why Are Black Men Killing Trans Women,” where she discussed with three Black trans women about the gender and sexuality dynamics within the Black community and their perils. 

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