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.