Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Barriers to change

Nearly a week ago, I posted videos of two Republicans who support civil unions for same-sex couples. One of them, former Utah Governor John Huntsman, has now declared his candidacy for the Republican nomination for president.

In the video above, Huntsman is interviewed by Fox “News” performer Sean Hannity. Sean, a hard-right whackadoodle on his best days, dismisses some of Huntsman’s positions as not being conservative, because to Hannity, and many others in the Republican Party, there's only one kind of conservative: Hard right on both economic and social issues, and that especially means being anti-gay, including opposing civil unions for same-sex couples.

When I last mentioned Huntsman’s support for civil unions, I said that the problem for him and other Republicans like him is that “the machinery of the party is firmly in the hands of those hard-right activists, who are also far more likely to vote in Republican primaries than are the less rigidly ideological majority of Republican voters.” Sean kind of proved my point about the opposition hard right Republicans have to people like Huntsman.

I also said that Huntsman was no moderate, and his answers to Sean’s questions amply demonstrate that—especially his answers on civil unions. Sure, he supports them for gay couples, and that’s pretty unusual for a Republican politician, but he also clearly sees them as being a legally vastly inferior thing to marriage, apparently covering only things like hospital visitation rights and similar things. What he’s really talking about isn’t civil unions at all, but rather a kind of domestic partnership registry to give same sex couples a few of the some 2,000 rights heterosexual couples get through marriage.

Still, credit where it’s due: Huntsman’s position, backward though it still is, nevertheless is a major advance for a Republican politician—and especially for a Mormon Republican politician, given that church’s public hostility and antagonism toward GLBT people.

These are baby steps, sure, but they’re still steps, after all, and that party needs to learn to walk upright before it can lead.

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