Thursday, February 21, 2013

Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. Comes Out In Favor Of Gay Marriage, But Supports Religious Exemption

On February 21st, 2013, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman Jr., still a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, published an article entitled "Marriage Equality Is a Conservative Cause" on The American Conservative website. But at least he maintains that religious groups should not be forced by the state to recognize relationships that run counter to their conscience, which means the LDS Church won't be pressured into performing gay temple marriages.

This represents a departure from his previous position when he served as governor. At that time, he merely favored civil unions and opposed full-blown marriage for gays. Here's the most pertinent part of Huntsman's article:

While serving as governor of Utah, I pushed for civil unions and expanded reciprocal benefits for gay citizens. I did so not because of political pressure—indeed, at the time 70 percent of Utahns were opposed—but because as governor my role was to work for everybody, even those who didn’t have access to a powerful lobby. Civil unions, I believed, were a practical step that would bring all citizens more fully into the fabric of a state they already were—and always had been—a part of.

That was four years ago. Today we have an opportunity to do more: conservatives should start to lead again and push their states to join the nine others that allow all their citizens to marry. I’ve been married for 29 years. My marriage has been the greatest joy of my life. There is nothing conservative about denying other Americans the ability to forge that same relationship with the person they love.

All Americans should be treated equally by the law, whether they marry in a church, another religious institution, or a town hall. This does not mean that any religious group would be forced by the state to recognize relationships that run counter to their conscience. Civil equality is compatible with, and indeed promotes, freedom of conscience.

By advocating a religious exemption, Huntsman will avoid running afoul of the LDS hierarchy and having his worthiness questioned by his priesthood chain of command. The LDS Church does not sanction individual members who support gay civil marriage, so long as they don't also advocate that the Church recognize or perform such marriages.

However, it is debatable whether or not gay marriage can be considered a conservative principle. There are those within Republican ranks who are trying to redefine conservatism -- and transform it into feudalism. People like Huntsman believe conservatism is merely about the right to make money without restriction, which is actually objectivism. Objectivism basically holds that anything that impairs the right to make money is considered an obstruction, denigrating and criminalizing those who, through no fault of their own, have only limited economic clout. The fact is, conservatism is also about preserving and strengthening those time-tested social and cultural values that hold a society together. Opening up marriage to just any Ton, Dick, or Harry weakens the institution, and will generate a demand for plural marriage. Indeed, how could we refuse to allow sibling marriage, banned for consanguinary reasons, if we permit gay marriage? Furthermore, there is disagreement about whether or not marriage should be considered a specified civil right; Loving v. Virginia merely invalidated laws against interracial marriage because they discriminated solely on the basis of race, and did not necessary enshrine marriage itself as a civil right.

Reaction: Huntsman’s daughter, Abby Huntsman Livingston, said Thursday that her father felt the need to make a persuasive argument connecting Republican values with marriage equality. "I couldn’t be more proud of my dad," she said, "for taking a stand on one of the most important issues we face today." His other two daughters, Liddy and Mary Anne, also praised him. Some good comments were appended to the American Conservative article, and not merely about Huntsman's revised position on marriage. Some criticize his cold-blooded, cutthroat economic vision, since it is easy for a multimillionaire who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth to rhapsodize with messianic fervor about the "wonders of the free market working their magic" (after the jump):

Nick says: February 21, 2013 at 12:52 pm
I’m surprised TAC would publish this. Not because Huntsman’s ideas are wrong (which they are), but because the entire piece is so banal. I mean, Huntsman’s argument is: “Republicans keep losing elections. Gay marriage is a hot issue. Republicans should shock everybody by throwing the institution of marriage overboard to appease 4% of the population and their sentimental allies.”

Huntsman also appears to conflate the civil instutiton of marriage and its attendant rights with the natural institution of marriage, and its millenia of history that far predate democracy and Western Civilization, much less the pathetic Republican Party.

Huntsman, like so many accommodationists, assumes that what the gay lobby is interested in is “marriage equality.” Nonsense. They’re looking for “marriage equivocation;” the recasting of the institution in their image. What might that mean? Well, it certainly won’t mean more durable relationships and a decline in the divorce rate. And it certainly won’t mean providing children engineered into these families with strong archetypes of both sexes. What it will almost certainly mean is further restraint on the Free Exercise Clause, along the lines of the HHS mandate, limiting the authority of clergy to perform marriage ceremonies if those clergy or their churches are not willing to toss their beliefs overboard as quickly as Huntsman.

I tend to think that “base” Republicans are not all that bright, considering the support they routinely show for clowns like Christine O’Donnell and Herman Caine. But I have a certain degree of renewed faith in that base and their instincts for weeding out political panderers, given that Huntsman never gained traction in the primaries.

Chick Dante says: February 21, 2013 at 1:44 pm
I applaud John Huntsman for an excellent article, thoughtful, reasonable and well written. But, on the economy, he falls into the trap set for him by decades of mischaracterization of “free markets” as being those “encouraged by limited government.” If Huntsman actually knew a thing or two about Adam Smith and classical economic theory, he would know what an oxymoron this is.

I highly recommend a book – not an easy read – by Professor Michael Hudson, called “The Bubble and Beyond.” He is an expert on the history and theory of the classical economists. He explains what damage has been done by modern moderen monetarist or neoclassical adherents who invert the classical ideas. Yet they predominate our university economic departments, as well as our corporate and political class. This has led to the financialization of our economy and a tremdous diversion of productive revenue to the creation of debt and interest income. This, more than anything, is what prevents our economic recovery and it all starts with the failure to understand what the classicists meant by “free markets.”

Classicists and Physiocrats, believed that while prices should be set by markets, not by governments, this could not be done without the government playing a central role. It is no coincidence that Wealth of Nations was written and published in the same year as The Declaration of Independence. Smith’s idea was that unlike a King who set the price of goods, markets would be created by a strong central government that would keep the plutocrats and other corrupting forces out of them.

Today’s neoliberals have corrupted the idea into one in which markets are free from regulation thus allowing corrupting influences to control. The words “small government” and “tax reform” are now dog whistles for this type of ideological inversion.

The result of this revisionism has been to allow financialization to take hold, freed from adequate regulation, leading to bailouts for the rich, preference for rentiers over labor and freeing up economic rent from taxation and preventing it from being put to productive use. Allowing asset prices to inflate so that more private debt is created is the goal. Nothing about this is consistent with Adam Smith.

Huntsman gets it right about marriage equality. But, he is completely misguided by modern “junk encomics” in his misunderstanding of “free markets.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well said Chick Dante!