Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman refused to be drawn out on gay marriage last night when he and his wife Mary Kaye were honored by the gay rights group Equality Utah for their efforts to make society safer, more open and equal for gay adults and youth.
Huntsman is especially revered in Utah's LGBT community because as governor in 2009, he spoke in favor of civil unions at time when homophobia (and every other phobia) was spiking at the state Capitol. (Huntsman jokes that "he came out, so to speak.")
Still, in a 10-minute cluster interview with reporters before the Equality Utah dinner, Huntsman refused to be drawn out on gay marriage itself. He carefully repeated that he wanted the nation's "conversation" to continue about "equality under the law" for gays and lesbians.
Under the circumstances of the gang interview, it was impossible to pursue exactly what Huntsman might have in mind. Some marriage equality advocates suggest that "marriage" be separated from a state-sanctioned civil union. In short, a couple would sign the contractual paperwork for a union (straight or gay) through the state and then, if they wish, sanctify their union through a wedding ceremony under the auspices of the religion of their choice.
Though Huntsman, former ambassador to China and one-time 2012 presidential contender later told a crowd of more than 2,000 gay rights supporters that he is "a failed musician and I’m pretty much a failed politician," no one was buying the second part of it.
Don't be surprised to see Huntsman again on the presidential hunt in four years, though it's hard to conceive of the GOP evolving to the point of accepting equality for gays in marriage under any circumstances.
Huntsman himself acknowledged that his political philosophy no longer jibes with the GOP's.
“I just try to be true to myself. I’m the Republican, I always have been. My party has moved to the right and I haven’t and I won’t.”
Huntsman delighted the crowd by quoting Mary Kaye's warning to him when he launched his failed presidential run: "If you pander or sign any of those damn pledges, I'm going to leave you."
Huntsman recalled that when filmmaker Michael Moore and President Bill Clinton told reporters that Huntsman was a Republican they could vote for: "I knew at that point I was toast."