Former Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman announced his support for same-sex marriage Thursday, declaring marriage equality to be a "conservative cause."
"We are at a crossroads," Huntsman wrote of the Republican Party in a column published today by The American Conservative. "I believe the American people will vote for free markets under equal rules of the game – because there is no opportunity or job growth any other way. But the American people will not hear us out if we stand against their friends, family, and individual liberty."
Writing that the "party of Lincoln should stand with our best tradition of equality and support full civil marriage for all Americans," Huntsman said that conservatives should begin to push their states to join the nine that already allow same-sex marriage.
"I've been married for 29 years. My marriage has been the greatest joy of my life," Huntsman wrote. "There is nothing conservative about denying other Americans the ability to forge that same relationship with the person they love."
The declaration of support for the right of same-sex couples is the culmination of evolving comments from the former Utah governor and ambassador to China for the Obama administration. As a governor and candidate for president, Huntsman opposed marriage equality but supported civil unions.
"I believe in traditional marriage," he said on CNN in August 2011 while still a candidate for the Republican nomination. "I don't think you can redefine marriage from the traditional sense."
For Huntsman, who said today that "consistent with the Republican Party's origins, we must demand equality under the law for all Americans," that position has changed.
Joining a number of prominent Republicans who have endorsed same-sex marriage, Huntsman's announcement was welcomed by advocates.
"Governor Jon Huntsman is one of a growing number of Republicans to embrace the idea that marriage should be for all Americans," Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said in a statement. "From former Vice President Dick Cheney to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Huntsman is yet another high profile Republican official to make the case that treating people equally under the law is an American value."
According to Gregory Angelo, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, "Jon Huntsman is correct: The conservative movement is indeed at a crossroads, and it's inspiring to see more and more conservative leaders such as Governor Huntsman walking the road that leads to the right side of history."
Read Huntsman's piece here.
[Photo: Jon Huntsman (Courtesy of Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons)]