Nearly three and a half years ago, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman announced his support for same-sex civil unions shortly before leaving office. Last night, he and his wife, Mary Kaye Huntsman, were honored by Equality Utah at the Salt Palace.
Huntsman admits when he was in office he took some risks. One of them was publicly endorsing same sex civil unions.
“I spoke out on civil unions and I did that because I fundamentally believe equality is an American value. And, you take some slings and arrows but I think the community maybe after that had some conversations and might still be having a conversation.”
Those conversations have led to a stronger LGBT community across the state and built up dozens of new partners who support it. Over the past 12 years, Equality Utah’s annual Allies dinner, has grown from a small sit down at Denny’s to Thursday’s gathering of over 2,000 at the Salt Palace.
Huntsman says equality under the law should be the end goal; however, he stopped short of saying he believes nationwide civil-union law would be the best policy: “Each state might end up doing it a little differently. What’s important here is people having a conversation about inclusiveness, and about fairness and about equality under the law.”
Neither Governor Gary Herbert nor Democrat Peter Cooke, his opponent in this November’s election, support civil unions but Equality Utah Executive Director Brandy Balkin says work will continue.
“It doesn’t necessarily serve us to say where is our ideal candidate. What serves us is to say how can we continue to move this conversation forward? How can we continue to provide protections for our residents? And that’s what Equality Utah does. Politics is a very difficult, very trying process, and I respect anyone who is involved in it and I also support anyone who is being true to there deeply held religious beliefs.”
Thursday’s dinner raised over $250,000 for Equality Utah.