Monday, February 9, 2009
Utah Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. Declares Himself In Favor On Civil Unions, Weakens Prospective Republican Presidential Appeal Among Conservatives
Utah Republican Governor Jon Huntsman Jr's Presidential stock among conservatives nose-dived on Monday February 9th, 2009 when he declared himself in favor of civil unions. Media stories from the Salt Lake Tribune and KSL Channel 5. Newer media stories from KTVX Channel 4 and the Deseret News (HERE and HERE).
According to Lisa Roskelley, the governor's spokeswoman, Huntsman supports all of Equality Utah's Common Ground Initiative, the package of bills that would provide some rights to gay and transgendered Utahns. But Huntsman is particularly supportive of the now-pulled bill which would remove the prohibition against civil unions from the language of Amendment 3. However, Huntsman still opposes gay marriage.
"He's long supported many of the ideas that are presented within the Common Ground Initiative," said Roskelley, noting her boss waits to endorse specific bills officially until presented to him in final form. "He supports civil unions".
His position runs counter to both his political party and also against the majority of Utahns, who expressed themselves in two recent polls. As a result, it's doubtful Huntsman's backing will lead to civil unions getting past the conservative Legislature. And it may not help the rest of this year's gay-rights legislative push, which already has shrunk from four bills to two.
On Day Two of the 2009 Legislature, SB32, which would have allowed financial dependents -- besides spouses, parents and children -- to sue in the event of a breadwinner's wrongful death, died in committee. And last week, openly-gay Rep. Jackie Biskupski (D-Salt Lake), withdrew her proposal, which would have sought the Legislature's and voters' approval to erase the second part of Amendment 3 -- Utah's constitutional gay-marriage ban -- that forbids civil unions. Biskupski is pleased with Huntsman's attitude - and diplomatically refrained from asking him why he didn't speak up earlier.
Jeff Reynolds, spokesman for the conservative Salt Lake City-based Sutherland Institute think tank, which opposes the Common Ground Initiative, said he's "not surprised" by Huntsman's softened stand. "He had to be dragged to the altar of Amendment 3," Reynolds said in an e-mail, "and everyone has known since then that Governor Huntsman would rather be nice than right."
The remaining two Common Ground bills include HB267, sponsored by openly-gay Rep. Christine Johnson (D-Salt Lake), which would make it illegal for landlords and employers to discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and HB160 (Declaration of Joint Support), sponsored by Rep. Jen Seelig (D-Salt Lake), which would give same-sex couples and other domestic partnerships legal protections when it comes to hospital visitation, inheritance issues and medical decisions.
Update: Since this original post, KTVX Channel 4 has started a poll, and 66 percent of respondents disapprove of Governor Huntsman's decision so far. In addition, both Gayle Ruzicka and Senator Chris Buttars have expressed public disagreement, and Ruzicka questions whether Huntsman is a "real" Republican.
And Governor Huntsman is taking fire from other conservatives for his refusal to mark the 98th anniversary of President Ronald Reagan's birthday (Feb 6) by proclaiming it "Ronald Reagan Day". One would think that Utah, being one of the "reddest" states, would ba among the 30 which so marked the occasion. And the chairman of the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project, Grover Norquist, expressed his displeasure. "It is deeply regrettable Governor Jon Huntsman has failed to recognize the great contribution of Ronald Reagan", said Norquist.
As a commenter to my previous post on Jon Huntsman Jr. reminded me, Huntsman is part of the cap-and-trade carbon cult. Governor Huntsman has supported Utah participation in the Western Climate Initiative’s (WCI) Cap and Trade program. And he's taken fire from conservatives for that position as well. Testifying before the Utah Legislature’s Public Utilities and Technology Interim Committee, Randy Parker, a member of Governor Jon Huntsman’s Blue Ribbon Council on Climate Change (BRAC) pointed out that farmers and ranchers in this state and nation are highly dependent on energy to meet the growing demands for food. “The Governor’s advocacy of a WCI regional cap and trade program will hurt Utah’s economic competitiveness, increase energy costs to consumers and businesses and slow investments in cleanenergy technology,” the Farm Bureau leaders said.
Cap-and-trade is a process whereby government sets carbon emission caps, then sells or auctions credits to bring industry, like power generators, into compliance. As government ratchets down caps, economic pressure is brought to bear on companies to make costly investments or to buy credits. Studies show that Utah, with an economy tied heavily to carbon-based energy, will shoulder a disproportionately high burden from any carbon tax scheme. As a practical matter, advanced clean carbon technologies and carbon sequestration are not available today, and are not likely in the short term.
That's the official description. The truth is that cap-and-trade is another scam which would be used by speculators to create another inflationary bubble to be sucked dry, just like the dot-com bubble and the housing bubble.
Perhaps we should put those "Huntsman 2012" bumper stickers on indefinitely hold. I'm beginning to detect the odor of "RINO" at the governor's mansion.