POLITICS
02/21/2013 02:40 pm ET Updated Feb 23, 2013

Jon Huntsman Backs Gay Marriage

Former 2012 Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman announced his support for gay marriage Thursday, culminating an evolution of public comments on the issue.

"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," Huntsman wrote in an op-ed in The American Conservative Thursday. "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."

He clarified that religions would not have to be forced to recognize gay marriages, but all Americans should be treated equally under the law.

Huntsman's support comes as many elected members of the Republican party decline to show support for gays and lesbians, despite the fact that more senior figures like former Vice President Dick Cheney and former RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman -- who came out as gay after leaving the post -- support gay marriage. Neither the Log Cabin Republicans nor GOProud will participate in next month's Conservative Political Action Conference. There are no gay or lesbian Republicans in Congress, though there are several in state legislatures.

Huntsman, as Utah governor, favored civil unions for gays and lesbians, but stood against gay marriage. "I believe in traditional marriage,” he said while running for the GOP presidential primary. “I don’t think you can redefine marriage from the traditional sense.”

However, he refused to sign the National Organization for Marriage pledge that included a vow to pass the Federal Marriage Amendment.

In a post-election interview with The Huffington Post, Huntsman took a more libertarian approach. "States ought to be entitled to do whatever they want," he said.

Huntsman has not shut the door on another bid for president in 2016.

Read the full op-ed here.

ALSO ON HUFFPOST:

PHOTO GALLERIES
Gay Marriage In The United States
Subscribe to the Politics email.
How will Trump’s administration impact you?

CONVERSATIONS