I've been following Gary Johnson's presidential campaign for a few weeks now, and while the GOP nominee hopeful doesn't seem to have much of a chance at winning (perhaps because he's been generally ignored by the media), his candidacy proves that a Republican can support gay rights.
When Johnson spoke to The Bilerico Project in September, he supported a range of policies that would contribute to LGBT equality, but he had not quite shifted to approval of full marriage equality.
Last night, that changed when he announced during a GOProud-sponsored online town hall event that he supports marriage equality and does not think that decisions of morality or religion should dictate governmental rights.
His full announcement on the issue, which Pam Spaulding published last night, is well-versed:
As a believer in individual freedom and keeping government out of personal lives, I simply cannot find a legitimate justification for federal laws, such as the Defense of Marriage Act, which 'define' marriage. That definition should be left to religions and individuals - not government. Government's role when it comes to marriage is one of granting benefits and rights to couples who choose to enter into a marriage 'contract'. As I have examined this issue, consulted with folks on all sides, and viewed it through the lens of individual freedom and equal rights, it has become clear to me that denying those rights and benefits to gay couples is discrimination, plain and simple.
Certainly, religions and people of various faiths have the right to view marriage as they wish, and sanction marriage according to those beliefs. Just as government shouldn't interfere with individual rights, government should not interfere with how marriage is treated as a ceremony, a sacrament or a privilege within a set of religious beliefs. However, when it comes to the rights of individuals and couples under the law, government's promise should be to insure equal access to those rights to all Americans, gay or straight ...
For a very long time, society has viewed gay marriage as a moral and, yes, religious issue. Today, I believe we have arrived at a point in history where more and more Americans are viewing it as a question of liberty and freedom. That evolution is important, and the time has come for us to align our marriage laws with the notion that every individual should be treated equally.
Johnson's announcement makes him only the second of all of the presidential candidates - the first being the openly gay Fred Karger - to support marriage equality. Barack Obama has still not voiced his support for marriage equality.