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Breaking: GOP presidential candidate Gary Johnson announces support for marriage equality during online town hall

The former two-term Governor of New Mexico supported civil unions, saying his shift involved “a great deal of deliberation, discussion with the gay community, and a conclusion that government has no business choosing who should be allowed the benefits of marriage and who should not.”

Who? While the possibility that Gary Johnson will be the Republican Party’s nominee to run against Barack Obama in 2012 is beyond remote, his announcement tonight places him alongside gay Republican presidential candidate Fred Karger as the only candidates in either party that support full marriage equality. (President Barack Obama is still evolving on the matter, remember?)

Johnson made his announcement during an online town hall hosted by GOProud Co-Founder and Executive Director Jimmy LaSalvia.

Johnson’s full statement:

“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.”

The sane wing of the conservative movement — you know, those supporting limited, efficient government and personal liberty — still has to deal with the fundamentalist, bible-beating, anti-LGBT obsessed elements that are culturally keeping the Republican Party from evolving into anything remotely approaching 21st-century thinking on social issues.  At least one candidate, even one with little chance of advancing, is not willing to coddle the bigots.

The Town Hall (held on and covers social and human rights issues, and is clearly the place to make this sort of splash. If you’re online between 8PM and 9;30 PM ET tonight, you can still join the conversation.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding