By Trudy Ring
Originally published on Advocate.com December 22 2009 6:40 PM ET
Jason Chaffetz (pictured), the Utah congressman who wants to block Washington, D.C.’s marriage equality ordinance, is his “own guy” on this issue even though some of his relatives are more gay-friendly, he told Salt Lake City’s Deseret News.
His father, John Chaffetz, wrote Gay Reality: The Team Guido Story, a complimentary book about gay couple Bill Bartek and Joe Baldassare, who competed on The Amazing Race. His mother, Kitty Dukakis, was married to John Chaffetz before she wed Michael Dukakis, the onetime Massachusetts governor and 1988 Democratic presidential nominee.
Despite having written Gay Reality, John Chaffetz is a “very conservative person,” Jason Chaffetz told the News in an interview published Monday. The younger Chaffetz said he has discussed some issues with his father, but not same-sex marriage.
That issue has come to the forefront, however, as Jason Chaffetz is the ranking Republican on the House committee that oversees the District of Columbia and has authority to veto any D.C. law within 30 days of its enactment — including the marriage equality ordinance, passed by the city council and signed by Mayor Adrian Fenty last week.
Many observers have noted Chaffetz’s ties to liberals and gay causes after he announced that he would try to block the D.C. marriage equality law. “It has led to a whole series of very aggressive personal attacks, but go ahead, I don't care,” he told the News. He said he sees his position “more as a support of traditional marriage than it is an attack on gay marriage.”
He noted that he is the only Mormon in his family, having joined the church shortly after graduating from Brigham Young University in 1989, and said the family includes both conservatives — such as his younger half brother, Alex — and liberals — such as his older half brother, John, who changed his last name from Chaffetz to that of stepfather Michael Dukakis.
Jason Chaffetz, once a Democrat, chaired the BYU branch of Michael Dukakis’s presidential campaign operation. Dukakis has a reputation as liberal, although not always completely gay-friendly. As Massachusetts governor, he signed the state’s gay rights law but also issued an order (later overturned) barring gays and lesbians from serving as adoptive or foster parents. Chaffetz said he respects and keeps in touch with his stepfather, although “he wants to do some things that I could never support.”
Chaffetz concluded that he remains his “own guy” on the marriage issue, no matter what friends and family say. Still, even some fellow Republicans want to see him change his position, with the Utah chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans issuing a statement Monday saying he should “get back to tending the issues we sent him to Washington to represent, and stop trying to force others to adhere to his misguided interpretation of what makes a real marriage.”