Former New Mexico governor and current presidential candidate Gary Johnson announced during an online town hall this week that he supports same-sex marriage. Previously Johnson had supported civil unions, but told listeners that his decision to support same-sex marriage was based on "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."
The town hall was organized by the LGBT conservative group GOProud.
"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," Johnson said. "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."
Johnson, long considered New Mexico's most fiscally conservative governor, is one of a handful of favorites among Libertarian presidential candidates in 2012. He said that religious organizations have the right to view marriage as they wish and sanction marriage according to those 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."