Add Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s name to the list of Republican presidential candidates who as president would seek to employ the Justice Department and the Internal Revenue Service to uphold religious freedom — which is seen as code for enabling anti-LGBT discrimination.
Walker made the remarks Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” when host Chuck Todd asked whether businesses should be able to fire someone for being gay. Walker never really stated his position on the issue, but instead said “you have to have that balance up.”
“That means making sure that we uphold the Constitution, which says you have the freedom of religion,” Walker continued. “Not freedom from religion, the freedom of religion. And that means, I’ll just speak about it, our Justice Department, our I.R.S. and others out there, will uphold that.”
Walker said the “most immediate thing” the next president or his administration should be involved in is upholding religious liberty.
The candidate’s plan isn’t exactly clear, but given the context for the question can be seen as enabling anti-gay discrimination under his administration in some capacity.
The Wisconsin governor isn’t the first candidate to say his administration would promote religious liberty in a way that may undermine LGBT rights. During the pre-debate for lower-tier Republican presidential candidates, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said they would sign executive orders in favor of religious freedom for those who oppose same-sex marriage. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) pledged during the debate to direct the Justice Department to uphold religious liberty as part of his administration.
Walker’s comments are on par with his general opposition to LGBT rights. The governor is among the Republican presidential hopefuls who support a U.S. constitutional amendment against the U.S. Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage that would return the issue to the states and said he wouldn’t change the ban on transgender military service. However, he’s suggested support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, saying his state’s ban on same-sex marriage and pro-gay non-discrimination law struck the right balance in the state.
Also on “Meet the Press,” Walker responded to comments he made in October after the Supreme Court refused to review a court decision instituting marriage equality on Wisconsin. At the time, Walker said the debate is over.
Asked whether his current position on marriage is at odds with saying in October the debate is over, Walker said that’s right.”
“It was over in terms of our legal options,” he continued. “We had no other option other than waiting to see what the Supreme Court did. If I’d said anything differently, I’d be misguiding the people of Wisconsin. There was no other option for the state of Wisconsin.”
JoDee Winterhof, the Human Rights Campaign’s senior vice president of policy and political affairs, criticized Walker for refusing to take stand against firing people because of their sexual orientation.
“Scott Walker seems to think it’s acceptable to treat LGBT people differently and allow businesses to refuse service to someone, or deny them a job, just because of who they are, or who they love,” Winterhof said. “His refusal to stand up for basic employment protections is only made more troubling by his willingness to use the federal government to put LGBT people at risk for even more discrimination.”
Walker’s made the comments in the week after the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage announced that four Republican candidates — Cruz, Santorum, Jindal and former neurosurgeon Ben Carson — have signed its pledge in opposition to same-sex marriage. According to NOM, Walker isn’t among those who signed his name because he has a generally practice of not signing pledges.