March 4, 2016 at 12:25 am EDT | by Chris Johnson
In debate, GOP candidates get behind ‘gay marriage dissenters’

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

Three of the four Republican remaining presidential candidates spoke out against same-sex marriage during their latest debate Thursday, including Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who reversed his earlier opposition to allowing businesses to deny wedding services to LGBT people.

At the debate in Detroit, Fox News reporter Bret Baier played a clip of Kasich from an earlier debate in which he said cupcake makers should sell goods to same-sex couples despite any religious objections, asking the candidate if “gay marriage dissenters” have rights.

Kasich seemed to reverse his earlier stated views and said cupcake makers shouldn’t have to “participate” in a same-sex marriage if they have religious objections to it.

“If you’re in the commerce business, you want to sell somebody a cupcake, great, but now if they ask you to participate and in something you really don’t like, that’s…another issue,” Kasich said.

In his earlier comments he talked about selling goods, but in his later comments he talked about participating in a wedding. However, the governor didn’t make a distinction between the two in his remarks.

“The Supreme Court ruled,” Kasich continued. “I don’t agree with the ruling. I’m in favor of traditional marriage between a man and a woman. What I hope was going to happen after the Supreme Court ruling was things would settle down. If you go to a photographer to take pictures at your wedding and he says, ‘I’d rather not do it,’ find another photographer. Don’t sue them in court.”

The audience responded with applause to the comments before Kasich spoke in favor of tolerance and against settling disputes with lawsuits.

“The problem is in our country, we need to learn to respect each other, we need to be more tolerant for one another,” Kasich said. “At the end of the day, don’t go to court. Can’t we have common sense in America? That’s the way it used to be.”

Kasich made a reference to a book called the “The Death of Common Sense,” calling for restoration of the idea, then concluded it might be time for a law to protect opponents of same-sex marriage.

“At the end of the day, if somebody’s being pressured to participate in something that is against their deeply held religious beliefs, then we’re going to have to think about dealing with a law,” Kasich said. “But you know what? I’d rather people figure this out without having to put another law on the books and have more arguments in this country. Why don’t we come together as a country, respect one another, love one another and lift this country. I think that’s what people want, so thanks for asking.”

When Baier turned to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), the moderator asked the candidate if gay couples should be able to adopt. Cruz responded by saying the issue belongs to the states, which is where he said the Supreme Court should have left the marriage issue instead of an “illegitimate” nationwide decision.

“Adoption is decided at the state level, and I am a believer of the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution,” Cruz said. “I would leave the question of marriage to the states, I would leave the question of adoption to the states. That’s the way it’s been for two centuries in our nation’s history until five unelected judges in an illegitimate and wrong decision decided to seize the authority over marriage and wrongfully tear down the marriage laws of all 50 states.”

Cruz said he would stand firm on religious liberty, unlike one candidate on stage who’d be willing to “compromise and negotiate,” making an implicit reference to Trump. Religious liberty in terms of the Republican primary is considered code for enabling anti-LGBT discrimination.

“I can tell you, for me, there are areas that we should compromise on,” Cruz said. “The marginal tax rates we can reach a middle ground on, but when it comes to core principles and convictions, when it comes to the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and I can tell the men and women at home I will never compromise away your religious liberty.”

Trump, whose bombastic language throughout the debate included a reference to his penis size, toned things down in response to the question, but still said he agrees with Cruz and opposes the Supreme Court’s decision.

“I have nothing to say,” Trump said. “Generally speaking, I agree with what he said. I would certainly have rather left it to the states. I was very surprised when they came up with that decision. I would preferred it had been left to the states, and I think most people would have preferred that.”

Despite Trump’s assertion that most Americans agree with him, polls have consistent shown a majority of Americans back the Supreme Court decision. A Gallup poll in July found 58 percent of Americans agree with the ruling in favor of marriage rights for gay couples.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), an opponent of same-sex marriage, wasn’t asked to respond to the question on marriage during the debate. Previously, he’s indicated he’d appoint justices to the Supreme Court who’d reverse the marriage equality decision.

Responding to the debate throughout the night on Twitter, the campaign for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton took note of the Republicans for their opposition to same-sex marriage.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

  • Are there any Republicans who refuse to pander ti bigots?

    • No. Mainly only Republicans willing to take your money but then work against you once they are elected to office!

      Remember that social conservatives make up the GOP base. They need them to win elections and can’t have any Presidential candidate get the nomination without kissing their ring and getting their sanction first!

  • Nothing says Republican and Christian like being willing to take away rights already granted to a group of people and to allow some people to deny rights to others for a specific trait. .

  • I love how straight people make it about them. “I would prefer they left it up to the states.” It isn’t about you. It’s about our lives. This ruling doesn’t affect you in any way, shape or form, but it made the families of thousands and thousands of same-sex couples more secure.

  • Hopefully this brutal homophobic rhetoric from the GOP candidates is a wake up call to complacent GLBT who were lulled into thinking that winning marriage equality at the SCOTUS meant the war was over and we had nothing else to worry about. Just because you are reflected on TV shows and social media doesn’t mean people no longer hate you or want to discriminate against you. With every victory later comes the backlash!

    Sometimes we need our enemies to slap our community back into reality and stop assuming it no longer matters being GLBT in America! It matters to enough people to make your lives miserable. Take nothing for granted. Your rights aren’t cast in stone. What can be given can be taken away!

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