August 14, 2016 at 8:28 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Pence gives non-answer on allowing anti-gay discrimination
Mike Pense, gay news, Washington Blade

Gov. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) speaks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland on July 20, 2016. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key.)

Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence side-stepped a question Sunday on whether a business owner should be allowed to engage in anti-gay bias, saying he opposes discrimination, but the matter should be resolved by the courts.

The candidate, who as Indiana governor signed into law a “religious freedom” bill seen to enable anti-LGBT discrimination before being forced to a fix for the measure, made the remarks on Fox News Sunday in response to a question from moderator Chris Wallace.

Pence initially said he personally opposes anti-gay discrimination when Wallace asked the vice presidential candidate if a business owner “should have the right to refuse to serve a gay” for religious reasons.

“If I was in a restaurant and I saw someone denied service because they were gay, my family wouldn’t eat there again,” Pence replied. “I don’t believe in discrimination and I don’t support discrimination against anyone.”

But Pence never said whether it should be illegal to discriminate against gay people, referring to the courts as the ultimate arbiters of the issue.

“But when there is a conflict of rights here in our society, those are the proper purview of the courts,” Pence said. “And I do believe that the efforts we made in Indiana contributed to being able to resolve those things as Americans have done for generations.”

Although no federal law prohibits anti-gay discrimination in public accommodations, a total of 22 states and D.C. have explicit laws barring businesses for refusing services to customers based on sexual orientation. A number of business owners have challenged these laws after they were penalized for denying services to gay people on the basis of religious objections.

In Mississippi, a law enabling sweeping anti-LGBT discrimination, including the denial of services to gay people, is being challenged in court. Review of a lower court injunction against the law is pending before the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which Friday the court declined to lift pending appeal.

The designation of authority to the courts on the issue flies in the face of Pence’s position the U.S. Supreme Court shouldn’t have granted marriage rights to same-sex couples across the country last year. Pence, an opponent of same-sex marriage, said the courts shouldn’t have inferred and the issue should be left to the states.

The Equality Act, pending comprehensive LGBT non-discrimination legislation before Congress, would expand the categories of public accommodations under federal civil rights law and bar the denial of services in them on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Watch the full interview here (Exchange begins around 14:15)

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

  • Typical double-speak by a GOP conservative. If the courts rule in favor of GLBT then they say the judges have over-stepped their boundaries and need to be replaced.

    Pence said is all when he said he was a christian before he was anything else. That means his interest lie in supporting a conservative christian agenda not a fair and honest one!

  • Wonder why? 1st this race is over, so it makes no difference how, where or why, Pence tries to “faux excuse interpret” what we all repeatedly heard and saw actually come out of the woefully unqualified candidates mouth. 2nd Pence is the ultimate Republican establishment rich intolerant angry CC white guy defender of the establishments behind closed doors views that are in their basics, little different than Trump’s ignorant public spewings. The Republican establishment is and has just been smarter disguising them.

  • Ok. The courts will settle it. When you decide to toss out a shingle and profit off the public square you do cede some “supposed” rights. But using ones faith as a weapon against others will only lead to a Syria or Iraq.

  • Resolved by the courts which he would like to pick the judges on. I see your “tolerance” and raise you a finger, sir.

    I’ll also go ahead and assume he has never used the phrase “activist judges” before.

  • “…referring to the courts as the ultimate arbiters.”

    Right. Like when the courts ruled on the issue of marriage equality and all the naysayers finally shut up about it and moved on?

  • The real question is, how does Gov. Pence tip?

  • This is very sly. He wants the courts to handle discrimination complaints, which implies there should be no laws, just court decisions. The problem is that the court can only adjudicate a dispute on the basis of a law. If there is no law, the courts can’t decide a case one way or the other. I’m sure Pence knows that. He accomplishes two goals: 1) to people who flunked civics, which is apparently everyone, he sounds fair and reasonable 2) he makes it possible for anyone to discriminate against anyone else for any reason

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