Ohio Governor John Kasich (R) briefly wavered on his staunch opposition to all forms of same-sex unions in an interview on Thursday morning. When pressed about fellow Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman’s recent embrace of gay marriage, Kasich claimed he supported civil unions but not marriage for gay couples:
Kasich was asked if he could imagine a situation that might cause him to change his position.
“I really can’t see one, I mean, I talked to Rob and encouraged him,” Kasich said. “If people want to have civil unions and have some way to transfer their resources, I’m for that. I don’t support gay marriage.”
“I’ve got friends that are gay and I’ve told them ‘Look, (same sex marriage) is just not something I agree with’ and I’m not doing it out of a sense of anger or judgment, it’s just my opinion on this issue.”
“I just think marriage is between a man and a woman, but if you want to have a civil union that’s fine with me,” Kasich said.
Despite this fairly strong endorsement for civil unions, his office quickly walked back the governor’s statement, stressing that Kasich maintains his opposition to all forms of same-sex unions. Spokesperson Rob Nichols told Buzzfeed, “He’s opposed to discrimination against any Ohioan and, while he may have used the term ‘civil union’ loosely in this instance, he recognizes the existing rights of Ohioans to enter into private contracts to manage their personal property and health care issues.”
Kasich holds a long anti-gay record, beginning into his time in Congress, where he voted to ban adoptions by gay parents, as well as for the Defense of Marriage Act and the military’s defunct “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. As governor, Kasich broke his pledge to extend anti-discrimination protections for LGBT individuals, allowing state and contracted employers to fire anyone based on sexual orientation.
Kasich may have felt pressure on the spot to be flexible in his views, as his hardline stance on gay marriage and civil unions is now far outside the norm. Support for gay marriage is at an all-time high. Civil unions are currently banned in Ohio, but a ballot initiative this fall could change that.