This week, Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) suggested that bakeries inclined to refuse service to a same-sex couple should still serve them.
Speaking at the University of Virginia on Monday, Kasich insisted that churches should not have to violate their beliefs, but the same is not true of businesses. “People talk about religious liberty, and I think frankly our churches should not be forced to do anything that’s not consistent with them,” he said, “but if you’re a cupcake maker and someone wants a cupcake, make them a cupcake. Let’s not have a big lawsuit or argument over all this stuff. Move on.”
Cupcakes have not really been part of the controversy at bakeries. Indeed, it is wedding cakes that bakers like Jack Phillips in Colorado or Aaron and Melissa Klein in Oregon have refused to sell to same-sex couples. It’s unclear if Kasich meant to express support for nondiscrimination laws or if he is frustrated by the controversy some business owners are creating. Either way, his position is still to the left of other Republican presidential candidates like Marco Rubio and in particular, Ted Cruz, who has specifically highlighted “protecting” religious business owners as a pillar of his campaign.
Kasich has indicated that he believes the issue of same-sex marriage was settled by the Supreme Court, boasting at a debate last summer that he had attended a same-sex wedding. He previously supported Ohio’s ban on same-sex marriage, defending it in the case that eventually led to the Supreme Court’s ruling.
Last week, a student at Michigan State University said that attending a wedding wasn’t enough and asked Kasich how far he would go to protect against discrimination. “If I see discrimination in anything, like I said earlier, I’m wiling to do what I can,” he responded, “whether it’s executive order or legislation. That’s fine with me.” When the student pressed further, Kasich also said, “We’re not changing any laws.”
Given his home state of Ohio does not offer any statewide public accommodation protections for the LGBT community, it’s unclear from the response to what extent Kasich would actually support legislation to change that. If he did, it would contradict his party’s platform.
Republican lawmakers across the country are advancing dozens of bills that would either directly discriminate against LGBT people or provide an exemption allowing businesses to refuse service based on their belief that marriage should be limited to a man and a woman. Last summer, the Republican National Committee endorsed the “First Amendment Defense Act,” which would similarly enable anti-gay discrimination. In states like Indiana, it is Republicans blocking efforts to pass new laws protecting LGBT people from discrimination.
In stark contrast, a new survey from the Public Religion Research Institute revealed last week that 71 percent of Americans support LGBT nondiscrimination laws and 59 percent oppose allowing for religious refusals.