Republican Scott Wagner, who wants to be Pennsylvania’s next governor, told a constituent Monday evening that he would consider signing legislation banning the recognition of same-sex couples’ marriages — even though such a bill would be unconstitutional and unenforceable.
“As governor, I won’t be driving that agenda. That’ll be a House or Senate bill that will drive that agenda,” he said. “And I’ll have to see when it gets to my desk for that answer.”
He then essentially repeated himself, again indicating that he would consider such a bill were lawmakers to pass one. “The process is a bill would come to the House or Senate to my desk and I would have to give that consideration,” he said. “I don’t have the answer tonight. But I can follow up with you.”
As PennLive’s John Micek points out, it’s typical for gubernatorial candidates to express deference to the state legislature on the campaign trail. Still, Wagner could have responded that regardless of the legislature’s intentions, any such bill would violate the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. Instead, he chose not to rule out the voter’s suggestion.
This isn’t the first time in this campaign that Wagner has aligned himself with anti-LGBTQ positions. Last month, he held a campaign event at a weapons shop, Tommy Gun Warehouse, owned by the brother of cult leader Hyung Jin Sean Moon. Moon heads the Rod of Iron Ministries, an offshoot of the Unification Church (known to many as the “Moonies”) that is obsessed with weapons and that preaches racism, homophobia, and anti-Semitism.
Moon himself introduced Wagner at the Tommy Gun Warehouse event. Alhough Wagner tried to claim ignorance about the store’s affiliation with the cult, audio later emerged of him telling a member of the cult, “Ninety-eight percent of what you believe in, I believe in.”
While hosting Wagner’s primary opponent, Paul Mango, on his YouTube show in January, Moon expressed rather pointed anti-LGBTQ views. Speaking in reference to public schoolchildren, Moon said, “They’re not only going to learn the actual required course load, they’re getting indoctrinated into the homosexual political agenda, they’re getting indoctrinated in the transgender agenda saying that their emotions, that they can choose how they feel based on how they feel their gender, which is totally against the Bible.”
Though Wagner bested Mango back in May, the two tussled over LGBTQ issues during the primary. Mango — who campaigned openly against transgender equality because of unfounded bathroom safety concerns — accused Wagner of being too supportive of LGBTQ issues because of his 2016 support of nondiscrimination legislation.
In reality, Wagner only supported protections in employment and housing, dropping his name from legislation that would protect LGBTQ people in public accommodations (like restaurants and stores) because of pressure over the same bathroom safety myths. Pennsylvania’s attempt to pass these protections separately caused a significant rift within the national LGBTQ equality movement, with many critics arguing that leaving public accommodations for another time was tantamount to throwing transgender people under the bus because they experience far more discrimination in public places.
Ultimately, none of the protections passed. Pennsylvania still has no law explicitly protecting against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
This month, however, Wagner’s opponent, Gov. Tom Wolf (D), created the country’s first state Commission on LGBTQ Affairs, a 40-member group that will work to promote fairness for LGBTQ people across the state.
Last week, the Pennsylvania Human Rights Commission followed suit and issued new guidance announcing that it will hear and consider claims of anti-LGBTQ discrimination under the state’s existing protections on the basis of sex. Of the 28 states with no enumerated protections for the LGBTQ community, Pennsylvania is only the second state to take such action, following Michigan.
Wagner has not publicly commented on the controversy that has resulted from his willingness to consider a ban on same-sex marriage. Wolf’s campaign, however, was quick to condemn the remarks as “an absolute disgrace.” Campaign communications director Beth Melena said, “Pennsylvanians need a governor who will stand up for everyone in the commonwealth, including those in our LGBTQ community, and Scott Wagner is clearly not up for the job.”
Audio also just emerged of Wagner joking with a crowd Friday night that “the Russians are going to help me with Tom Wolf.” The audience laughed. “If I have to use Paul Manafort, I will,” Wagner said.
A poll released Monday shows Wolf currently leads Wagner 46-43 among voters, with 8 percent undecided.