Last week, the nation witnessed the complete political snafu known as the first 2016 Republican Primary Debate. While there was a plethora of controversial statements, as well as some serious shade thrown, one statement, in particular, caught my ear. This statement came from the recently declared candidate, John Kasich, a Republican governor, and former Congressman, from Ohio. Katich was asked a question regarding his opposition to Same-Sex Marriage by Fox News’ Megyn Kelly. The exchange is as follows via TIME:
KELLY: The subject of gay marriage and religious liberty. Governor Kasich, if you had a son or daughter who was gay or lesbian, how would you explain to them your opposition to same-sex marriage?
KASICH: Well, look, I’m an old-fashioned person here, and I happen to believe in traditional marriage. But I’ve also said the court has ruled —
KELLY: How would you — how would you explain it to a child?
KASICH: Wait, Megyn, the court has ruled, and I said we’ll accept it. And guess what, I just went to a wedding of a friend of mine who happens to be gay. Because somebody doesn’t think the way I do, doesn’t mean that I can’t care about them or can’t love them. So if one of my daughters happened to be that, of course I would love them and I would accept them. Because you know what?
KASICH: That’s what we’re taught when we have strong faith.
KASICH: So the issues like that, issues like that are planted to divide us. I think the simple fact of the matter is, and this is where I would agree with Jeb, and I’ve been saying it all along, we need to give everybody a chance, treat everybody with respect, and let them share in this great American dream that we have, Megan. So, look, I’m going to love my daughters, I’m going to love them no matter what they do. Because, you know what, God gives me unconditional love. I’m going to give it to my family and my friends and the people around me.
Kasich’s campaign has largely attempted to reach out to moderate republicans who have felt largely isolated by the Tea Party candidates. With these comments, Kasich likely intends to lock down the Log Cabin Republican (LGBTQIA+individuals who identify as Republican) vote. It is worth noting that a June 2014 Gallup poll showed that 21% of LGBTQIA+ identifying individuals polled identified as Republican or Republican-leaning. As of August 2015, opposition to the legalization of Same-Sex Marriage remains part of the GOP platform.
While these comments are certainly an evolution from the usual conservative rhetoric regarding LGBTQIA+ rights, they are in no way indicative of Kasich’s views. During his tenure in the House of Representatives, Kasich voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), voted to disallow same-sex couples in Washington D.C. the right to adopt, as well as voting against LGBTQIA+ nondiscrimination ordinances. During his current tenure as governor of Ohio, Kasich removed gender-based protections from the state’s nondiscrimination ordinance in employment and suggested communities instead utilize a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” system. A full list of actions and comments by Kasich with respect to LGBTQIA+ rights may be found at the Human Rights Campaign site. Let us not also forget that Kasich’s priest who has worked closely with him on several projects throughout his time as governor as referred to LGBTQIA+ rights as “the new fascism” and later referring to LGBTQIA+ activists as “militant” and “Nazis”.
While Kasich’s comments last week may very well be a good omen for changing views on LGBTQIA+ rights across the United States, they are not enough. In many ways, Kasich’s comments are the logical equivalent of the “I can’t be racist, I have a black friend” argument, often invoked to veil prejudice. Kasich has continually built himself as a staunch opponent to LGBTQIA+ rights and has done virtually nothing to cause voters to believe otherwise.
Queer people on both ends of the political spectrum should have viable candidates genuinely interested in their best interest. Instead, over the past few decades, LGBTQIA+ rights has been used as little more than a wedge issue, intended to divide and manipulate voters. Queer people don’t deserve to be tolerated–we deserve to be celebrated.