Ohio governor and Republican presidential candidate John Kasich says he wouldn’t have signed North Carolina’s new anti-LGBT law. That still doesn’t make him the moderate he wants people to think he is.
Kasich said in an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that he wouldn’t have signed a North Carolina law that prohibits cities from passing anti-discrimination measures that go beyond state and federal statutes, and mandated that transgender persons use public bathrooms for the gender indicated on their birth certificates. North Carolina’s Republican-controlled state legislature convened a special session to introduce, debate, and pass the bill, and have it signed into law by governor Pat McCrory within 12 hours of its introduction.
“I wouldn’t have signed that law from everything I know,” the Ohio governor said in an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
“Why do we have to write a law every time we turn around in this country? Can’t we figure out just how to get along a little bit better and respect one another?” Kasich asked. “I mean, that’s where I think we ought to be. Everybody chill out. Get over it if you have a disagreement with somebody.”
Kasich went further while campaigning in Troy, New York on Monday. Kasich was asked about the suicide of Leelah Alcorn, a transgendered Ohio teenager who took her own life by walking in front of a truck after her family refused to accept her gender identity and pushed her to go to “conversion therapy.” Kasich was unfamiliar with Alcorn, but expanded on his previous answer regarding the rash “religious freedom” bills: “The Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay marriage. I’m a traditional marriage guy but the court ruled. I’m allowing the court ruling to stand. I’m not looking for some constitutional amendment. It’s done.”
The remarks echo Kasich’s attempt to stake out a middle-of-the-road position on marriage equality at the GOP presidential debate in February, where he warned against a “slippery slope” effect in “religious liberty” laws: “If you’re in the business of selling things, if you’re not going to sell to somebody you don’t agree with, OK, today I’m not going to sell to somebody who’s gay, and tomorrow maybe I won’t sell to somebody who’s divorced.”
In a CNN Town Hall with Anderson Cooper on Monday night, Kasich addressed the North Carolina and Mississippi laws. He returned to the theme that the Supreme Court settled the issue. “We had a Supreme Court ruling. And you know what?” Kasich said, “Let’s move on. Let’s move on from where we are.”
Kasich’s remarks are part of an effort to paint himself as the sane alternative to Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). Today, in a speech to the Women’s National Republican Club in New York, Kasich said he’d watched Trump and Cruz “wallow in the mud” and that their behavior was “not worthy of the office they are seeking. With a contested convention becoming extremely likely, Kasich may hope to emerge as the nominee around the second or third vote — especially if House Speaker Paul Ryan really meant it when he said today that under no circumstances would he be the Republican nominee, and far-fetched dreams of nominating a military leader like four-star Gen. James Mattis don’t pan out.
Since the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was the law of the land, Kasich has been saying it’s time for the GOP to move on and drop its culture warrior stance on the issue. That’s impressive, since Ohio’s own ban was struck down in Obergefell v. Hodges.
That is, until you realize that Kasich’s “tolerance” rhetoric is rather twisted.
● In last month’s GOP debate, Kasich expanded his call for “tolerance” to suggest that LGBT people should be “tolerant” of being discriminated against. “If you go to a photographer to take pictures at your wedding,” Kasich said, “and he says, I’d rather not do it, find another photographer, don’t sue them in court.”
● In Troy, New York on Tuesday, Kasich came very close to suggesting that LGBT people “cause this problem” by suing over discrimination. “The idea that we’re just gonna sue one another for all these things and cause this problem,” Kasich said. “Things were going along quite well after the Supreme Court decision, so people were using this to some degree as a wedge issue…”
● Kasich reiterated the point during his CNN town hall, saying that “if I were trying to arrange a gay wedding,” and a photographer declined to photograph the event, “I might just go down the street to another photographer. Why do I need to raise all this Cain about this?”
Kasich’s answers are typical of the GOP’s strategy to try and have it both ways on marriage equality, since it can’t afford to come down on either side without losing the fundamentalist wing, whose support the GOP has relied on for decades, or alienating the rising American electorate, which is far more progressive on LGBT equality.
Kasich knows what time it is. According to a 2015 Gallup poll, 60 percent of Americans support marriage equality, compared to just 27 percent 20 years ago. A Pew Research poll indicated that 58 percent of millennial Republicans support marriage equality (as do 76 percent of millennials in general). It’s shouldn’t hard to see the writing on that particular wall, especially for a party with a dying base.
Kasich’s sudden “evolution” is all about political viability, if his record on LGBT issues during his time in Congress and as governor of Ohio is any indication.
● Kasich said that he did not support the LGBT “lifestyle,” opposed domestic partnership benefits, voted for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and supported Ohio’s ban on same-sex marriage.
● Kasich voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in Congress. As Ohio governor, he weakened his Democratic predecessor’s executive order banning discrimination based on sexual orientation, by omitting protections for gender identity.
● Kasich voted against allowing funding for LGBT couples in Washington, D.C., to adopt. As governor he prevented LGBT couples from obtaining new birth certificates for their children.
In fact, there are a lot of other issues on which Kasich is far from “moderate.”
● In 2011, as Kasich pushed through a law barring Ohio state employees from bargaining collectively for better wages and working conditions. (Voters overwhelming repealed it the following year.)
● Last year, Kasich issued an executive order stripping away upon rights form 10,000 independent home health care and in-home child-care workers, undoing his Democratic predecessor’s bill that extended collective bargaining rights to those underpaid sectors.
● In 2013, Kasich signed legislation that used stringent measures to force half the abortion clinics in Ohio to close.
● Kasich signed a bill prohibiting rape crisis counselors from telling victims that abortion is an option.
● In 2013, Kasich signed a bill defunding Planned Parenthood and mandating ultrasounds for women seeking abortions.
● As Ohio governor, Kasich has pushed for his state to follow Kansas down the road to ruin with a $696 million tax cut for the wealthy.
● Kasich backed a $10 million mentorship program that required participating schools to partner with “faith-based” groups in order to get funding for the program.
● As governor, Kasich pursued an extreme privatization agenda, including building Ohio’s first private prison, which served prisoners food infested with maggots.
● Kasich signed into law a bill to freeze Ohio’s renewable energy mandate, making it the first state to make negative progress on green energy goals, and costing the state 25,000 jobs.
● Kasich supports a American Legislative Exchange Council-backed balanced budget constitutional amendment that would devastate states like Ohio, which has benefited from federal funding.
What you need to about John Kasich still hasn’t changed. However “moderate” he sounds, he’s only about as “moderate” as you’d expect any ex-Fox News host to be.