Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Elizabeth Warren and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg are not onboard with fellow 2020 presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke’s plan to revoke tax exempt status from churches that refuse to perform same-sex marriages.
O’Rourke was asked during last week’s CNN/HRC LGBTQ town hall event if he believed “religious institutions like colleges, churches, charities should lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage,” to which he replied in the affirmative.
“There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break for anyone, or any institution, any organization in America, that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us,” he answered. “And so as president, we are going to make that a priority, and we are going to stop those who are infringing upon the human rights of our fellow Americans.”
O’Rourke spokeswoman Aleigha Cavalier said in an email that the candidate’s position was being distorted for political gain by the “extreme right,” saying he defined discriminatory action as “denying public accommodation” on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, according to NBC.
O’Rourke himself sought to clarify his position during an appearance on MSNBC by saying that if you provide “services in the public sphere, say, higher education, or health care, or adoption services, and you discriminate or deny equal treatment under the law based on someone’s skin color or ethnicity or gender or sexual orientation, then we have a problem.”
Buttigieg appeared on CNN on Sunday, where he said that while anti-discrimination policies are important, he wouldn’t go so far as to pull tax exempt status from churches who do not believe in same-sex marriage.
“That means going to war with not only churches but also mosques and organizations that don’t have the same view of religious principles as I do,” he said. “Going after the tax exemption of churches, Islamic centers or other religious facilities in this country is just going to deepen the divisions we’re already experiencing.”
Warren spokesperson Saloni Sharma released a statement also making it clear the candidate did not agree with taxing such churches.
“Elizabeth will stand shoulder to shoulder with the LGBTQ+ community until every person is empowered and able to live their life without fear of discrimination and violence,” Sharma said. “Religious institutions in America have long been free to determine their own beliefs and practices, and she does not think we should require them to conduct same-sex marriages in order to maintain their tax exempt status.”