COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Gov. John Kasich misspoke when he told a Cincinnati television station that he supports civil unions for gay and lesbian couples, his spokesman said Thursday.
“The governor’s position is unchanged,” said Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols, in a written statement. “He opposes gay marriage and opposes changing Ohio’s Constitution to allow for civil unions.”
Kasich created a stir on Wednesday during a TV interview when he said, “I just think marriage is between a man and a woman, but if you want to have a civil union that’s fine with me.”
The first-term Republican governor used the term “imprecisely,” Nichols told Outlook Columbus. By referring to “civil unions,” he meant that lesbian and gay couples can enter into private legal contracts that cover issues automatically taken care of with a government-issued marriage license.
The 2004 anti-marriage amendment approved by voters for the Ohio Constitution bars same-sex couples from getting married in the state, but it also forbids civil unions and any other arrangement that approximates marriage.
It’s one of the strictest bans in the country.
Kasich’s remarks made some question whether he had changed positions on LGBT rights and now favored civil unions.
In the TV interview, he said that he encouraged U.S. Sen. Rob Portman after his fellow Ohio Republican announced a change of heart on the issue of marriage equality.
Portman told CNN and wrote in a Columbus Dispatch op-ed piece that his 21-year-old son’s coming out two years ago caused him to rethink his past opposition to marriage rights.
“If people want to have civil unions and have some way to transfer their resources, I’m for that,” Kasich said in the TV report. “I don’t support gay marriage.”
“I’ve got friends that are gay and I’ve told them ‘Look, (same-sex marriage) is just not something I agree with’ and I’m not doing it out of a sense of anger or judgment, it’s just my opinion on this issue,” he continued. “I just think marriage is between a man and a woman, but if you want to have a civil union that’s fine with me.”
Although the governor opposes marriage rights and civil unions for lesbian and gay Ohioans, Nichols said the governor is opposed to discrimination.
“He’s opposed to discrimination against any Ohioan and, while he may have used the term ‘civil union’ loosely in this instance, he recognizes the existing rights of Ohioans to enter into private contracts to manage their personal property and health care issues.”
Freedom Ohio founder Ian James said Kasich is out of step with fellow Republicans support marriage equality.
“We need equal rights and family security in Ohio for same-gender couples,” said James. “That’s why more and more Republicans are making the right choice and stepping up to support marriage equality.”
Freedom Ohio is collecting signatures in an effort to put marriage equality on the statewide ballot this fall.