During the Human Rights Campaign-sponsored Equality Town Hall earlier this week, Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke said that there can be “no reward, no benefit, no tax break” for any institution or organization that opposes gay marriage.
He doubled down on his position after the event, confirming that he is in favor of stripping religious institutions of their tax-exempt status if they oppose gay marriage.
O’Rourke’s proposal sparked outrage in conservative circles, with prominent commentators and pundits — including Ben Shapiro — accusing the Democrat of wanting to start a culture war.
It is not only conservatives that disagree with O’Rourke’s proposal, some Democrats do as well.
In an interview with CNN broadcast on Sunday, White House hopeful and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg strongly pushed back against the fellow Democrat’s idea, reports The Hill.
Buttigieg said that he is not sure if O’Rourke even understood the implications of his policy.
The presidential candidate explained that he also believes anti-discrimination laws need to be applied to all institutions, but added that he thinks churches and other religious organizations should be off limits.
“The idea that you’re going to strip churches of their tax exempt status if they haven’t found their way towards blessing same-sex marriage, I’m not sure [O’Rourke] understood the implications of what he was saying,” Buttigieg said.
Arguing that O’Rourke’s proposal would essentially mean “going to war” with certain churches and religious organizations, Buttigieg suggested that he thinks the policy would violate fundamental principles, such as the separation of church and state.
“That means going to war not only with churches, but I would think with mosques and a lot of organizations that may not have the same view of various religious principles that I do,” the South Bend mayor said.
“But also because of the separation of church and state are acknowledged as nonprofits in this country,” he added.
O’Rourke rose to national prominence after running against Republican Ted Cruz for a seat in the U.S. Senate. His Senate campaign generated a lot of enthusiasm, but he has failed to win over voters participating in the 2020 Democratic Party presidential primaries.
According to a RealClearPolitics average of polling data, O’Rourke is currently polling at less than 2 percent. Unlike the Texas Democrat, Buttigieg has — despite the fact that he had entered the race as a little-known mayor from Indiana — managed to inspire some voters, and he is currently polling at 5 percent.
When it comes to fundraising, O’Rourke is far behind Buttigieg. According to Axios, the Texas Democrat raised $4.5 million in the third quarter, and Buttigieg raised $19.1 million.
Leading the crowded Democrat field in both fundraising and polls are former Vice President Joe Biden, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.