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Warren, Buttigieg Dismiss O’Rourke’s Call to Strip Churches of Tax-Exempt Status If They Oppose Gay Marriage

Beto O’Rourke speaks at the 2019 California Democratic Party State Convention in San Francisco, June 1, 2019. (Gage Skidmore)

Democratic presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg have both distanced themselves from fellow candidate Beto O’Rourke’s call to revoke the tax-exempt status afforded to religious institutions that oppose same-sex marriage.

“There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break for anyone … that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us.” O’Rourke said during CNN’s “Equality in America” town hall last Thursday night. “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.”

Despite widespread bipartisan criticism, O’Rourke reiterated his stance during a Sunday interview, telling NBC News that he would ensure that all institutions that “provide services in the public sphere,” would be forced to comply with certain non-discrimination standards if they wish to continue enjoying tax-exempt status.

Asked by the Associated Press whether she agreed with O’Rourke’s assertions, Warren’s campaign replied by email, saying that “Elizabeth will stand shoulder to shoulder with the LGBTQ+ community,” but would refuse to eliminate the tax-exempt status of religious organizations as part of an anti-discrimination effort.

“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,” campaign spokeswoman Saloni Sharma said in an email.

Pete Buttigieg has also distanced himself from O’Rourke, saying Sunday that “going after the tax exemption of churches, Islamic centers or other religious facilities in this country” will “deepen the divisions that we’re already experiencing.”

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