Warren says she would not strip churches that oppose gay marriage of tax exemption

White House hopeful Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Joint Chiefs chairman says he regrets participating in Trump photo-op | GOP senators back Joint Chiefs chairman who voiced regret over Trump photo-op | Senate panel approves 0B defense policy bill Trump on collision course with Congress over bases with Confederate names MORE (D-Mass.) came out against a plan from former Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s (D-Texas), who is also running for president, to strip churches or other religious entities of their tax-exempt status if they decline to perform same-sex marriages. 

“Elizabeth will stand shoulder to shoulder with the LGBTQ+ community” to help stamp out “fear of discrimination and violence,” Warren campaign spokeswoman Saloni Sharma said in a statement to The Hill Tuesday. 

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“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,” Sharma added. 

Religion News Service was the first to report Warren’s stance on O’Rourke’s plan.

O’Rourke raised eyebrows last week when he said he thought that religious institutions that refuse to perform same-sex marriages should lose their tax-exempt status.

“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 said. “As president, we’re 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 has faced bipartisan criticism over the remarks, with some saying his plan would threaten religious freedom. In a sign the issue has the chance of becoming a point of attack in the campaign, President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE dubbed O’Rourke a “wacko” over the comments.

South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegScaled-back Pride Month poses challenges for fundraising, outreach Biden hopes to pick VP by Aug. 1 It’s as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process MORE, the only openly gay candidate in the Democratic primary field, also came out against O’Rourke’s remarks, saying they only “deepen the divisions we’re already experiencing.”

“I agree that anti-discrimination law ought to be applied to all institutions. But 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 Sunday. 

“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. But also because of the separation of church and state are acknowledged as nonprofits in this country,” he added.

Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerRand Paul introduces bill to end no-knock warrants Black lawmakers unveil bill to remove Confederate statues from Capitol Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk MORE (D-N.J.), another White House contender, also declined to endorse the plan last week but did not officially say he was against it, telling CNN, “I’m not saying, because I know this is a long legal battle.”

O’Rourke later clarified his stance, saying that any religious organization takes action to discriminate when delivering public services based on sexual orientation or gender identity could they lose their tax-exemption, but that a church that declines to conduct a same-sex marriage would not see their tax-exempt status challenged.  

Warren, O’Rourke, Buttigieg, Booker and eight other Democratic candidates will take the stage Tuesday night in Ohio for the fourth Democratic primary debate.

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