John Kasich said people are “probably” born gay.
The Ohio governor made the statement after a tense exchange Friday with Kelly Bryan, a 62-year-old gay voter, at a town hall event in San Francisco.
Bryan had asked Kasich if people are “born gay.” The Republican presidential candidate attempted to avoid answering the question, stating "I'm not gonna get into all the analysis of this or that." But Bryan pressed Kasich and asked again.
"Do I think that people are, you know, born gay? Probably," Kasich conceded, according to CNN. "I've never studied the issue. But I don't see any reason to hurt you or to discriminate you or make you feel bad or make you feel like a second-class citizen. I don't think that's right."
Kasich also reminded the audience that he once attended a same-sex wedding.
"I don't agree with gay marriage," he said, according to CBS News. "[But] I went to a gay wedding. OK? I mean, that's what I've done."
When asked if LGBT people deserve “free, regular rights like everybody else,” Kasich responded, "Well, you have free regular rights. We're not denying you any rights. ... I'm not out to discriminate against you. I think you ought to have as good a life as anybody else."
At the California event, Kasich defended his religious beliefs and implied he doesn’t agree with so-called “religious freedom” bills, which can be used to justify denying services to LGBT people.
"In terms of me, I don't believe in discrimination," Kasich said. "I think there is a balance, however, between discrimination and people's religious liberties. But I think we should just try to, like, take a chill pill, relax, and try to get along with one another a little bit better instead of trying to write some law to solve a problem that doesn't frankly exist in big enough numbers to justify more lawmaking."
In April, Kasich was criticized by the Democratic National Committee for trying to "have it both ways" on the issue of religious freedom, after he told conservative business owners to pray and LGBT folks spurned by these businesses to "get over it."
“Either you’re for discrimination, or you’re against it," said DNC spokesman T.J. Helmstetter.
Kasich has said he wouldn’t have signed anti-LGBT laws like the ones recently enacted in North Carolina and Mississippi, but has said that as president, he wouldn’t do anything to stop states from passing such legislation.