“Last Week Tonight” tackled LGBT rights Sunday (Aug. 23) in John Oliver’s usual funny-yet-pointed way, culminating in his asking all the 2016 presidential candidates if they would “support a federal law or laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.”
But he didn’t just ask in the abstract, like posing the question on air and waiting for a response. The “Last Week Tonight” team actually contacted each candidate’s camp to find out what the answer is from each individual candidate. So far, most of them have not gotten back to him.
Of the four who did, Bernie Sanders, Lincoln Chafee and Martin O’Malley said yes and Rand Paul said, “We’ll pass. Thanks.”
Oliver’s point is this — the country has come a long way in gay rights. At the 2016 Republican primary debate, John Kasich saying that he attended a gay wedding and that disagreeing with someone’s lifestyle doesn’t mean you can’t love them or support them got applause.
“A gay wedding just got applause at a Republican debate. Add that to the list of things that would have been unthinkable in 2004, like ‘Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey,'” quips Oliver.
But there is still a long way to go.
“In 31 states people are at risk of being fired, evicted or refused service just because they’re gay,” says Oliver. “So while federal law may guarantee a gay couple’s right to get married, it offers exactly zero guarantees about their rights to do the things that normally follow that, like signing a lease on an apartment they can’t afford, or conducting tense discussions about finances in the brightly-lit tapas restaurant of their choosing, or marching into any bank and applying for a small business loan to get Brenda’s stupid cupcakes for dogs idea off the ground.”
Oliver points out that this issue is “too important” to be left to the states, because “states have a checkered history when it comes to civil rights.” He also says that the “religious freedom” argument doesn’t really hold water.
“Courts have already decided there are limits on religious freedom. For example, they found that you can’t discriminate on race based on your religious beliefs. And there are limits on free speech — you can’t yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theater. The Constitution isn’t the star in ‘Super Mario Bros’ — it doesn’t make you invincible so you can just do whatever the f*** you want,” says Oliver.
Oliver ends with. “Maybe it’s time we just fix this nationwide in one go. … It is long past time that gay people have the same rights straight people have,” and he urges all the presidential candidates to say they support laws that make discriminating against gay people illegal.