"I am opposed to that legislation," the Libertarian presidential candidate said Wednesday during Fusion's Libertarian Forum. "I am outright opposed to that legislation… it is discriminatory against the LGBT community. We refuse to be a part of any sort of discrimination. And yes that is happening. It's happening. Stop."
But that "stop" is more of a personal request than a policy directive. Johnson may not support anti-LGBTQ discrimination packaged as religious freedom, or government intervention into women's access to abortion, but he's also a firm supporter of the 10th Amendment. (That's the one that says: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.")
Johnson's deference to states' rights, even when it comes at the price of active discrimination, was hard to miss during the hour-long forum.
If you live in a state that doesn't want to restrict your access to, say, public restrooms, voting rights, a minimum wage, or basic medical care, then great. If you do, Johnson doesn't have much to offer you in terms of policy. But he does have a lot to say about "debate" and "discussion."
On the question of what a Johnson administration would do in the face of Congressional inaction on gun reforms that have overwhelming public support, the former governor of New Mexico replied: "We need to be open to a discussion on how we do keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, how we do keep the guns out of the hands of would-be terrorists."
On voting rights and laws that erode them: "As president, I would love to open up a debate and discussion on how you can make voting more participatory not less so. And all of this legislation, really, at the end of the day does discriminate."
And in response to a question about abortion rights and Roe vs. Wade, Johnson directed the question to Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, the Supreme Court ruling that established a state's right to regulate access to abortion up until the point that it poses an "undue burden."
The result of that ruling is much of what you see across the country: a patchwork of restrictions that survive or fail based on varying courts' interpretations of what an "undue burden" actually means.
The Supreme Court found earlier this year that a sweeping abortion law in Texas that threatened to shutter all but a handful of clinics through a series of building regulations and contract requirements presented an undue burden to women in the state. (Dissenting conservative justices disagreed.)
But other restrictions, such as waiting periods that mandate women wait 24 to 72 hours to access the procedure—which can also require multiple days off work and additional expenses for travel and childcare—continue to present real barriers to women trying to exercise what, by Johnson's own definition, is "a deeply personal choice."
We already live in a country where your ability to access basic rights is largely contingent on where you live—look at abortion in Mississippi or voting rights in North Carolina. Some people might call that an arbitrarily discriminatory system that needs active federal intervention.
Gary Johnson just calls it "small government."