Kansas Governor Sam Brownback (R), who is facing confirmation hearings as Director of the State Department's Office of International Religious Freedom, defended his gubernatorial decision in 2015 that overturned certain protections for gay and transgender individuals in the workplace. These protections, which banned discrimination against LGBT individuals, had been instituted by Kathleen Sebelius (D) in 2007 when she was Governor of Kansas.

At his confirmation hearing, Brownback stated that his rationale for overturning Sebelius on the matter is that she had acted "unilaterally" and "undercut the Kansas legislature," according to ABC News on Wednesday.

Sending a 'clear signal'

Former Virginia Governor and current U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D), one of the members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, asked Brownback if he felt that Sebelius's decision in 2007 sent a "clear signal" that discriminatory policies won't be tolerated in Kansas. Brownback's reply was that it is "rational" to deduce from Sebelius's decision that no such discrimination will be tolerated.

However, Brownback, who was nominated by the same President Donald Trump who reversed President Obama's "gender-free" bathrooms for transgender people, questioned Sebelius's rights to act unilaterally. Brownback stated, "I just don't think it's a right that the executive branch should create without the legislative branch," according to ABC News on Wednesday.

No religious prosecution of LGBT individuals

Brownback, who thus far has not "flip-flopped" on the issue of overturning Sebelius's protections of LGBT individuals, was asked if he could conceive of any situation in which religious freedom could be used to justify criminally prosecuting them.

Brownback, according to ABC News on Wednesday, stated that he was unable to conceive of such a scenario: "I don't know what that would be, in what circumstance."

In his skillfully crafted answer, Brownback did not rule out such criminal prosecution nor did he promise to implement it. The goal of such non-committal answers usually is to satisfy both sides of an argument without committing oneself to either side.

Abortion and guns

Brownback, who first was elected Governor of Kansas in 2010, will leave office with a legacy of having reduced abortion rights and lowered restrictions against gun owners. Brownback also refused to expand Medicare programs, resulting in drastically reduced health care coverage for Kansas citizens.