Ted Cruz received an endorsement on Wednesday from a leading organization against marriage rights for gay couples, which upon announcing its support called him “a proven champion for marriage and religious freedom.”
Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, said in a statement his group is backing the candidate based on his commitments and actions on the campaign trail.
“Sen. Ted Cruz is a proven champion for marriage and religious freedom and someone we can absolutely count on to fight to restore marriage to our nation’s laws and defend the religious liberty of the tens of millions of Americans who believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman,” Brown said.
Brown cited Cruz’s introduction in the U.S. Senate of a constitutional amendment that would undo the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in favor of same-sex marriage and return the issue to the states in addition to his support for the First Amendment Defense Act, a federal religious freedom bill seen to enable anti-LGBT discrimination. Cruz recently pledged to make passage of the legislation a priority during his first 100 days in office if elected president.
But that commitment was just the latest in a series of anti-LGBT pledges and comments Cruz had made over the course of his campaign and before he began his White House bid.
Even before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, Cruz called such a ruling “mandatory gay marriage in all 50 states” as well as “naked and lawless judicial activism tearing down marriage laws adopted pursuant to the Constitution.”
The candidate appeared onstage in Iowa with Kevin Swanson, an anti-gay pastor who called for the death penalty for gay people (although not right now so they have a chance to repent). After a shooter killed three people at a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado, Cruz raised a dubious report in right-wing the suspect was a “transgendered leftist activist.” He also blasted efforts to lift the military’s ban on transgender service and said “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal has harmed military morale.
In August, lesbian actress Ellen Page confronted Cruz in Iowa on whether he backed legislation to prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination, Cruz refused to say. Instead, the candidate said the real problem is individuals facing penalties under civil rights laws after they engaged in anti-LGBT discrimination out of religious convictions.
Along with Bobby Jindal (who’s now dropped out the race), Ben Carson and Rick Santorum, Cruz was among four Republican presidential candidates who signed a pledge with the National Organization for Marriage to oppose same-sex marriage.
Signers committed themselves to support amending the U.S. Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman and “conduct a review of regulatory, administrative and executive actions taken by the current administration that have the effect of undermining marriage and work to restore our policies to be consistent with the proper understanding of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”
Brown said his organization would support other signers — as well as Marco Rubio — should any of those candidates become the Republican presidential nominee instead of Cruz.
“The decision to endorse in the Republican primary race was a very difficult one,” Brown said. “There are many tremendous candidates remaining who have made support for marriage a pillar of their careers in public service, including Sen. Rick Santorum, Gov. Mike Huckabee, Dr. Ben Carson and Sen. Marco Rubio. We realize that our endorsement of Sen. Cruz will be very disappointing to them. Should any of these candidates emerge as the Republican nominee we would enthusiastically support them.”
But Brown had stern words for real estate mogul Donald Trump, who, despite his comments against Mexicans, Muslims and other groups, hasn’t made anti-LGBT positions a major component of his campaign.
“There is a real danger that conservatives will split the vote allowing someone like Donald Trump to emerge from the crowded field, which would be disastrous,” Brown said.
Founded in 2007 to back the campaign seeking to pass California’s Proposition 8, the National Organization for Marriage has spearheaded efforts across to country to stop the legalization of same-sex marriage. But even before the Supreme Court ruled for same-sex marriage across the nation, the organization has fallen on hard times. The group closed out 2013 with an estimated $2.5 million in debt.
JoDee Winterhof, the Human Rights Campaign’s vice president for policy and political affairs, said Cruz and the National Organization for Marriage are “a match made in heaven.”
“Between NOM’s comparison of marriage equality to slavery, and Ted Cruz’s recent decision to speak at the ‘death to gays’ conference, there’s no limit to what they will do to deny LGBT people their constitutional right to get married just like everyone else,” Winterhof said. “Today’s endorsement should be a reminder to pro-equality voters everywhere just how much is at stake in 2016.”
The endorsement shouldn’t be a surprise for another reason: One of the National Organization for Marriage’s co-founders, Princeton law professor Robert George, was one of his teachers at Princeton University.
TJ Helmstetter, a spokesperson for the Democratic National Committee, said upon news the National Organization for Marriage endorsed Cruz, “I didn’t know that organization still existed.”
“But I’m not surprised that this crowd of anti-LGBT Republicans would seek the endorsement of a group that has worked so hard to deny LGBT people their dignity and equality,” Helmstetter added. “The NOM endorsement could have been a toss-up between Rubio, Carson, Cruz or the rest of the Republican field – all of whom would stop equality for LGBT Americans in its tracks. LGBT Americans are winning the fight for full equality, but groups like NOM and candidates like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are still stuck in the past and will stop at nothing to reverse course for LGBT Americans.”
With the Iowa caucus just a couple months away, Brown said “it is imperative that a proven marriage champion emerge from Iowa and go on to capture the Republican nomination.”
“Too much is on the line for supporters of marriage to sit on the sidelines and take the risk that the Republican nominee is someone who will not fight to restore marriage to the law in our nation,” Brown said. “We are at a historic moment, and we urge all conservatives to unite behind Sen. Ted Cruz, a man of principle we can all count on to give his all to the cause of marriage and religious freedom.”
The Cruz campaign didn’t respond to the Washington Blade’s request to comment on the endorsement. The candidate made no statement about it on his presidential Twitter account as of Wednesday afternoon.