In the 1930s, President Roosevelt promised the American people in his first 100 days in office he would push for passage of “New Deal” legislation aimed to lift the country out of the Great Depression. Eighty years later, Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee are promising to use the same span of time to enact a religious freedom bill seen to enable anti-LGBT discrimination.
The candidates made the comments in separate interviews on EWTN News with Robert George, a prominent conservative law professor at Princeton University who said during his discussion with Cruz the U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of same-sex marriage was a “tragic mistake.”
The interview with Cruz was apparently conducted on Nov. 25 and published on Nov. 30, but brought to light by a report in the Christian Post on Sunday. A video of the Huckabee interview was published online over the weekend.
After decrying the legal reasoning behind the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in favor of same-sex marriage, George asked Cruz whether in his first 100 days in office he would push for passage of the First Amendment Defense Act.
“Absolutely, yes,” Cruz said. “As you know, I’m an original sponsor of that legislation. And when it comes to religious liberty, religious liberty has been a passion for me for decades, and it has been something that I have been fighting to defend for many, many years.”
Cruz said he’s “convinced” the 2016 election “is going to be a religious liberty election,” reiterating his pledge to direct the Justice Department and the Internal Revenue Service to end religious persecution of Americans.
Huckabee offered the same commitment to make the First Amendment Defense Act a priority in response to the same question in his interview.
Asked whether it would be a priority in his first 100 days, Huckabee replied, “Yes, because I think it is something that ought to be low-hanging fruit — not that it would be, I think it would be a battle — but it ought to be fairly easy to convince the American public that you’re not creating something new, not a new right. You’re simply wanting to codify the existing right that we have in the Constitution.”
The First Amendment Defense Act — introduced by Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) in the U.S. House and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) in the U.S. Senate — on its face prohibits the federal government from taking action against individuals who oppose same-sex marriage, although “individuals” is defined broadly in the bill to include for-profit businesses.
Critics say the legislation would go further and enable anti-LGBT discrimination — as well as potential bias against single mothers and unmarried couples. Among other things, it would allow government workers to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and compromise President Obama’s executive order barring federal contractors from engaging in anti-LGBT bias.
Both candidates also took the opportunity to rail against transgender people in response to a question about an Illinois school district reaching an agreement with the Department of Education to enable a transgender student to use a locker room consistent with her gender identity.
Cruz said as a father, he wouldn’t want his children being required to use the same facilities as transgender children in schools and current policy “shows just how radical and extreme the current administration is.”
“I don’t want my daughters taking showers with little boys,” Cruz said. “I don’t want them when they’re in junior high, or high school, and it’s absurd. No parents do.”
Cruz called transgender advocates “zealots,” saying during a Senate hearing a Department of Education official refused to deny the administration would begin “persecuting” school districts that refuse to accommodate transgender students consistent with their gender identity.
Huckabee accused the Obama administration of creating a “ludicrous notion” that an individual “can just wake up one day and say, you know, I know I have the biological makeup of a male and a have the gene, I’m genetically male, but I kind of feel feminine today, or I’m going to feel feminine for the next year or the rest of my life.”
When George interjected by saying transgender individuals often feel this way their entire lives, Huckabee replied, “Whatever they feel.”
“I don’t care,” Huckabee continued. “You’re biologically a male and you don’t have the right to go in and expose yourself to females. And I’m, of all the things that we’ve been dealing with over the past few years in our culture, whether it’s the sanctity of life and the definition of marriage, frankly, this is the most baffling to me that people, education, thoughtful people would with a straight face defend the notion that it is normal, that it is perfectly legitimate, for a person just to declare oneself to be a different gender.
Huckabee added. “It borders on laughable, and I know to say it’s laughable would bring great contempt because people would say you’re being insensitive. I’m not being insensitive. I’m exercising just a little bit of common sense.”
Other Republican presidential candidates made headlines with anti-LGBT remarks this weekend.
An interview was made public with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in which he said he would reverse Obama’s executive order prohibiting anti-LGBT workplace discrimination among federal contractors. Former neurosurgeon Ben Carson told a town hall in Iowa he preferred the U.S. military under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and criticized the Pentagon plan to implement openly transgender service in the armed forces.
TJ Helmstetter, a spokesperson for the Democratic National Committee, took both Rubio and Cruz to task for making commitments to roll back LGBT rights.
“Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, just like the rest of the major Republican candidates for president, would be a disaster for LGBT Americans and their families,” Helmstetter said. “Not only would the momentum for equality be stopped in its tracks under a Rubio or Cruz presidency, but we would also see serious setbacks – like allowing federal contractors once again to discriminate against LGBT workers and ending protections for transgender members of the government workforce.”