GOP runners-up talk LGBT rights vs. religious freedom laws
Lisa Keen | Keen News Service
Ted Cruz suffered the consequences of deriding “New York values;” John Kasich won a little support while speaking out against anti-gay laws, and Donald Trump raked in nearly all the chips from Tuesday’s New York primary by keeping a mostly muddled middle ground on rights for LGBT people.
In the Democratic primary, where both candidates have long-standing records of respecting LGBT people, Hillary Clinton held nearly all the backing from LGBT leaders. She, too, trounced her opponent, Bernie Sanders.
With big wins in the New York primary, Clinton and Trump have significantly tightened their grip on their parties’ presidential nominations.
Former Secretary of State Clinton now has 80 percent of the 2,383 delegates she needs to secure the Democratic presidential nomination; U.S. Sen. Sanders has 52 percent.
Real estate titan Trump has 68 percent of the 1,237 delegates he needs to win the Republican nomination; U.S. Sen. Cruz has 45 percent; Ohio Gov.r Kasich has 12 percent.
Clinton boasted the endorsement of most well-known LGBT leaders in the state, including state Sen. Brad Hoylman, New York State Assembly members Deborah Glick, Daniel O’Donnell, Harry Bronson and Matthew Titone, and New York City mayoral candidate Christine Quinn. She was also endorsed by openly LGBT New York City Councilmembers Daniel Dromm, Corey Johnson, Rosie Mendez, Jimmy Van Bramer and James Vacca. And she won the endorsement of the Stonewall Democratic Club of NYC.
A New York Times map of how various New York City neighborhoods voted showed Clinton taking 68 percent of the vote in heavily gay Chelsea, compared to Sanders’ 32 percent. She got 66 percent, versus Sanders’ 34 percent, in the West Village and SoHo.
Even an untidy, self-selected survey of men in New York using a gay dating app found that most were supporting Clinton. The “data” collected by Scruff showed that of 765 men who responded, 57 percent said they would be voting for Clinton, 32 percent for Sanders, 4 percent “undecided” but voting for a Democrat, and 4 percent for Trump. Almost 2 percent said they would vote for Kasich, while less than 1 percent — three people — backed Cruz.
At an LGBT fundraiser in New York City March 30, openly gay actors Guillermo Díaz and Cynthia Nixon were on hand to welcome Hillary.
Former wtate Sen. Tom Duance endorsed Sanders.
‘People like that’
What made the run-up to the New York primary particularly interesting was all the talk about gay issues on the Republican side.
In a town hall forum with CNN’s Anderson Cooper on April 13, Cruz tried to redefine what he criticized in January as “New York values.” Many groups had taken offense at Cruz’s use of the term, including LGBT people who read it as code for acceptance of LGBT people and their equality under the law.
But Cruz told Cooper he was only repeating the phrase Trump had used in 1999 in regards to partial birth abortion. Cruz said he used the term to describe “liberal Democrats who have been, frankly, hurting the people of New York over and over again.”
He then shifted his defense of the term onto an Hispanic-African American- pastor and state senator, Ruben Diaz. He paraphrased Diaz as telling him in Spanish that he understood what Cruz was trying to say.
“He said, ‘I know exactly what you mean by New York values because,’ he said, ‘I’m a Democrat … and my Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, said if you are pro-life, if you believe in traditional marriage, if you believe in the Second Amendment, you have no place in the state of New York’.”
Ultra-conservative commentator Glenn Beck tried to soften Cruz’s harsh edges, too. He quoted Cruz as saying he “chewed my staff out” for booking the candidate on the same stage with virulently anti-gay speaker Kevin Swanson early in the contest. Swanson told the audience that gays should be executed.
Beck said he and his daughter were meeting with Cruz when his daughter asked Cruz why he appeared on the same stage such a man. Beck said Cruz told his daughter that he considered that speaker “reprehensible,” “bigoted” and “despicable.”
“I want nothing to do with him or any kind of alliances to people like that,” Beck said Cruz told him and his daughter.
Two days before the primary, appearing on ABC’s Good Morning America, Cruz tackled a question from a man in the television audience who said he was leaning toward voting for Trump. The man, Todd Calongne, identified himself as being married to his husband for two years.
Calongne, saying he noticed “religious freedom laws” and institutionalized discrimination” laws around the country, asked Cruz, “What would you do as president to protect me and my husband from institutionalized discrimination?”
Cruz replied: “When it comes to religious liberty, religious liberty is something that protects everyone. … All of us, we want to live in a world where we don’t have the government dictating our beliefs, dictating how we live. We have a right to live according to our faith, according to our conscience, and that freedom ultimately protects each and every one of us.
“And we shouldn’t have the right to force others to knuckle under and give up their faith and give up their belief,” he continued. “And for me, I have spent my entire adult life fighting to defend religious liberty, fighting to defend the right of every one of us to seek out and worship God. And I think keeping government out of the way of your lives protects the freedom of everyone of us.”
There was a scattering of applause but show co-host Robin Roberts, who is openly gay, jumped in: “But when you talk about freedom,” she said, reminding Cruz that Calongne has a husband, “a lot of people would say, ‘Doesn’t everybody have the freedom to be treated equally?’”
“Of course we do,” said Cruz, “and the First Amendment protects everyone equally.” He then leapt into a discussion of kosher delis.
This time, co-host George Stephanopoulos entered the fray. He noted that Cruz supports efforts to repeal the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling against state bans on marriage for same-sex couples.
“What would that mean for couples like Todd and his husband who already are married?” he asked.
“Well, look, I’m a constitutionalist,” said Cruz, “and under the Constitution, marriage is a question for the states. … So if somebody wants to change the marriage laws, I don’t think five unelected lawyers down in Washington dictating that. … If you want to change the marriage laws, convince your fellow citizens to change the laws.”
On the other end of the Republican candidates’ political spectrum, at least as far as it concerns LGBT people, Kasich was continuing his double mantra of “I’m for traditional marriage” and “I want no discrimination against anybody.”
At town meeting campaign event April 11, carried by ABC News, an audience member asked Kasich “As president of the United States, what would you do to protect our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth?”
Kasich acknowledged “what’s happening in North Carolina, what happened in Indiana,” Georgia, and Mississippi — states that have passed laws to allow discrimination against LGBT people. In my state, first of all, I want no discrimination against anybody. I’m not in favor of discrimination, period, end of story.
“Secondly, the Supreme Court ruled, you know, in favor of gay marriage. I’m a traditional marriage guy. But the court ruled. I’m allowing a court ruling to stand. I’m not looking for some constitutional amendment. It’s done,” Kasich added.
“Now, our religious institutions should be protected,” he continued. “They should be able to do the things they want.”
The town hall audience interrupted with applause, but Kasich quieted them to add the rest of his thought, concerning discrimination by commercial entities: “Let’s say I’m running a cupcake store. Somebody comes in, they want to buy cupcake. Sell them a cupcake! OK?! Secondly, though, if I’m a photographer and you want me to go to your wedding and I don’t want to, you know, then go find another photographer, okay?”
Kasich said he thought “things were going along quite well after the Supreme Court decision” against state bans on marriage for same-sex couples but that some people “were using … this to some degree as a wedge issue.”
“Now, if in my state, I find that we have a problem — I mean a real problem, not a case here and a case there, but a real problem where things are coming apart — of course, we have to do something about that,” said Kasich. He did not suggest what kind of “something” he might consider but he suggested he would be inclined to “Number one, to respect the position of those in the gay community, and secondly, to try to figure out what you do about religious liberty.
“But I have to tell you,” he concluded, “when you get in the middle of that, there’s no easy answer. So you know what I kind of think? Let it go. … Respect people — that they are different than we are because that’s just the way it is. And to get into these business of ‘I’m not gonna serve you because you’re a certain , c’mon folks. We have to live together… . How about a little bit more tolerance, a little bit more respect.”
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