Attacked for appearing in Dallas’ gay Pride parade as mayor, Republican Senate hopeful Tom Leppert claimed this weekend that the city’s LGBT community was well aware he didn’t agree with them, but said he was engaging them anyway because that’s what Jesus did.
The Dallas Morning News’ Trail Blazers Blog reports that Leppert made the statements after being attacked by GOP rival Ted Cruz, a tea party favorite, for allegedly supporting both gay rights and immigrant rights while mayor of Dallas.
“You know, just a moment ago Tom Leppert told you how he used the office of mayor to stand against the gay rights agenda,” Cruz said prior to a conservative group’s endorsing convention in Fort Worth. “Somehow, he forgot to mention that he marched twice in the gay Pride parade.”
“On the gay parades, it’s real simple,” Leppert responded. “There was not a single group in this city that I didn’t engage. They all knew, a lot of them knew that I didn’t agree with them, but there’s not a group that I didn’t engage. Jesus engaged every single group when he was here on earth and I did, too. And what wasn’t told is all the different times that I talked about my faith and went out there and every single person in this city understood exactly where I stood.”
After defeating openly gay candidate Ed Oakley in a runoff for mayor in 2007. Leppert hired an openly gay chief of staff, Chris Heinbaugh, and repeatedly expressed support for the LGBT community. In addition to gay Pride, Leppert appeared at Dallas’ Black Tie dinner, the largest annual fundraiser for the city’s LGBT community. He also refused to answer a question about whether he supported same-sex marriage.
But when Leppert decided to run for Senate about midway through his four-year term, he abruptly joined the virulently anti-gay First Baptist Church of Dallas. And, almost immediately after stepping down as mayor to launch his Senate campaign last year, he sent out an anti-gay tweet and came out on his website against both same-sex marriage and civil unions.
Leppert’s statements at the forum this weekend came just as his successor, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, was meeting with LGBT leaders about his refusal to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage. Rawlings, like Leppert, has verbally expressed support for the LGBT community and appeared at gay Pride. Rawlings also happens to have contributed $1,000 to Leppert’s Senate campaign.
Watch video of the exchange between Leppert and Cruz below.