Cruz says gay florist should be able to refuse service to evangelical
Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz said last Friday he thinks a gay florist should be able to refuse services to an evangelical couple if the florist disagrees with the couple’s faith.
That, however, would constitute discrimination based on religion, and both federal and state laws prohibit discrimination based on religion in public accommodations.
Cruz is a lawyer and should know better, but campaigns provoke candidates to say all kinds of strange things. For instance, at this same campaign event August 21, Cruz derided the Obama administration for sending millions of dollars to Iran, even though Iran is executing gay people.
Cruz himself has done nothing to protect the lives of LGBT people in the United States. A centerpiece of his campaign for the White House has been a message that the U.S. needs more laws to protect Christians who want to discriminate against gays.
Cruz’s poster couple while campaigning in Iowa last week was an evangelical couple, Dick and Betty Odgaard of Grimes, Iowa, who said their religious beliefs wouldn’t allow them to rent space or sell flowers to a gay couple.
The Iowa human rights law, like that of all other states, prohibits discrimination based on religion, but like that of a few other states, the Iowa law also prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. The Iowa human rights commission declared that the Odgaards’ refusal of service to the gay couple was discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Cruz has produced a campaign video highlighting the Odgaards’ experience and invited them to a campaign rally in Iowa last Friday as an example of “Christians being persecuted” for “living according to their faith.”
Before that rally, Cruz participated in a pork chop fry as a way to meet with voters at the Iowa State Fair, when openly gay actress Ellen Page approached him and attempted to have a colloquy about rights for LGBT people. Cruz said he didn’t want to have a “back and forth,” but he did offer, at length, his defense of the idea that people should be able to refuse services to gay people based on their religious beliefs.
During the discussion, Cruz referred to the Odgaard, who operated a business that rented out a former church building and provided other wedding services but who refused those services to a gay couple. Cruz characterizes the couple’s business as a religious institution, which it was not, and then suggests that gay florists should be able to discriminate against evangelicals.
The following is a transcript of the ABC News coverage of the interaction between Cruz and Page:
Page: What about the question of LGBT people getting fired because they’re gay or trans?
Cruz: Well, what we’re seeing right now is actually we’re seeing Bible-believing Christians being persecuted. So for example…
Page: For discriminating against LGBT people.
Cruz: No, for living according to their faith. So, for example…
Page: Yeh, but people would use that argument during the segregation era.
Cruz: I’m happy to answer your question but not to have a back-and-forth debate. So, one of the couples that are going to be featured in a video, they’re from Grimes, Iowa, wonderful couple. They own an historic Lutheran Church. For many years, they hosted weddings in their church. A couple of years ago, two men came and wanted to have a same-sex wedding in their church. Now, the Odgaards are devout [Mennonites]. So they respectfully explained it would be contrary to their faith for them to celebrate in their church a wedding that was not [indiscernible]. The Odgaards were promptly sued, they were dragged into protracted litigation. They ended up spending $5,000 to settle the case. And they made a promise never again to host another wedding in their church. Driven out of business. This month, they laid off all their employees. That is fundamentally wrong. Let’s take the other side: No one has the right to force someone else to abandon their faith and conscience. Imagine, hypothetically, you had gay florist and imagine that two evangelical Christians wanted to get married and the gay florist decided, ‘You know what, I disagree with your faith and I don’t want to provide flowers.’”
Page: I would say they should provide flowers.
Cruz: And I would say the gay florist has every right to say, ‘If I disagree with your faith and don’t want to participate and, you know what, there are lots of other people they can buy flowers from.’ We don’t have a right to force a Jewish rabbi to conduct a Christian wedding ceremony. We don’t have a right to force a Muslim Iman to conduct a Jewish wedding. We’re a country that respects pluralism and diversity, and there is this liberal intolerance that says that anyone that dares to follow a Biblical teaching of marriage –that marriage is between one man and one woman– must be persecuted, must be fined, and must be driven out of business.”
Page: I disagree. I [indiscernible] more tolerance for LGBT people who were constantly persecuted in this country. It used to be illegal, they were thrown in jail. And we’ve come a really, really long way.
Cruz: Who’s thrown in jail?
Page: Gay people used to be thrown in jail.
Cruz: You know it is interesting right now. Do you where gay people are being persecuted right now? ISIS…
Page: All over the world, all over the world.
Cruz: ISIS is executing gay people. Iran is executing homosexuals.
Cruz: And on the left, you hear complete silence…
Page: That’s not true.
Cruz: …about Iran hanging homosexuals. And yet the Obama administration is sending over a hundred billion dollars to a regime that murders homosexuals. That is fundamentally wrong.
Page: [Indiscernible] Christians in Uganda, Christians in Jamaica are persecuting gays to a really, really violent extent.
Cruz: But does that trouble you draw at all that you draw a moral equivalence between Christians in Jamaica and radical Islamic terrorists in ISIS beheading children. They’re not….
Page: [indiscernible] gay persecution around the world…
Cruz: But, m’am, they are not morally equivalent. Murder is murder is murder, and it is wrong. And it is wrong across the board. And there is a difference between a community like Jamaica that may have different standards, may not be celebrating a gay pride parade but they are not murdering people. If they were murdering people, it would be wrong.
Page: A lot of gay people are getting killed…
Cruz: But in Iran and ISIS, it is the governmental body that is executing them for being homosexual. And why does Obama administration not stand against it?
Page: [indiscernible] talk to Obama about that’d be great.
Cruz: Great. Then we’re agreed on that.
Page: No, no we’re not. Don’t do that.
Cruz: But we’re agreed. M’am we’ve had a long discussion.
Page: Yeh, I appreciate it.