Texas Republican senate candidates Craig James, a former NFL player, and Ted Cruz went after former Dallas mayor Tom Leppert (R) for marching in a gay pride parade during a debate yesterday in an effort to portray Leppert as “pro-gay” and out of touch with conservative values. Both men pledged to stay away from gay festivities if elected and James went so far as to suggest that being gay is a choice that will be punished by God:
MODERATOR: Are you saying Mayor Leppert is in favor of gay marriage?
CRUZ: What I am saying is that when a mayor of a city chooses twice to march in a parade celebrating gay pride, that’s a statement – and it’s not a statement I agree with.
JAMES: I think right now in this country, our moral fiber is sliding down a slope that is going to be hard to stop if we don’t stand up with leaders who don’t go ride in gay parades. I can assure you I will never ride in a gay parade. And I hear what you’re saying, Tom, but leaders – our kids out there people need to see examples.
MODERATOR: Do you think people choose to be gay?
JAMES: I think it’s a choice, I do.
MODERATOR: It’s not in the genes?
JAMES: I think that you have to make that choice. But in that case right there, they are going to have to answer to the Lord for their actions. We should not give benefits to those civil unions.
Watch a news report on the debate:
Leppert explained that he opposes marriage equality, but said that as mayor, “I had the responsibility to represent everybody, but everybody understood where my faith was. I will tell my role as a Christian is to reach out and touch everybody.” Long-shot candidate Lela Pittenger added that while she “respect[s] what Tom was saying, that he felt like he was to engage the entire community,” “I’m not going to walk down the street with them celebrating what I believe to be a sin.”
John Wright of the Dallas Voice has a full video of the exchange: