Anti-Gay Forces Rally Around Ted Cruz

CREDIT: AP Photo/Nati Harnik

Bob Vander Plaats

With the Iowa Caucuses just 53 days away, endorsements for presidential candidates are starting to pour in. This week, Ted Cruz received two significant endorsements from social conservatives, both spotlighting his commitment to anti-LGBT discrimination.

On Thursday, Bob Vander Plaats, president of the Iowa organization The FAMiLY Leader, announced his support for the Texas Senator. Long dubbed a “Republican Kingmaker,” Vander Plaats and his group have played a significant role in Iowa politics, recently hosting a Family Forum, which many of the Republican candidates attended.

Vander Plaats told the Des Moines Register, “We truly believe that Ted Cruz is the most consistent and principled conservative who has the ability to not only win Iowa but I believe to win the nomination.” He said that Cruz is “still viewed as that outside candidate who really knows how this thing works and what needs to be changed” moreso than other candidates. Donald Trump, for example, disqualified himself by not attending the group’s forum, and Vander Plaats expressed concerns about Marco Rubio’s role in the “Gang of Eight,” calling his position on immigration “a hurdle that’s going to be very steep for Marco Rubio to clear.”

Despite Vander Plaats use of “we,” his endorsement is in an individual one. The FAMiLY Leader announced that it will not be issuing an endorsement prior to the Iowa Caucus, choosing to remain a “standard bearer for Christian principles in our culture and government, and not endeavor to be a kingmaker in the election process.” The group’s board actually voted 9-0 that Cruz is the best candidate, but because one board member abstained due to a friendship with one of the candidates, they instead urged the executive leaders to endorse individually. Vice president Chuck Hurley and board chairman Robert Cramer also endorsed Cruz.

The organization acted similarly in 2011, and Vander Plaats and Hurley both endorsed Rick Santorum then, having previously endorsed Mike Huckabee in 2008. Though both candidates are also in the 2016 race, Vander Plaats said voters are “moving on.”

Vander Plaats and his group have a long history of attacking LGBT people, including comparing homosexuality to smoking, laughing at jokes about “fags,” and asking presidential candidates to sign a marriage fidelity pledge. That 2011 pledge called homosexuality a choice, demanded pornography be banned, and suggested that African Americans had stronger families under slavery than under President Obama.

Just a day before Vander Plaats made his announcement, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) also offered Cruz its endorsement. Though NOM’s primary mission failed this year when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of nationwide marriage equality, the group still attempted to be relevant by issuing a presidential pledge, asking candidates to promise they would do everything they could to roll back marriage equality and allow for discrimination against LGBT people. Cruz, Santorum, Ben Carson, and Bobby Jindal all signed NOM’s pledge.

NOM President Brian Brown expressed concern “that conservatives will split the vote allowing someone like Donald Trump to emerge from the crowded field, which would be disastrous.” Cruz, he said, “has the best chance of uniting conservatives and going on to win the nomination.”

Cruz also recently received endorsements from conservative activist Richard Viguerie, who opposes marriage equality, and Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who believe it’s now legal for a person to marry their lawnmower.

The anti-LGBT views of Cruz’s endorsers may only be outweighed by his own rhetoric. In a recent interview, for example, he insisted on drawing a comparison between the Supreme Court and Nazis and called accommodations for transgender students “ridiculous” and “absurd.”