The Ted Cruz effort to paint Donald Trump as a gay-rights loving faux conservative from Manhattan is playing a little too loose with the facts in one important place.
During the Republican debate this week, the Texas senator attacked Trump for his "New York values," which he defined as "socially liberal or pro-abortion or pro-gay-marriage, focused around money and the media." But Trump has never supported same-sex marriage.
Trump has consistently said he supports marriage "between a man and a woman" whenever asked over the years, including by The Advocate in 2000. Even in the Meet the Press interview from 1999 that Cruz is using to make his attack about New York values, Trump never endorses marriage equality, instead saying it's "too premature for me to comment on."
That hasn't stopped the Cruz rhetoric from echoing through several media outlets, including the Washington Post, which mentions Trump's "previous support on social issues such as same-sex marriage."
Such statements are imprecise. As the Human Rights Campaign notes, Trump may have a mixed message about LGBT rights, but he's never outright endorsed same-sex marriage. He has historically supported benefits for domestic partnerships, and he's withdrawn support for civil unions.
And yes, Trump did say he was "evolving" on LGBT rights and marriage equality in 2013, after the Miss Universe pageant caused a media firestorm when it chose Russia as its host country. At the time, the country had just passed its ban on so-called gay propaganda, leading Trump to conclude that "the United States is ahead of Russia when it comes to this stuff."
But the evolution stopped there.
Trump has still never publicly gotten behind same-sex marriage. And while Cruz and others compete for evangelical support in Iowa, Trump continues to avoid making marriage equality or its repeal a central issue of his campaign. In an August 2015 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, he agreed same-sex marriage was a "dead issue" after the Supreme Court declared it a constitutional right in June.
"Some people have hopes of passing amendments, but it's not going to happen," Trump said. "Congress can't pass simple things, let alone that. So anybody that's making that an issue is doing it for political reasons. The Supreme Court ruled on it."
Recently, Trump called Ted Cruz "a total hypocrite" for, among other reasons, his fundraising alongside same-sex marriage supporters. In contrast to Trump, Cruz has actively sought endorsements from antigay figures from the religious right, pledged to undo marriage equality, and stood behind Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who was jailed for refusing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
In a 2000 interview with The Advocate, Trump reaffirmed his belief that "the institution of marriage should be between a man and a woman." He expressed support for "a very strong domestic-partnership law that guarantees gay people the same legal protections and rights as married people."
More important to legislation today, Trump supported "amending the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include a ban of discrimination based on sexual orientation." That's the basis for the Equality Act being lobbied for in Congress now by LGBT activists and supported by everyone from President Obama to Hillary Clinton to Bernie Sanders.
While Trump's views of same-sex marriage haven't changed, it could be argued his tone has changed. He has been historically more forthcoming about his support of gays and lesbians and the protections he supports under the law. To wit, when asked in 2000 why the gay community should support him in a presidential election, Trump responded:
"I grew up in New York City, a town with different races, religions, and peoples. It breeds tolerance. In all truth, I don’t care whether or not a person is gay. I judge people based on their capability, honesty, and merit. Being in the entertainment business — that is, owning casinos and … several large beauty pageants — I’ve worked with many gay people. I have met some tough, talented, capable, terrific people. Their lifestyle is of no interest to me."