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Republicans Ramp Up Homophobia as Iowa Caucuses Begin

Trump and Cruz

Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and others are appealing to prejudices.

As caucus time approaches in Iowa, Republican presidential candidates have been ramping up their appeals to homophobia.

Over the weekend, Donald Trump said he'd appoint Supreme Court justices who'd reverse marriage equality, and Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson appeared at a Ted Cruz rally, at which he called same-sex marriage "evil."

Last week, Marco Rubio pledged to rescind "every single one of Barack Obama's unconstitutional executive orders." Rubio made that promise last week at a rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, that city's Gazette reports. He did not go into detail about those orders, but they have included one barring federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and one protecting federal employees from discrimination based on gender identity (sexual orientation was already covered).

A few days earlier, Rubio appeared at an event with Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, at which the Florida senator defended Indiana's original Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was criticized as a "license to discriminate" against LGBT people before the state legislature amended it. Rubio said he didn't believe the law would have enabled discrimination, even though it would have allowed business owners to turn away customers who offended their religious sensibilities.

Also, the Human Rights Campaign points out, five other GOP candidates have joined Trump, Cruz, and Rubio in supporting the First Amendment Defense Act, proposed federal legislation that would provide broad exemptions from antidiscrimination laws for those who cite religious or moral beliefs against same-sex marriage. The other endorsers are Ben Carson, Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina, Rick Santorum, and Mike Huckabee.

"The branding on the outside might be slightly different, but these candidates are all campaigning on a promise to block and reverse gains toward LGBT equality," said a statement issued by JoDee Winterhof, HRC senior vice president of policy and political affairs. "Cruz, Trump, Rubio, and others have put on a desperate display attacking LGBT people in the race to the finish line. But they'll soon wake up to the reality that they have put themselves against the overwhelming majority of Americans -- and Iowa voters -- who support full LGBT equality."

A 2015 study by the Public Religion Research Institute found 57 percent of Iowans supporting marriage equality, HRC notes. On a national basis, a poll done last summer by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner for HRC indicated that 55 percent of voters are less likely to support a candidate for president who opposes marriage equality.

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