Republican presidential aspirant Ted Cruz has formed a “religious liberty” council for his campaign, filled with antigay activists including Tony Perkins, the Benham brothers, and Bishop Harry Jackson.
The council “seems intent on undermining LGBT rights,” the Washington Blade reports. Cruz announced the council’s formation Monday, the day before he won three of Super Tuesday’s 11 state Republican primaries and caucuses.
Cruz’s press release on the council didn’t mention LGBT issues, but it was clear that the council, which has the task of guiding his policies, would sympathize with government workers and business owners who don’t want to serve LGBT clients, especially same-sex couples seeking marriage-related goods and services.
“Increasingly, renegade government officials seek to coerce people of faith either to act in a manner that violates their faith or forfeit their career,” Cruz, a U.S. senator from Texas, said in the release. “When I am elected president, that will change.”
Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said in the release that he was “honored” to join Cruz’s advisory group. “Never before has religious freedom been more endangered than it is today under the policies of the Obama administration,” Perkins added. “We need a president who upon entering office will immediately begin reversing the damage done to our freedom to believe and our ability to live according to those beliefs.”
Perkins also referred to the president’s role in appointing federal judges, including Supreme Court justices. “Unfortunately, the future of freedom in America rests largely in the hands of the courts, which is why we need a president who can spot liberal jurists, and who will fight to ensure constitutionalists who respect the rule of law are seated on the Supreme Court,” he said. “The formation of this Religious Liberty Advisory Council will be an encouragement to the American people.”
Perkins’s group, by the way, has been designated an anti-LGBT hate group by the progressive Southern Poverty Law Center, because of the damaging misinformation it spreads.
The Benham brothers, David and Jason, are real estate entrepreneurs who in 2014 saw their planned reality show scrapped by HGTV after outcry against their antigay views. Among other things, they have claimed that “homosexuality and its agenda” are “attacking the nation” and that Satan is behind marriage equality. Their father, Flip Benham, is head of Operation Save America, an antigay and antichoice group that split off from Operation Rescue.
Jackson, a minister in the Washington, D.C., metro area, was a leading opponent of marriage equality in D.C. After the district adopted a marriage equality law in 2009, he sued — unsuccessfully — in an attempt to force a popular vote on the issue. He also has made antigay remarks such as “Folks who cannot reproduce want to recruit your kids.” Find the full list of the advisory council’s members here.
Another Republican presidential hopeful, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, has formed a similar advisory group, with members including megachurch minister Rick Warren and lawyers with the Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal group that often fights LGBT rights. On Super Tuesday, Rubio got his first win of the campaign, taking the Minnesota caucus. Both he and Cruz are far behind front-runner Donald Trump in delegate counts.