Ted Cruz, champion of local control, tries to overturn D.C. laws on gay rights and contraception

Texas senator conveniently jettisons his principles to push social conservative agenda

Published March 19, 2015 12:49PM (EDT)

  (Jeff Malet, maletphoto.com)
(Jeff Malet, maletphoto.com)

In his short time in the U.S. Senate, Ted Cruz has sought to position himself as the chamber's foremost defender of states' rights. Last year, the Tea Party rabble-rouser and likely GOP presidential hopeful released a six-page report entitled “The Obama Administration’s Assault on Texas,” documenting what he depicted as "a consistent pattern of an Administration bent on displacing State sovereignty” on issues from environmental regulation to voting rights. Meanwhile, though he's no stranger to fire-and-brimstone rhetoric, Cruz has also couched his ardent social conservatism in the language of states' rights and local control. When Seth Meyers noted during Cruz's "Late Night" appearance this week that the senator has introduced a bill that would allow states to ban same-sex marriage, Cruz didn't say that he had done so because he believed that gay people were deviants bound for eternal damnation, as his father would have us believe. Instead, Cruz told Meyers that he approached the issue as a "constitutionalist," and simply thought that states should decide for themselves whether to recognize gay people as full and equal citizens.

Presumably, then, this champion of states' rights and local control thinks that the District of Columbia is well within its rights to ban employers from retaliating against workers who use birth control or have had abortions, and to require religiously affiliated universities to comply with the district's LGBT non-discrimination statute.

Or perhaps not. The Washington Post reports that Cruz, joining forces like the Catholic Church and the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage, is seeking to overturn the laws:

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), a conservative torchbearer and potential presidential contender, turned his attention to local D.C. politics Wednesday by introducing a measure in Congress to upend one new city law regarding discrimination over reproductive health decisions and another to keep religiously affiliated colleges in the nation’s capital from having to fund gay and lesbian student groups.

The measures, known as disapproval resolutions, could in theory halt local laws passed last year by the D.C. Council and signed by the city’s mayor. But to do so, Cruz’s measures would require support of both chambers of Congress and the signature of President Obama.

Although rarely successful at stopping D.C. laws, the resolutions are often more effective politically, giving members of Congress legislative records to build bona fides with constituent groups that feel strongly about the District’s often liberal stances on social issues.


The D.C. Council this month attempted to head off some of the brewing controversy over the bills. The council passed an emergency amendment to the reproductive health law to clarify that employers could not be forced to provide insurance coverage for contraception and abortions that they oppose on religious grounds.

So Cruz's measures stand little chance of becoming law, given that Senate Democrats maintain enough seats to filibuster the resolutions, and even if a filibuster were somehow averted, President Obama almost certainly would not sign such resolutions. Nonetheless, his proposals illustrate Cruz's readiness to abandon his supposed principles once they're applied to implement policies he doesn't like.

One could argue -- as conservative defenders of the effort to overturn D.C.'s marijuana legalization did -- that D.C. isn't a state, and so the states' rights issue is irrelevant. (One could also argue that "Ted Cruz" is now a two-word justification for D.C. statehood.) But Cruz has shown even more transparent hypocrisy when it comes to state marijuana laws. Last year, Cruz charged that the Obama administration's decision not to interfere with states that have legalized pot was “fundamentally dangerous to the liberty of the people.”

The shutdown senator may be a shameless shape-shifter, but even when he's jettisoning his purported values, it's all about liberty. What a guy.

By Luke Brinker

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