Ted Cruz's most hilarious talking point yet: Democrats are devoted to "mandatory gay marriage"

Did you know that the Democratic Party wants to make gay marriage mandatory? Neither did we!

Published May 20, 2015 3:10PM (EDT)

  (AP/Andrew Harnik)
(AP/Andrew Harnik)

Ted Cruz fielded a bunch of questions Tuesday regarding his views on gay marriage, which prompted him to ponder aloud about whether "the left" -- "and I am going to put the media in this category" -- is "obsessed with sex." It's not entirely clear why he believes that the left's interest in advancing gay rights as a policy issue means that it is "obsessed with sex." It's not like Ted Cruz is without his own very strong opinions on the question of gay marriage, and he should expect plenty of questions about that. (But to answer his question in isolation: yes. The left is obsessed with sex. So is the right. So are centrists. Most people are obsessed with sex. It's a whole big part of the human condition.)

What caught my eye about this story from Texas yesterday, though, was another peculiar turn of phrase. Cruz, the Texas Tribune reports, "cited the expansion of 'mandatory same-sex marriage' as an assault on religious liberty in the United States."

"Mandatory same-sex marriage" is neither a transcript error from the Texas Tribune nor an instance of Cruz misspeaking, as I initially assumed it was. "Mandatory same-sex marriage" and "mandatory gay marriage" are actual terms that Ted Cruz has been running around warning the masses about. It is a staple of his talking points on the issue.

As MSNBC's Steve Benen picked up a few weeks ago, when the hot question for GOP candidates was whether they would attend a gay wedding, Ted Cruz criticized Democrats' "devotion to mandatory gay marriage in all 50 states." And last Wednesday, Cruz explained to right-wing radio host Eric Metaxas that the Democratic Party has "gotten so extreme and so radical in its devotion to mandatory gay marriage that they’ve decided there’s no room for the religious liberty protected under the First Amendment.”

The idea that there's a specter of mandatory gay marriage looming over the country has been a joke among lefties for a while now, as a means of understanding why anyone would be against gay marriage. If gay marriage became legal, it would not in any way affect the marriages of straight people, so those opposed to its legalization must somehow believe that legalization would entail a requirement that everyone marry a member of the same sex. "Massachusetts Supreme Court Orders All Citizens To Gay Marry," for example, is a classic Onion headline from way back in 2004. The joke is that that's not what the Massachusetts Supreme Court did!

What is Ted Cruz implying with this word "mandatory"? Perhaps he means to say is liberals believe the Supreme Court should find a right to same-sex marriage within the Constitution, making legal gay marriage the law of the land, instead of achieving this goal through battles in each and every state legislature. More likely he is referring to how the left wants to make it "mandatory" for wedding vendors to serve same-sex marriage ceremonies even if that violates their religious beliefs, or that the left wants it to be "mandatory" for churches to perform same-sex marriage rites. There is debate about the left on these issues. There is very little debate on the left, though, about the question of whether gay couples should be allowed to have their marriages recognized by the state.

But Ted Cruz isn't saying these things. What he's saying is that "mandatory gay marriage" is a policy goal of the Democratic Party. He has used the term "mandatory gay marriage" numerous times, which suggests that it has been focus-grouped and this combination of words, though hilarious and wrong, earns the best response. And hey, it really would be a shocker if the Democratic Party was trying to impose "mandatory gay marriage." If the Democratic Party was trying to force everyone get married to a member of the same sex, the Democratic Party would lose a lot of votes -- from gay and straight people alike! But alas.

By Jim Newell

Jim Newell covers politics and media for Salon.

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