QUEER VOICES

Ted Cruz's Transphobic Campaign Failed Miserably In Indiana

Railing against LGBT rights didn't win over enough voters to help him beat Donald Trump.

Megan Robertson was the type of voter Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was trying to win over in Indiana. Robertson supports Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) for president, but she also desperately wants to stop Donald Trump from winning the nomination. 

In a last-ditch effort to stop Trump, Cruz formed a non-aggression pact with Kasich designed to let the senator win Indiana so that Kasich could focus his resources on defeating the real estate mogul in New Mexico and Oregon. And in order to win Indiana, Cruz needed voters like Robertson to back him.

And Robertson considered doing so -- until he launched a campaign going after lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights that immediately alienated her.

"I knew what he believed, but doing that ad took it to the next level," Robertson, an Indiana GOP political consultant, said. "I think that's probably how a lot of Kasich supporters felt. I think it hurt him."

"I decided that just because they made a bad deal, didn't mean I had to be part of it and play along. It's more of a protest vote," she said of her vote for Kasich, "but sometimes the protest vote is important."

Trump soundly defeated Cruz and Kasich in Indiana Tuesday night, and Cruz then announced he was suspending his campaign.

Cruz, who has a long anti-LGBT record, came out in favor of the so-called bathroom bills popping up in various states and made them a major part of his push in Indiana

These measures target the transgender community and bar individuals from using the bathroom based on their gender identity rather than the gender they were assigned at birth. 

On April 21, Trump said people should "use the bathroom they feel is appropriate." The senator from Texas seized on those remarks and released transphobic ads in response. 

"He made a mistake in going after the transgender issue," said Chris Paulsen, campaign manager for the pro-LGBT rights group Freedom Indiana. "I have quite a few Republican friends who were going to vote for him and specifically went away from him because of that. I think he did not understand that Hoosiers are actually a little more socially moderate and fair-minded than he thought they were."

In other words, Cruz likely didn't pick up any new votes with his ad -- since those socially conservative voters were probably backing him anyway -- and alienated potential new voters. 

"Anytime anyone brings up the bathroom, they're already losing. If that's your talking point why we should not have equal rights, I think you're already coming from a losing position," Paulsen added. 

Despite the fear-mongering by Cruz and other social conservatives, there has been no increase in sexual assaults in states that have transgender protections in restrooms. Such sexual assaults remain illegal anyway. 

Indiana was at the center of a national debate over equality when Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed a religious freedom law last year that could have allowed businesses to discriminate against LGBT people. After intense outcry from activists, business leaders and members of his own party, he signed a revised measure. Pence endorsed Cruz in the primary. 

“Cruz will be remembered for spending the last days of his presidential campaign shamefully trying to stoke a dangerous brand of hate against transgender people like me to score political points," Jay Brown, communications director of the Human Rights Campaign, said. "Ted Cruz’s false attack ads and repeated smears against us in the closing days of his campaign were clearly rejected by voters."

This piece was updated with comment from Brown.


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