The race for the Republican presidential nomination hit bottom and kept on digging this week when frontrunner Donald Trump retweeted an unflattering photo of the wife of rival Ted Cruz. Trump was responding to a paid Facebook ad from an anti-Trump group which mocked his own wife for having posed in the nude during her modeling career. Trump accused Cruz of being behind the Facebook ad (he wasn’t) and Cruz responded by calling Trump a “sniveling coward.”
Two days later the flame war intensified when a notorious tabloid published an unsubstantiated claim that family values advocate Cruz has committed adultery with five unnamed women. One of these alleged mistresses was identified as a “$1000/night hooker.” Internet sleuths identified another of the women as Trump’s own campaign spokeswoman, Katrina Pierson, who has flatly denied the story. Also identified from the tabloid’s story was former Cruz staffer Amanda Carpenter, who issued a similar denial.
As social media exploded with the #CruzSexScandal hashtag, Ted Cruz furiously told the press that the adultery claims were “utter garbage” being spread by Donald Trump’s “henchmen.” Trump reacted by claiming that he had no part in the tabloid’s story, although he pointedly noted that the publication has correctly exposed philandering politicians in the past. Trump’s claim of being uninvolved rang hollow for many, as he is well-known to be close friends with the tabloid’s owner, a man he once suggested should take over Time Magazine.
While the Republican presidential race continued to draw gasps, things also took a decidedly ugly turn for LGBT rights when Republicans in the North Carolina state legislature called a special session to rush through a new “religious liberty” bill that many are calling the most viciously anti-LGBT law in the nation.
Responding to a recently enacted expansion of LGBT rights in Charlotte, the state’s most populous city, anti-LGBT hate groups had deluged lawmakers with demands for action. That action not only repealed Charlotte’s LGBT rights law, it repealed all such local ordinances statewide, making it now completely legal for any North Carolina business to refuse employment, housing, or service to all LGBT Americans.
At the core of the new law in North Carolina is an attack on transgender citizens, who are now barred from using public restrooms and changing facilities that align with their gender identity unless they’ve had full “sex reassignment surgery” and have legally changed their gender on their birth certificate. The law also singles out transgender public school students, who are already subject to tormenting at the hands of their peers, and are now also banned from using the correct restroom.
Some national LGBT rights groups, most notably the Human Rights Campaign, have come under fire for inaction before North Carolina’s lawmakers passed its bill, especially since the new law comes mere months after anti-LGBT groups succeeded in repealing a similar so-called “bathroom bill” in Houston, the largest city in Texas.
Condemnation of North Carolina’s anti-LGBT law came swiftly and from all corners. Newspapers nationwide published furious editorials and major corporations based in North Carolina issued statements of concern, although few expect any business to curtail its operation, much less leave the state over the new law. Some action might be seen in the sports world, with the pro basketball league threatening to take next year’s all-star game away from Charlotte, the planned host city.
On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal held a joint press conference to announce a lawsuit against North Carolina. The core of their argument is that the state’s new anti-LGBT law violates Title IX, a federal law which was recently held to ban sex discrimination by institutions that receive federal funding, including discrimination against transgender citizens. The suit further contends that the new law deliberately evades the landmark 1996 US Supreme Court ruling in Romer V Evans, which struck down a Colorado constitutional amendment which singled out gay citizens for discrimination. Unlike what Colorado’s law did, North Carolina’s law does not explicitly exclude gay Americans from its list of protected classes, it simply does not name us. Similarly, evasive laws have also recently been enacted in Arkansas and Tennessee.