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Ted Cruz defends anti-LGBT North Carolina law

Ted Cruz responds to a question from Chuck Todd during an MSNBC Town Hall, in Buffalo, N.Y., April 14, 2016. (Photo by Nathan R. Congleton for MSNBC)
Ted Cruz responds to a question from Chuck Todd during an MSNBC Town Hall, in Buffalo, N.Y., April 14, 2016.

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz offered his support on Thursday to a controversial law in North Carolina that prohibits transgender people from using the bathroom in line with their gender identities, calling the regulation “perfectly reasonable.”

“I’m a constitutionalist. And the state has the power to pass their own laws,” Cruz told “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd during a taped MSNBC town hall in Buffalo, New York — a city that has had a nondiscrimination ordinance protecting transgender people since 2002. The Texas senator appeared to reject the idea that a person’s gender identity could ever be in conflict with the sex assigned to that person at birth — as is the case for transgender people.

“As the father of daughters, I’m not terribly excited about men being able to go alone into a bathroom with my daughters,” Cruz said to cheers. “And I think that’s a perfectly reasonable determination for the people to make.”

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The remarks come amid mounting pressure for North Carolina lawmakers to repeal House Bill 2, a measure hastily enacted last month that negated all municipally enforced nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people in the state. Republican Gov. Pat McCrory attempted to walk back parts of the legislation on Tuesday by signing an executive order that expanded government equal employment policies to include sexual orientation and gender identity. But LGBT rights groups were still outraged that the governor’s action left in place H.B. 2’s discriminatory bathroom policies.

North Carolina is far from the only state to pass a law seen as anti-LGBT this year. Last week, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed a measure that prevents government agencies from taking action against state employees, individuals, organizations and private associations that deny services based on religious objections  —  usually interpreted to mean religious objections to same-sex marriage, transgender rights and even unmarried sexual relationships. Similar legislation is also advancing in Tennessee and Missouri.

The Human Rights Campaign has tracked more than 200 anti-LGBT bills introduced this year in 32 states across the country. Yet the issue has largely been absent from the presidential election.

Cruz held two rallies dedicated to “religious liberty” last year. He also spoke at a conference hosted by a controversial pastor who has repeatedly referenced Biblical passages that instruct gay people be put to death. But Cruz has barely addressed LGBT rights this year.

In a tweet, the Human Rights Campaign’s president Chad Griffin used Cruz’s support for H.B. 2 to further criticize the measure.