DES MOINES, Iowa — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz on Saturday said county clerks in Texas should "absolutely" be able to opt out of issuing same-sex marriage licenses if they have religious objections.
"Ours is a country that was built by men and women fleeing religious oppression," Cruz said in an interview with The Texas Tribune, "and you look at the foundation of this country — it was to seek out a new land where anyone of us could worship the Lord God Almighty with all of our hearts, minds and souls, without government getting in the way."
The interview followed a major speech here in which he eviscerated the U.S. Supreme Court for its decision Friday to legalize gay marriage in all 50 states.
"We should respect diversity and tolerance," Cruz added. "There is this liberal intolerance and fascism that seeks to force Bible-believing Christians to violate their faith, and I think it makes no sense."
Cruz's comments came a day after Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick asked Attorney General Ken Paxton for an opinion on whether county clerks and justices of the peace can refuse to issue same-sex marriage licenses or perform same-sex weddings. Texas already has a law in effect that protects clergy members who refuse to perform gay weddings due to their religious beliefs.
"There’s no right in society to force a Jewish rabbi to perform a Christian wedding ceremony," Cruz said Saturday. "There’s no right in society to force a Muslim imam to perform a Jewish wedding ceremony."
Cruz, like many Republicans, has reacted to the Supreme Court ruling by raising potential consequences for religious freedom, such as whether a baker should be forced to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple if he has religious objections. On Saturday, Cruz declined to say whether the issues of religious liberty were urgent enough to warrant a special session of the Texas Legislature, a demand of some social conservatives.
“Look, I’m going to leave questions of state law and governance to our elected leaders there," Cruz said. "The last thing they need is a federal officeholder sticking his nose into matters of state legislation."