Presidential Candidates Speak Out on 'Bathroom Laws'

LGBT Community Turns Out for Clinton in Tuesday Primaries

By Lisa Keen

North Carolina's new law to bar transgender people from using public restrooms that correspond with their gender identity became a recurring theme in the 2016 presidential campaign this past week.

Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz was the only one of the five remaining presidential candidates to state support for the so-called "bathroom laws."

Republican frontrunner Donald Trump said he thought people should be able to "use the bathroom they feel is appropriate" then later said he thought it was a matter for each state to decide. Ohio Gov. John Kasich said he "wouldn't have signed the law." Both Democratic presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, called the laws discriminatory.

But Cruz went before reporters and rallies repeatedly to express his support for the laws and to mock Trump for opposing them.

"If Donald Trump dresses up as Hillary Clinton," Cruz said to a rally of supporters in Indiana April 24, "he still can't go to the girls' bathroom."

The audience laughed and applauded.

But his joke went over about as well as former presidential hopeful Marco Rubio's joke did about the size of Trump's hands. Out of 111 delegates up for grabs in the five states Tuesday, Cruz won one. Kasich won five. Trump won 105.

Trump won all five of the primaries Tuesday in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Delaware. He now has 77 percent of the 1,237 delegates he needs to secure the Republican presidential nomination.

On the Democratic side, Clinton won four out of five states. (Sanders won Rhode Island.) She now has 90 percent of the 2,383 delegates she needs to secure the Democratic presidential nomination. Sanders issued a statement late Tuesday night, saying his campaign would continue but suggesting it was more focused now on the "fight for a progressive party platform..."

Most evidence indicated the LGBT community's support in Tuesday's primary states was behind Clinton, as it has been in most previous primaries. In Pennsylvania, for instance, Clinton carried the endorsement of the 60,000-member Equality Pennsylvania group, as well as that of the Philadelphia Gay News, and openly gay State Rep. Brian Sims.

"Among all the candidates, Secretary Clinton has the most comprehensive and compelling plan to achieve full equality for LGBT people in Pennsylvania and across the country," said Equality PA Executive Director Ted Martin. "She has called for a comprehensive ban on discrimination against LGBT people at the federal level, a ban on the terrible practice of 'reparative therapy' for LGBT minors, and a fully-fledged plan to combat HIV/AIDS, including a plan for an AIDS-free generation. She's fighting for us, so we are proud to be fighting for her to become the next president of the United States."

Also endorsing Clinton was the Liberty City LGBT Democratic Club. Club co-chair Tony Campisi said Clinton "has been a lifelong advocate for equality for all."

In Delaware, openly gay State Sen. Karen Peterson supported Clinton and was a member of her campaign's Delaware Steering Committee.

In Maryland, Clinton won the endorsement of openly gay State Delegate Maggie McIntosh and openly gay State Sen. Rich Madaleno. But former gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur, who is also a superdelegate in Maryland and who supported Clinton initially, announced April 14 that she was endorsing Sanders.

The bathroom law focus got a surge of attention on April 21 when a question from the audience of the NBC Today Show asked Trump to "speak about the North Carolina bathroom law."

Trump said one of the best answers he heard about the issue was a commentator saying, "Leave it the way it is ... There have been very few problems. Leave it the way it is." Trump noted the "strife" over the new law, including many businesses leaving the state.

"People go - they use the bathroom they feel is appropriate. There has been so little trouble and the problem with what happened in North Carolina is the strife and the economic punishment that they're taking."

"Today" co-host Matt Lauer asked Trump if he has any transgender people working for him. Trump said, "I don't know. Probably do. I don't know."

"So if Caitlyn Jenner were to walk into Trump Tower and wanted to use the bathroom, you'd be fine with her using any bathroom that she chooses?" asked Lauer.

"That is correct," said Trump.

In an odd choice of words, given the focus on the bathroom laws this week, Trump claimed in his Tuesday night victory speech that "If Hillary were a man, I don't think she'd get five percent of the vote."

"The only thing she's got going is the woman's card," said Trump. "And the beautiful thing is women don't like her."

In fact, a CNN poll in mid-March found that 73 percent of women voters had a negative view of Trump. Asked how they would vote in a general election contest between Trump and Clinton, two out of three women said they would vote for Clinton. And exit polls from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Connecticut Tuesday, according to CNN, showed "Hillary Clinton won handily among women."

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