By Theodore Schleifer
WASHINGTON — Hollywood actress Ellen Page and presidential candidate Ted Cruz debated for over five minutes in Iowa Friday on where to draw the line between discriminating against gays and lesbians and protecting religious liberty.
In the lively exchange, made as Cruz grilled pork chops at the state fair in Des Moines, the Juno star — who announced she was gay in early 2014 — tried to corner the presidential candidate on whether he believed gays and lesbians were discriminated under the auspices of laws meant to protect religious freedoms. Cruz will speak about religious persecution at a large, hyped-up rally and concert on Friday evening.
The conversation was prompted by a reality show Page is making for Vice Media entitled “Gaycation with Ellen Page,” and the exchange is planned to be part of the series, her publicist told The Hollywood Reporter Friday night.
Page, blending into the crowd in sunglasses and a baseball cap, and Cruz, chewing on fair food in his left hand, traded largely polite arguments and counterarguments. Page began by noting that some opposed to racial integration had hidden behind “religious liberty” arguments in prior generations.
“A lot of religious people also used the Bible to defend segregation, to defend slavery,” Page said. “I think religious freedom is so important and so crucial for all religions. LGBT people are worried they will directly be discriminated against.”
Cruz replied by saying that Christians led the charge to end segregation, and argued that men and women of faith had a right to act on those beliefs.
“At the end of the day, what we should not be doing is persecuting people who follow their faith,” the Texas Republican said.
Page tried to steer the conversation toward what she saw as insufficient anti-discrimination laws, while Cruz encouraged her to focus on the poor treatment of gays and lesbians by Islamic militants.
Eventually, Cruz cut the dialogue off.
“Ma’am, we’ve had a long discussion,” he said with a nod.