Ellen Page Surprises Noted Meat-Griller Ted Cruz With Gay Rights Debate at Iowa State Fair

feature image via New York Magazine

We all got the greatest queer Valentine’s Day gift last year when #1 critter Ellen Page came out and although today isn’t a particularly special holiday, Page has given us another amazing gift by showing up at the Iowa State Fair incognito and making Ted Cruz look like a complete fool (again) on LGBT rights. Page was in Iowa shooting her travel series for Broadly.

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Cruz was making an embarrassingly cliche campaign stop to serve grilled meat to Iowans when Page stepped up in a hat and sunglasses and began to ask him questions about his positions on LGBT rights. She opens by asking bluntly about the persecution of gay and trans people, and Cruz retreats to his well-rehearsed bullshit about the “Bible-believing Christians being persecuted for living according to their faith.” When Page counters, he tries to dodge by refusing a “back-and-forth” before launching into a long-winded story about a privately-owned church and a comparison of florists to rabbis to explain why he thinks the religion claimed by the vast majority of US legislators is somehow extraordinarily oppressed by gay people getting married.

The exchange reaches its crescendo of Republican misdirection and ignorance when Page points out the historical oppression of the LGBT community, asking:

“I just think there needs to be more tolerance for LGBT people, who have been constantly persecuted in this country. It used to be illegal. They were thrown in jail, and we’ve come a really really long way. Gay people used to be thrown in jail in this country.”

Cruz responds:

“Do you know where gay people are being persecuted right now? ISIS. ISIS is executing gay people. Iran. Iran is executing gay people.”


Afterwards, the ABC news reporter quipped about “having a pork chop in one hand and having a conversation about gay discrimination in the workplace” which Cruz claims was actually a conversation about “the persecution of religious liberty.” Of course, Cruz’s delusions about religious persecution are well-known, as he once claimed that the legalization of gay marriage was the “height of tyranny.”

It seems that smart gay women confronting the ass-backwards GOP nominees on their bigotry has become a thing. Last month, we got to watch Rachel Maddow expose Rick Santorum’s disturbing lack of basic civics knowledge. Can we make this a thing for the remainder of the campaign? I’d pay good money to watch Samira Wiley mop up the floor with Donald Trump.

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Mari Brighe

Mari is a queer lady scientist and educator from Detroit, who skillfully avoids working on her genetics dissertation by writing about queer and trans life, nerd culture, feminism, and science. You can frequently find her running around at science-fiction conventions giving panels on consent culture and LGBT topics or DJing at fantastically strange parties. She is a contributing writer for TransAdvocate, maintains a personal blog at TransNerdFeminist, and can frequently be found stirring up trouble (and posting selfies) on Twitter.

Mari has written 36 articles for us.


  1. In the last line, “Samira Wiley mop up the floor Donald Trump,” needs to be “Samira Wiley mop up the floor WITH Donald Trump.”

    His head still looks like a Swiffer duster tho.

  2. Ted, you have it a bit wrong. Iran is forcing(and funding) not straight people to become straight by having them transition to a different gender. They are killing those who refuse to transition and/or those who are transitioning and not straight, like a bi trans woman or gay trans man. It all has to do with claiming we have no gay people in the country. Look at the statistics they are #2 world wide in transgender people. I’ve looked into this because I am of Iranian decent & trans queer.

    • Hmm..Iran is the enemy of ISIS. And ISIS kills transgender people.

      Iran’s forcing transition is criminal- but if you’re from there & conflate the two regimes in this fashion- why?

  3. It’s interesting that he thinks everyone should have free speech, including people he disagrees with he said, but at the very beginning of the video he tells her he’s not going to have a back and forth conversation with her.

  4. Ok but instead of comparing the right to descriminate on religious grounds, what if someone asked him if it was ok to deny a two people of color or an interracial couple business for their wedding based on religious beliefs? Would he think that’s ok too? (Probably he would, but would he admit it out loud?)

  5. who would have guessed?

    Cruz and I agree that there’s great harm from letting religions enforce their beliefs on the public sphere.

    He should generalize the concept beyond the one instance.

  6. American “Conservative” strategy for “winning” every non-welfare social justice argument, folks: But radical Islam!

    But don’t forget sometimes it’s just plainly “islamb” that’s used for a closer.

  7. can conservatives just let go of the hypotheticals involving florists for like a second? maybe expand on the issue beyond where people are going to find fucking tulips? i am so tired. and did he really say that we are a country that respects pluralism and diversity, and then try to justify commercial laws that actively discriminate against portions of that diverse public? did i already say i am tired? and did he also compare religious figures to businesses as though they are not explicitly subject to completely different governmental regulations, institutional laws, and social expectations? BUT IRAN AND ISIS AND THE OBAMA AND SUCH AS.

    if it is the case that all cruz can understand is trite hyptheticals involving florists, lets just say hypothetically i am a florist that does not provide flowers to people who bear such an uncanny resemblance to grandpa munster. HYPOTHETICALLY this might make it easier for him to relate to. you know because of his stupid face.

    i really wanted ellen page to MA’AM him back. christ with the ma’ams already.

  8. It’s a pretty sad state of affairs when his biggest argument is, “BUT AT LEAST WE’RE BETTER THAN ISIS!”

  9. Out of curiosity, what would you do if you were asked to print a message that you found abhorent? Anti-gay message, or anti-semitic, or a flier with a Rebel flag, or a KKK brochure? Would you want to have your right to refuse protected?

    This question was actually posed by a lesbian who owns a print shop in response to a case where a male printer had refused to print fliers for a gay rally. He said he ought to have the right to refuse to print a message that offended him, and she said he was right. She would refuse to print messages (like those above) that offended her. The definition of “message” I guess can be broadly defined here, but not that much different than how free speech is broadly defined to include flag burning.

    I guess what I’m trying to ask is do you not find that your opinion changes depending on who’s offended and why? I have given this debate a lot of thought and gone back and forth, but one thing I hate is situational ethics, where your sense of right or wrong changes depending on whether you like someone, or if you agree with them politically, etc.

    Forget the woman printer is a lesbian; she’s just a woman and has refused to print something for a customer whose message she doesn’t endorse. Would you support her right above all, or only if you were also offended by the message? If she’s pro-choice and won’t print right to life material, is she protected? What about the opposite, a right-to-lifer not wanting to print choice material?

    One of the arguments made is that religious business people are being selective in practicing this right – i.e. they’re only interested in turning away gay people and not others whose lifestyles might go against their religious belief. Another argument is that the printer who is opposed to the pro-life message wouldn’t turn away that same person if she just wanted a birthday message printed, but religious people may be hoping to use this protection to refuse any service to gay people non-related to same sex marriage. So, there’s those issues that can complicate things.

    I’m not trying to change anybody’s mind (in fact my own mind is not made up); I just find that what was an immediate kneejerk response from me has been tempered just a bit when I try to look at this issue from these other viewpoints, situations. I work for a newspaper and I know that we reserve the right to refuse any advertising, in case there is a situation where we would feel the need to reject someone’s material.

    I would like to hear how others respond to the questions I raised, or the situations presented, because it’s something that troubles me and I am always open to hearing different points of view.

    • I completely believe that private businesses should be allowed to accept or refuse business as they see fit for the reasons you’ve listed here. And because I don’t want to give money to people who fucking hate me. In the same breath, I do not believe the same is true when it comes to hiring (and firing). Obviously.

    • I agree that this is a question that gets tougher the more you think about it, and I also find myself needing to step back from knee-jerk reactions! That being said, though, I think there’s a definite difference between printing something that is actively hateful to another group of people, and printing something that you simply disagree with (no matter how sincere or strong that disagreement is). For example (though I know it’s not a perfect one), I would grit my teeth and print something denying evolution or global warming – despite my disagreement with both positions and belief that the latter, in particular, is harmful – but would not be willing to print something racist or homophobic or anti-semitic. I don’t think that’s hypocritical; they’re different things, which is why hate speech isn’t a protected form of speech.

      But yeah, even if you do make that distinction, there are still plenty of grey areas. What counts as hateful can be a subjective thing, and there are plenty of harmful things you might not want to be involved with that are not specifically hateful. But that’s where I start from in trying to figure this out, and even if it doesn’t necessarily translate into a clear “rule” I can advocate for, at least it gives me a moral compass for what I’m personally okay with and what I’m not.

      • Kris, you had me up until the point about “hate speech in’t a protected form of speech.” There’s never been an objective legal guideline for defining hate speech. At least not in the U.S. anyway.

        I do respect your attempting to find guideline, especially since you do admit your example aren’t perfect. It’s just well…it’s easier for me to see how you could make the decide something is racist, homophobic or anti-Semitic when your example involves a flyer when a clear message. It’s not quite the same thing when your got a store that sells books, movies, music, and games where there is bound to me room for multiple interpretations.

        Is for example, a book hate speech just because it advocates glbt people seeks reparative therapy? What about a book that merely suggests this treatment for SOME glbt people is they only want it, while still presenting other means of social adaptation? What books that promote racial intelligence theories? What about books critical of how the Church of Scientology treats it’s followers? The albums of Ice Cube? The comics of Frank Miller? Several Mel Gibson movies? I could site hundreds of other examples, but I think you get my point.

        For me, the best I can say right on the matter is that it’s for business to decide shelving content (rather than providing human services) on there own terms and present those terms in clear writing.

        • Mike, I actually totally agree with the points you raise! None of what I was saying translates very cleanly into policy, precisely because there are so many grey areas and things that are subjective (which is what I was getting at in my second paragraph, though I didn’t expand on it like you did). The thing is that I wasn’t trying to describe a workable policy so much as the moral framework I approach the question with – I thought I said that at the end, but maybe I should have been more explicit.

          (I probably also made it less clear by mentioning hate speech as a legal concept, but my point there was just that there’s a tradition to the distinction I was trying to make! But you’re right indeed that it’s not a well-defined thing and isn’t going to clear up much ambiguity.)

          • I actually think you were fine at separating your personal values framework and the problems of adaption to different situations. Like I said, it was only that part about protected speech I had a problem with. You weren’t going into the matter of laws (which are tricky to say the least) and respect that. Thanks for explaining you only brought up hate speech to affair a precedent.

            I guess it just worries me sometimes that promotion of hate speech laws have the power to hurt the very people they are most often intended to help. Partially for reasons of conflict between freedom of religion/speech/association that have been brought up by other and for another reason of brought up on this site before, but frankly that topic could make up an entire article in itself. So I’ll just leave it alone for know and says that it’s at least great to even such reasons discussion on this topic at all. Your certainly not seeing it from the political candidates!

    • I would refuse to print hate speech, but not refuse service based on objectional PERSONHOOD. I mean, I don’t find most people’s choices, but say — someone walked into my print shop from a Quiverfull home and wanted to print their birth announcements, I wouldn’t be like “no, get out.”

      And anyway, I actually have to make this choice at work. Although I can’t choose our clients altogether, there are people I help who work for companies that I find hugely problematic, homophobic etc (Dow, Halliburton, etc). There are people I help who have criminal backgrounds that I find personally really messed up (prior allegations of sexual assault, etc). I could ask to have these clients reassigned. I have never done this because, ultimately, whether or not I like them is not the point of my job.

    • It’s my understanding that as a business you have the right to refuse to do something that is not in the scope of your practice, but you can’t refuse to serve a group of people who are a protected class. I don’t think the KKK count as a protected class by the way, but I’ll use them in this example.

      A member of the KKK can ask a bakery to make a cake depicting a brown person being lynched and the business can say they don’t make cakes of people lynched. If the a member of the KKK simply asks for a standard cake they either have premade or that is in their menu of cakes they make the bakery should make the cake. The bakery should not refuse based on beliefs that they are going to take that cake to ceremony that celebrates lynching. The bakery isn’t involved in the ceremony, they made a cake.

      With that said, I don’t believe the KKK is a religious organization, so a bakery could refuse service to a member of the KKK, because if a person is not a member of protected class a business can refuse service and a business can always refuse service to an individual as long as it’s not based on them belonging to a protected class. So the business could say they refused service because the language they were using to describe the cake was not appropriate for their establishment.

      • This is a really interesting aspect of this I’d never thought about before: “If the a member of the KKK simply asks for a standard cake they either have premade or that is in their menu of cakes they make the bakery should make the cake. The bakery should not refuse based on beliefs that they are going to take that cake to ceremony that celebrates lynching. The bakery isn’t involved in the ceremony, they made a cake.”

        This whole comment is on point and I think this example is a good one to talk about how we’re not a 1:1 here when we talk about comparing A) providing flowers to a gay wedding to B) someone printing anti-gay signs or making lynching cakes or the other examples mentioned upthread that involve specific messages being printed on things.

        I feel like there’s a difference between refusing to provide flowers to a same-sex wedding and refusing to spell out “GAY PEOPLE SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO GET MARRIED” in flowers, right? There’s a difference between selling people flowers and actually serving as a pastor at their wedding. I can understand how some asshole might not want to make a cake with two grooms on it, but not why some asshole wouldn’t make a wedding cake for a gay couple who didn’t want a cake topper anyhow.

        Personally, I don’t care about commercial retailers refusing to be vendors to same-sex weddings. I like to spend my money as consciously as possible and would much rather be turned away by an anti-gay vendor than serviced by them, because there are other small business owners who deserve my money more!

  10. Ellen Page is popping up everywhere like a social justice gopher.

    The *cutest* social justice gopher imaginable.

  11. Okay since I can’t even listen to verbal flatulence for 40 seconds can someone tell me what sort of ma’am he’s using
    Is it the clenched teeth polite I don’t call women cuss words in public to their face because I was raised to be a gentlemen, ma’am?
    What kind of ma’am?
    I need to know but am verbal flatulence intolerant.

  12. So I am organizing volunteers to ask tough questions of presidential candidates in New Hampshire and I’m pretty sure my new work/life plan is:

    1)Recruit Ellen Page to ask questions in New Hampshire
    2)Recruit Ellen Page to be my girlfriend

  13. When he started with ISIS, I felt like I was in the PLL finale all over again.
    “Gays have been prosecuted in this country for years”

  14. The part of this conversation that really gets me steamed is when Cruz pulls out this whole notion of “moral equivalence.” Any time someone uses that term, it feel calculated and strains your credibility. It’s especially absurd when he tries to emphasis that murder is bad under all circumstances, but than immediately follow up with suggest the killing gays in Jamacia is somehow less bad than the killings of gays in Iran!
    WHY!? Because it’s easier for him turn focus of the conversations to attacking on Obama’s foreign policy? Because if more human rights violation are (currently) happening Muslim countries than Christian ones that somehow means the Christians ones should never be compared?

    Several years ago someone wrote a blog post on the late film critic Roger Ebert’s website (which you can read in entirety here http://www.rogerebert.com/scanners/moral-relativism-and-a-mighty-heart-and-july-4) that beautifully summed-up the absurdity of arguments about moral equivalence:

    “The term “moral relativism” (or “moral equivalence”) has always fascinated me because of its slipperiness — its moral relativism, if you will. The way the term is used in politics these days (by Israelis and Palestinians, conservatives and liberals, Christians and Muslims, and so on), it can mean one thing or its opposite, depending on who’s using it and what they’re trying to justify.

    What it boils down to, in popular rhetorical discourse, is the moral equivalent of a five-year-old’s finger-pointing: “But they started it!” and “What they did was worse!” This creates an inescapable and illogical ideological loop, wherein each new assault is justified by a previous one (or fear of a future one) that attempts to even the score but never, ever does, since it is always used to rationalize the next reprisal. It’s always a matter of “self-defense” in the minds of the perpetrators.”

  15. Ted Cruz: “I’m not going to engage in back and forth, but I’m going to answer your question” *proceeds to ignore her actual question and completely derail every conversation ever*


    • Right on point-thas is!

      I also love that afterwards he says: “She didn’t seem to want to have THAT discussion.” As if to say “the discussions I WANT TO HAVE are more important that what some folks will ask me to talk about!”

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