As Gromer Jeffers Jr. of the Dallas Morning News reported, sparks flew Wednesday during an Eagle Forum event for the Republican Senate race candidates at the Dallas Country Club. When former Texas solicitor general Ted Cruz was asked about his recent criticism of former Dallas mayor Tom Leppert’s appearance at two Dallas gay Pride parades in 2007 and 2009, he said, “When the mayor of a city chooses twice to march in a parade celebrating gay pride, that’s a statement. It’s not a statement I believe in.”

“The mayor is against gay marriage,” said Leppert, referring to himself in the third person (and by his honorific) for some reason. “He believes that marriage should be defined as one man and one woman. My job as mayor was to represent everybody in this city. I visited groups that didn’t agree with what I said. I talked to groups that I didn’t agree with what they said, but it was my obligation to represent everybody.”

Indeed, in this Dallas Voice video from the 2007 parade, Leppert, who beat the openly gay Ed Oakley in a runoff for the job that same year, is shown saying “I’m the mayor for everyone.” 

But he was also criticized by the LGBT media outlet for skipping the last couple of parades, and then came under heavy fire for a tweet published under his name (but written by a staffer) on the same day he announced his resignation as Dallas mayor.

That was seen as a sign that Leppert the Senate candidate would be less gay-friendly than Leppert the mayor. 

Which still leaves him with a long way to go compared to his current primary opponents.

According to John Wright of the Voice, moderator John C. Goodman, president and CEO of the National Center for Policy Analysis, asked Cruz, “Do you have something against gay people?”

“I have something against gay marriage,” Cruz responded. “I don’t support gay marriage. I think there is an onslaught right now in this country to tear down traditional marriage, and I don’t think it’s right.”

Cruz also mentioned the 2003 case in which he and attorney general Greg Abbott stopped a Beaumont judge from granting a dissolution of a male couple’s Vermont civil union since Texas could not dissolve what it does not recognize in the first place.

Former ESPN commentator Craig James went much further. As Jeffers reported:

Our moral fiber is sliding down a slope that’s going to be hard to stop if we don’t stand up with leaders who don’t ride in gay parades,” James said. “I hear what you’re saying Tom, but our kids out there needs to see examples…I know you’re a Christian. I’m not doubting you Tom, but, man, you have to stand up.”

James went on to say that being gay was not innate.

“It’s a choice,” he said. “You have to make that choice.”

And remarks by lesser-known candidate Lela Pettinger of Driftwood made everybody else look like Dan Savage by comparison, as she implied the Pride parade was purely hedonistic.

“Christ reached people in many different ways,” she said. “The Pharisees hated him because he ate dinner with sinners. … While he ate dinner with them, I don’t believe he marched along with them as they were going down to have an orgy or have any sort of drunken revelries.”

Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst was absent from the forum, which was, as usual, noted by Cruz, who according to Jeffers said it was the 24th such event the lite guv and apparent frontrunner has missed.