Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz accused rivals Donald Trump and Marco Rubio of using the "talking points" of President Barack Obama when calling last June's Supreme Court same-sex marriage ruling the "law of the land."
While speaking at the Carolina Values Summit co-hosted by The Reconciled Church Movement and NC Values Coalition at Winthrop University in South Carolina Thursday night, Cruz began by telling the crowd that there are "three fundamental values" that were at the "heart of the gathering" — life, marriage and religious liberty.
As South Carolina voters will cast their primary ballots next Saturday, the Texas senator encouraged conservatives not to listen to each candidate's campaign rhetoric but to instead judge them "by their fruits."
Cruz first advised the voters to judge each presidential candidate's pro-life stance on their past record of standing for life. The remark could be seen as a subtle jab at the once pro-choice Trump, who now has a 17-percentage-point lead over Cruz in South Carolina primary election polls.
As Rubio, a senator from Florida, is third in South Carolina polling and trails Cruz by about six percentage points, Cruz slammed both Rubio and Trump for their past statements regarding the Supreme Court's decision last June, which struck down state same-sex marriage bans.
Cruz stated that the court's ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges was an indication that five unelected judges purport "to know better than the American people what constitutes marriage."
"In that moment when the decision came down is what Ronald Reagan called a 'time for choosing.' Every individual leader had a choice to make on what side of the line that they stand," Cruz said. "The more striking thing was seeing my two leading competitors in the Republican primaries both publicly say following that decision that the decision is the settled law of the land, that we must accept it, surrender and move on."
"I got to say, those are word for word the talking points of Barack Obama," Cruz continued. "There is something profoundly wrong when Republican presidential candidates are repeating Barack Obama's talking points on gay marriage, saying 'we surrender, we give up, we might as well light the White house up in rainbow colors.'"
Rubio did say last June following the court's ruling that although he believes in the traditional definition of marriage, "we live in a republic and must abide by the law." However, Rubio went on to add that "it must be a priority of the next president to nominate judges and justices committed to applying the Constitution as written and originally understood."
Also, Rubio declared in December that the ruling is the current law but not the settled law of the land.
"It is the current law. I don't believe any case law is settled law," Rubio told Meet The Press, adding that he believed the law was "bad law."
As the next president could have to appoint between two to four Supreme Court justices, Rubio assured that if elected president, he would elect judges that "will interpret the Constitution as originally constructed."
"I don't think the current Constitution gives the federal government the power to regulate marriage," Rubio said. "That belongs at the state and local level."
Trump, the current frontrunner, was asked about his position on the gay marriage ruling last September, when Kentucky clerk Kim Davis created a national media firestorm because of her refusal to issue marriage licenses with her name and title on them following the Supreme Court's decision.
"You have to go with it," Trump told MSNBC. "The decision's been made, and that is the law of the land."
Cruz was not the only presidential candidate to appear at the Carolina Values Summit. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who is fifth in South Carolina poling with over seven percent support, also attended the event and spoke about a number of issues.
Carson touched on how to revitalize black communities through criminal justice reform, a fair tax, education and other plans to keep money in the black communities.
The event was also attended by former presidential candidate and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who spoke in support of Rubio.
Bishop Harry Jackson, a Maryland pastor and a main organizer of the event, told The Christian Post that all three speakers were well received by the crowd, but it was Carson that got standing ovations.
"Carson had people standing up because he is a very, very devout Christian and what they like most about him is his consistency in his faith," Jackson said.
As Trump has averaged nearly 37 percent of the vote in South Carolina polls, Jackson is concerned that the evangelical vote is too divided to topple Trump.
"I am concerned the evangelical vote in the primaries will split and the more people in the races, the more likely it is that Donald Trump will remain in lead and take lion's share of the votes," Jackson said.