GOP’s Ted Cruz calls religious liberty a defining issue

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz Nati Harnik, AP

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks during a town hall event at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa, Wednesday, April 1, 2015. Nati Harnik, AP

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks during a town hall event at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa, Wednesday, April 1, 2015.

SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Texas Sen. Ted Cruz says concerns about religious freedom could unite Republicans and rally conservative Democrats to the GOP in 2016.

The Republican presidential candidate told an audience in Sioux City, Iowa, on Wednesday that a new Indiana law is awakening like-minded voters of various political stripes.

Speaking in Republican-heavy northwest Iowa’s evangelical hub, Cruz says religious liberty “is not some fringe view” and that “courageous conservatives” need to stand up for it.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed a law giving heightened protections to businesses that object on religious grounds to providing certain services. Critics say the law discriminates against gays, and it’s drawing threats of boycotts and other economic actions.

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In Arkansas, Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Wednesday declined to sign a similar bill in its current form.

Cruz entered the GOP nomination race last week.

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