Ted Cruz
Ted Cruz is the first presidential candidate to back the controversial North Carolina law that has triggered a cascade of criticism from companies, civil rights activists and celebritiesGetty Images

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz expressed staunch support for the controversial new North Carolina law banning transgender people from the public toilets of their choice, saying: "The state has the power to pass their own laws to make a determination that men should not be going to the bathroom with little girls." He added that it is "a perfectly reasonable determination for the people to make."

The new state law, House Bill 2, was passed in the wake of a measure by the city of Charlotte allowing transgender people to use public toilets that correspond to the gender of their choice. The new law requires people to use the toilet of their birth gender. It initially allowed discrimination against gays, lesbians and transgender people by businesses and in the workplace.

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed an executive order earlier this week partially amending the law by expanding the state's non-discrimination employment policy to include sexual orientation and gender identity. But the rest of the law stands, including banning local laws preventing businesses from discriminating against LGBT customers.

Several companies, celebrities and San Francisco city government workers are either boycotting the state or speaking out against the the law. Ringo Starr joined rocker Bruce Springsteen in cancelling concerts in the state. "I'm sorry to disappoint my fans, but we need to take a stand against this hatred," said Starr. "Spread peace and love."

State Attorney General Roy Cooper has said he will not defend the measure in court because it is patently unconstitutional and a "national embarrassment." Regarding the governor's tacked-on amendment, Cooper said: "The truth is, this executive order doesn't change the fact that HB 2 has written discrimination into the law."

Cruz is the only presidential candidate to date who is backing the law. John Kasich previously said he would not have signed the bill if he were the governor, and frontrunner Donald Trump has not yet commented.