It never ceases to amaze how many people assume that because Rand Paul says reasonable things about the drug war and describes himself as a libertarian conservative, he must be down with the gay rights movement. This isn't simply a belief shared by low-information voters; indeed, it often creeps into media coverage of the Kentucky senator and likely 2016 presidential candidate. In 2014, NPR described Paul as the candidate of GOP voters "more tolerant of same-sex marriage," and Politico has suggested that Paul would offer the gay community "a presidential pat on the head."
But despite the widely held perception that Paul represents a break with the GOP's anti-gay record, there's little that separates Paul from Rick Santorum on LGBT issues. He has long opposed marriage equality and non-discrimination protections, and just within the past month, Paul has declared that same-sex nuptials "offend" him and called marriage equality a sign of a "moral crisis" in American society.
Now, thanks to BuzzFeed's Dominic Holden, we have further evidence of Paul's deep-seated anti-gay views. Holden unearthed a little-noticed 2013 interview in which Paul effectively tried to marry his libertarian views with his opposition to gay equality, declaring that he supports rights for individuals, but not those for groups and not those based on "behavior."
“I don’t think I’ve ever used the word gay rights, because I don’t really believe in rights based on your behavior,” Paul said.
Set aside the patent offensiveness of Paul's notion that being gay is a "behavior" -- it's an enduring and intrinsic identity, and Paul's statement reduces it to a matter of carnality. What's particularly striking is that Paul wholly ignores that millions of gay Americans have been denied equal rights because they are gay, which is the very reason a gay rights movement -- I hope I didn't offend you, senator -- exists.
In 13 states, gay people are still denied the right to marry, and while we're proceeding inexorably toward nationwide marriage equality, that will hardly spell the end of the community's problems. The Williams Institute at the University of California-Los Angeles estimated in 2011 that 40 percent of gay, lesbian, and bisexual workers will experience some manner of employment discrimination in their lifetime; in 29 states, that's perfectly legal. LGBT people are also disproportionately targeted for hate crimes, and as Indiana reminded us this past week, many religious conservatives still see gay people as a "substantial burden" to their livelihoods.
But please, Rand Paul, enlighten us more with arguments gleaned from the College Libertarian club.