Saturday, June 03, 2017

From the Archives: Author Brian Doherty explains Ron Paul’s ambivalence on gay issues

Publisher's note: This article is part of a series to mark June as Gay Pride Month. It was originally published on on May 18, 2012. The publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site went dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

Author Brian Doherty explains Ron Paul’s ambivalence on gay issues
May 18, 2012 10:13 PM MST

Ron Paul gay issues Rick Sincere
Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul has a record on gay-rights issues that can best be described as mixed.

For instance, Dr. Paul was one of only four Republicans in the House of Representatives to vote in favor of repealing the ban on openly gay personnel in the armed forces known as “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.”

Paul also opposes a federal constitutional amendment that would prohibit same-sex marriage across the United States, yet he is the sponsor of legislation that would remove from federal courts the jurisdiction to hear and rule upon challenges to laws that ban gay marriage.

‘Voluntary and consensual agreements’
In his 2011 book, Liberty Defined, Paul suggests there should be a separation of marriage and state, just like there is separation of church and state.

In his chapter on marriage, he argues that “[if] the government was not involved, there would be no discussion or controversy over the definition of marriage. Why should the government give permission to two individuals for them to call themselves married? In a free society, something that we do not truly enjoy, all voluntary and consensual agreements would be recognized. If disputes arose, the courts could be involved as in any other civil dispute.”

This reference to the courts as protectors of contracts seems to be at odds with the bill he introduced to take marriage laws out of the jurisdiction of the federal courts.

‘One man and one woman’

Brian Doherty Ron Paul gay issues
While Paul seems to be tepidly endorsing the idea that same-sex couples could wed, he has said on several occasions that he thinks marriage should be limited to one man and one woman.

While campaigning in Iowa earlier this year, he said that he believes “that marriage is between one man and one woman and must be protected. I supported the Defense of Marriage Act, which used Congress’ constitutional authority to define what other states have to recognize under the Full Faith and Credit Clause to ensure that no state would be forced to recognize a same sex marriage license issued in another state.”

Journalist Brian Doherty has covered Ron Paul since 1999. He is the author of a new book, Ron Paul's rEVOLution: The Man and the Movement He Inspired. After a panel discussion about his book this week at the Cato Institute, the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner asked Doherty about what appears to be Ron Paul’s “uncharacteristically studied ambivalence” about gay rights issues, particularly with regard to marriage equality.

Something ‘weird’
Paying a compliment to his interviewer, Doherty replied that “It is likely that you know every twist and turn of his thoughts on this issue better than me,” but he did go on to offer a partial explanation for Paul’s positions.

“I remember where he’s come to at this point, where I think he reliably will give the ‘get government out of marriage entirely’ answer, but I know his history with things like DOMA is more complicated than that. I’ve honestly forgotten every twist and turn of it.”

At bottom, Doherty explained, Paul’s inconsistent positions on gay rights issues can be explained by the fact that “he’s a 77-year-old American man who’s lived in Texas. There probably is a personally rooted, religiously rooted sense” – and here Doherty spoke sotto voce – “that there’s something a little ‘weird’ about homosexuality that maybe he’s not entirely comfortable with.”

At the same time, Doherty noted, “I’m pretty sure both from watching him and knowing some of his associates, that that doesn’t come out in person, except possibly in a Bruno-esque situation” -- referring to a bizarre episode in the 2009 film Bruno in which actor Sacha Baron Cohen makes a pass at Ron Paul in a dimly-lit hotel room – “which I think is understandable.”

But, Doherty added, “circumstances and time had to probably open his mind a little on that question and I don’t personally fault him for it too much.”

In the end, he said, the answer to the gay-rights question that Ron Paul has come to embrace “seems to me about the correct libertarian-qua-libertarian answer.”

Complete audio of this interview with Brian Doherty can be heard as a podcast through Bearing Drift.

Additional excerpts from this interview focus on a post-Ron Paul political future and the decentralized nature of the Ron Paul phenomenon.

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