Here's How Rand Paul Explains Why the GOP Can't Favor Marriage Equality

The libertarian Kentucky senator was both for a "big tent" and against changing the party's views.

BY Lucas Grindley

August 13 2014 2:18 PM ET

Republican leaders have at times said they no longer want their party to be seen as antigay. But Rand Paul, considered a possible presidential candidate in 2016, says the GOP "can’t become the opposite of what it is."

In an interview this week with The New York Times magazine, the Kentucky Republican said his party risks losing Southern voters if it was perceived to have changed its approach to blocking LGBT equality.

“The party can’t become the opposite of what it is,” he told the Times. “If you tell people from Alabama, Mississippi or Georgia, ‘You know what, guys, we’ve been wrong, and we’re gonna be the pro-gay-marriage party,’ they’re either gonna stay home or — I mean, many of these people joined the Republican Party because of these social issues. So I don’t think we can completely flip."

In the article — headlined "Has the 'Libertarian Moment' Finally Arrive?" — Paul went on to say Republican might still be able to use a libertarian approach to be more welcoming. 

"Can we become, to use the overused term, a bigger tent?," he said. "I think we can and can agree to disagree on a lot of these issues. I think the party will evolve. It’ll either continue to lose, or it’ll become a bigger place where there’s a mixture of opinions.”

Paul has historically opposed same-sex marriage, though at times his explanation is confusing. He calls it a state issue but expects the federal government will "still probably be involved in defining marriage to a certain aspect," And that had him repeatedly denying he was suggesting that striking down the Defense of Marriage Act could lead to legalized polygamy or bestiality.

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