Scroll To Top




Gay Libertarians face off over Ron Paul's idealism and what it means in the fight for gay rights.

Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul aggressively opposes the Iraq war, the war on drugs, the Patriot Act, and numerous actions of the Federal Reserve. Unfortunately, many say he feels the same way about gay rights.

Paul is a Libertarian-leaning Texas congressman who has recently party-crashed the neoconservative movement from within the GOP. An aggressive antiestablishment speaker who is frequently cited as the most Internet-savvy candidate, Paul has gained a proactive fan base that has made him a leader in Web searches, YouTube views, and many Republican straw polls. His grassroots supporters, many of them young technology aficionados, have launched what has become known as the "Ron Paul revolution" -- and they helped him pull in $6 million on December 16, the largest fund-raising day for any presidential candidate in U.S. history.

Paul's cult-like following is largely the result of his proximity to Libertarian and Constitutionalist politics. He ran for president on the Libertarian Party ticket in 1988, winning little media attention but plenty of Libertarian street cred. As a GOP congressman, Paul has earned the nickname Dr. No because of his career as an obstetrician and his refusal to vote for anything not specifically sanctioned by the Constitution -- including the Iraq war and the Patriot Act. Often portrayed as a Libertarian in Republican disguise, he still upholds the majority of the Libertarian platform and has the support of many party members.

"Libertarians strongly oppose any government interfering in their personal, family and business decisions," reads the Libertarian website. "Essentially, we believe all Americans should be free to live their lives and pursue their interests as they see fit as long as they do no harm to another. In a nutshell, we are advocates for a smaller government, lower taxes and more freedom."

Does this desired freedom extend to gays? Since its inception, the party has had a strong LGBT caucus and several LGBT activist groups. Although Paul is fervently laissez-faire and would be delighted to do away with the vast majority of government departments and programs, the issue of gay rights is where he parts company with most of his Libertarian brethren.

Although Paul has defended the right of gays to serve in the military and voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment, he has praised the federal Defense of Marriage Act, voted against funds to assist gay couples in adopting children in the District of Columbia, and defended "don't ask, don't tell." To many observers, the latter positions are the definition of anti-Libertarianism. (He could not vote for DOMA because he was not in Congress at the time, but he has said he would have voted for it.)

Paul has also come under recent scrutiny for receiving endorsements and donations from bigots such as Don Black, proprietor of the white supremacist online forum Stormfront. The Anti-Defamation League has called on Paul to distance himself from hate groups. "If he doesn't do that, then we will decide what we're going to say publicly about it," Steven Freeman, the ADL's assistant director of civil rights, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Paul weakly countered this criticism by pointing out that he doesn't screen his 57,000 daily donations, and he said he would keep Black's $500 donation because Black would have less money to spend on his hate-related activities.

Paul's voting record is likewise dubious. "Paul always calls himself a conservative. He never calls himself a Libertarian -- and he is telling the truth," says Libertarian presidential hopeful George Phillies (the party will choose its candidate at its national convention in May). "The main threat of his platform is not that it will be enacted -- he is in sixth place in the polls. The main threat is that people will confuse his platform with decent Libertarian stands. Real Libertarians abhor homophobic bigotry -- 'don't ask, don't tell,' blocking gay marriage, blocking gay adoptions."

"The LP offers an uncompromising stance on equal rights regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity -- with sexual rights in the Libertarian platform for more than three decades," says Rob Power, who chairs Outright Libertarians, a gay group within the party, and supports Phillies's candidacy. "Paul's ideology is socially conservative/traditionalist/federalist. It's not really Libertarian because it still supports government control over individual lives -- merely at the state, not federal, level. Paul is likable and principled, but his principles are biblical, not Libertarian or even Constitutionalist, because he ignores the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause."

But some still feel Paul's commitment to freedom is genuine. Eric Duare, a gay Paul supporter and registered Republican who has described the Libertarian Party as "futile" on account of its failure to break through to a mainstream audience, defends Paul's adoption vote, saying it was not a vote against adoptions by gays but a vote against federal funds for them.

"It would bother me if he were taking an antigay, discriminatory stance, but he was not," Duare says. "Paul has stated that he voted against the bill not because it could affect gays, but because the federal government has no constitutional authority to spend money promoting adoption -- or defaming it either. He said he would have voted against any bill that did this, with or without the 'related by blood or marriage' language, and I believe his record bears him out."

For many Libertarians and their philosophical cousins, the Ron Paul debate is one of purism versus pragmatism. The purists view Paul as an ideologically corrupted Libertarian and believe a vote for him is a vote against civil rights. The pragmatists acknowledge that while Paul slacks off on LGBT issues, he has received far more support than any Libertarian candidate and thus is worth the ideological negotiation. The idea is to let Paul secure Libertarian ideals in the mainstream's consciousness and to work out the details later.

Rocco Fama, vice president of the New York State chapter of Stonewall Libertarians, another gay group, has yet to decide if he will endorse Paul. He says he doesn't agree with Paul's gay adoption vote but believes Paul would never vote to ban adoptions by gays nationwide. Like many Libertarians, Fama applauds the progress Paul has made in bringing several issues to the masses, even though he doesn't agree with all of Paul's platform. "As a Republican, Ron Paul brings Libertarian ideas to a platform that LP candidates have no access to," Fama says.

Yet many still refuse to compromise gay rights.

"I condemn his stands on the issue," says Phillies, "They are anti-Libertarian to the core."

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

John Barclay