I must confess that I'm truly baffled by the level of support I'm seeing among my friends for presidential candidate Ron Paul. While the number of Paul fans in my circles is relatively small, he nonetheless enjoys the highest level of support from my LGBT-identified and equality-supporting friends out of all the non-LGBT-friendly candidates. In addition, the Ron Paul supporters I know tend to be passionately, often blindly, devoted to their candidate, steamrolling over any criticisms of Paul, no matter how legitimate, and simply dismissing out of hand those they cannot out-argue.
To many people, Ron Paul's sound bites are very appealing. Smaller government. Individual liberty. Legalization of marijuana and other drugs. (Yes, I think this has a lot to do with the support Paul receives, especially among young people and college students.) Unfortunately, it's been my experience that most supporters of Ron Paul stop there and either don't dig any further or ignore the digging done by others. This alarms me, because Ron Paul's record is very, very anti-gay.
On his best days, Ron Paul supports the so-called "states' rights" position regarding marriage equality. On his worst, he has specifically bragged about his efforts to obstruct and attack LGBT people's civil rights and gone out of his way to slander and mischaracterize LGBT people.
Setting aside the generally disturbing deployment of the "states' rights" argument at all, given its shameful history as a justifier of slavery and Jim Crow laws in this country, I'd like to ask Mr. Paul (as well as those who profess to support both Ron Paul and LGBT equality) why LGBT couples should be the only Americans whose marriages are subject to the "states' rights" standard. Why should only LGBT people, but not straight people, have to seek the approval of our state legislatures and/or citizenry in order to marry the people we love? Why should our marriages be the only ones that dissolve when we cross state lines? And why is this an acceptable state of affairs, especially given the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees equal protection under the law to all American citizens?
"Yeah," many of my Paul-supporting friends will say, "but that's just your opinion."
This brings up another point: the difference between opinion and fact. Maybe it's just me, but in this era of false equivalency memes, it appears as though this distinction is being increasingly overlooked. A fact is something that is empirically true and can be supported by evidence, while an opinion is a belief that may or may not be backed up with some type of evidence, usually taking the form of a subjective statement that can be emotionally based or result from a person's individual interpretation of a fact.
- FACT: Ron Paul's presidential campaign issued a flyer that boasted about the candidate's efforts to introduce legislation that would remove challenges to the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act from the federal court system.
- FACT: Ron Paul's Iowa state director is Mike Heath, a long-term Christian-right activist who formerly served as the board chairman of an SPLC-certified anti-gay hate group known as "Americans for Truth About Homosexuality."
- FACT: Ron Paul has a long history of racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic comments.
- FACT: As state above, Ron Paul supports the so-called "states' rights" approach to marriage, but interestingly, only for LGBT couples.
- FACT: Ron Paul said, "If I were in Congress in 1996, I would have voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, which used Congress' constitutional authority to define what official state documents 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."
- FACT: Ron Paul opposes the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would prohibit discrimination against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity by civilian, nonreligious employers.
Based on the above examples and so many others, there is no way one can honestly characterize Ron Paul's past statements and record as anything other than anti-gay. Of course, LGBTs and supporters of LGBT equality, like all voters, can and should vote for whomever they choose. I am neither disputing that right nor attempting in any way to tell anyone how to vote. What I am saying, however, is that LGBT and pro-LGBT voters should at least acknowledge that a vote for a candidate like Ron Paul is a vote for someone who opposes their rights.