Sen. Rand Paul said he doesn’t buy into the concept of gay rights because they are defined by a gay person’s lifestyle.
“I don’t think I’ve ever used the word gay rights, because I don’t really believe in rights based on your behavior,” the Kentucky Republican told reporters in a videotaped interview that has received little attention since it was recorded in 2013.
But it’s unclear how far — and to whom — Paul extends the argument that rights cannot be defined by behavior.
Practicing religion, for example, is a behavior enshrined as a primary American right. Free speech is behavior protected by the Bill of Rights. Likewise, a person’s right to be free from discrimination for his or her nation of origin — which entails the behavior of moving from one country to the United States — is embedded in America’s civil rights laws and broader code of values.
Does Paul believe those behaviors are protected rights?
Eleanor May, a spokesperson for Paul’s 2016 re-election campaign to the U.S. Senate, said the rights that count are those in the country’s founding charter. “What he is saying in this video is that he does not classify rights based on behavior, but rather recognizes rights for all, as our Constitution defines it,” May told BuzzFeed News.
“Sen. Paul is the biggest proponent for protecting the Bill of Rights, which, as you know, protects the rights of all Americans as stated in our Constitution,” May said.
The campaign did not reply to BuzzFeed News’ question seeking clarification on gay people’s rights not associated with their behavior.
Reports have shown gay people are the victims of persistent discrimination — perhaps most notably, in the workplace, as this Williams Institute report found — not because of any behavior they have engaged in, but for being gay or being perceived as gay. Of the 5,928 hate crimes reported by the FBI in December 2014, 20.8% were against people for their their sexual orientation, overwhelmingly in public places including streets, sidewalks, stores, schools, and public transit where victims are unlikely to be engaged in homosexual behavior.
This is not the only time Paul has commented on gay rights — not that he would call them that. Earlier in March, he said same-sex marriage "offends myself and a lot of people.” And last week, Paul argued same-sex marriage results from a "moral crisis" that will require "another Great Awakening with tent revivals of thousands of people saying, ‘reform or see what’s going to happen if we don’t reform.’”