Rand Paul Consistently Defends Discrimination

In the past, when Senator Rand Paul has been asked about enforcement of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or other civil rights bills, he’s fallen back on the idea that you can better assure, for example, desegregated lunch counters by denying that particular Woolworth’s your business than by enacting federal legislation. When it came to housing, he said this, “Decisions concerning private property and associations should in a free society be unhindered. As a consequence, some associations will discriminate.”

Using this rough logic, if you can call it that, people who seek to order lunch or buy a home are behaving a certain way. And people who deny patrons a meal or won’t sell them a house are also behaving a certain way. And people should be free to behave pretty much however they want. In a free society, some people will exhibit racist behaviors: “some associations will discriminate.” Other people will try to do certain things and find that they can’t accomplish them because of their race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. But no one told them that they couldn’t try.

For Rand Paul, the best way to change someone’s behaviors is to behave some way yourself. Like Indiana Governor Mike Pence, who said he wouldn’t continue to eat at a restaurant that turned away gay couples, Rand Paul thinks that businesses can best be persuaded to serve all people by the threat of lost business from customers whose patronage they actually want.

So, pretty much across the board, Senator Rand Paul thinks about civil rights as a matter of how people behave rather than a matter well-suited for legal solutions or protections.

But, then, look at this:

“I don’t think I’ve ever used the word gay rights, because I don’t really believe in rights based on your behavior.” –Senator Rand Paul

The logic of that statement appears straightforward. Being black or a woman, how old you are, are not things you can change through behavioral modifications, but who you are physically attracted to is purely a matter of choice. Someone can deny you a sandwich or a wedding cake based on their perception of your sexual orientation because the presumption is that you behave a certain way, not that you are a certain way.

So, suddenly, the gay couple seeking dinner is distinct from the black gentleman seeking lunch, even though their behaviors are nearly identical.

If you’re seeking some consistency here, it’s not that hard to find. Rand Paul, in all circumstances, defends the right to discriminate and opposes the government’s right to protect people from discrimination.

He’ll shift around how he justifies these positions, but the positions remain the same.

There’s a certain appeal to the Paulista philosophy that has the potential to attract a lot of people in the younger generations, but here we see him running afoul of a core value of our youth, which is that gays should not be denied the same rights as everyone else.

It’s not just that he seems to be insisting that sexual orientation is a choice, but also that he wants to defend people’s right to behave any way they want, even in an openly discriminatory manner, unless their behavior involves sex.

This is not a winning position and it will hurt Paul badly with the very generations that might otherwise flock to his campaign.

[Cross-posted at Progress Pond]

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.