Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) opposes same-sex marriage, but he’s previously expressed some ambivalence about banning it at the federal level because of his interest in preserving states’ rights. At a press conference Tuesday, he offered a convoluted new solution for marriage equality that simply erases any mention of marriage from laws or provisions about benefits:
PAUL: I’m not going to change who I am or what I believe in. I am an old-fashioned traditionalist. I believe in the historical definition of marriage. That being said, I think contracts between adults — I’m not for limiting contracts between adults. In fact, if there are ways to make the tax code more neutral where it doesn’t mention the word marriage, then we don’t have to redefine what marriage is.
We just don’t have marriage in the tax code. If health benefits are a problem, why don’t we not define them by marriage? Why don’t we say, you have another adult who lives in the house, and a kid who lives in the house can be part of family coverage? Then you don’t have to redefine, and have people like myself, and people who live in the Southeastern part of the country, we don’t have to change our definition of what we think marriage is, but we allow contracts to occur so there is more ability to [make] the law neutral.
The premise of Paul’s plan conflates the government’s recognition of marriage with religion’s. Even in “the Southeastern part,” including his home state of Kentucky, various churches support marriage equality for same-sex couples. Given his disinterest in supporting same-sex couples — or even letting children learn that gay people exist — it’s unlikely he’ll attract a very large coalition to erase everybody’s marriages to allow for these random contracts. Even if he could, it would be incredibly easy to abuse such contracts, such as acquiring insurance benefits for a roommate who isn’t really considered “family.”
Moreover, Paul claimed this week that his epic filibuster was intended to defend young people, advocating for a more “tolerant” Republican Party because Millenials “simply have no desire to tell other people what to do or how to live.” Offering an untenable idea that impacts everybody to avoid taking an actually tolerant position falls far short of this principle.