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“The question is what social mores – can some social mores be part of legislation?” Paul asked philosophically.
Later in the day, he appeared on Fox News and walked back his earlier comments. Via Mediaite, here's a writeup and the video clip.
“I think this is a conundrum. If we have no laws on this, people take it to one extension further – does it have to be humans? You know?”
“I think my point that I was trying to make is that government has been involved in marriage for a while and it’s been at the state level,” Paul told [Fox host Megyn] Kelly. “I think if we leave it at the state level, there will be room to disagree.” He clarified, “I don’t think it will be with multiple humans and I think it will be human and human.”
“I don’t think we’re going on towards polygamy or things beyond that,” Paul continued, “but I do think that our country is divided on the issue and that in some ways, the Supreme Court decision is probably going to allow us to agree to disagree.” He predicted that while some states like New York may move forward with gay marriage in the short term, others in the south will not for the “foreseeable future.”
In comments to USA Today, Paul emphasized the decentralized approach—and his opposition to gay marriage:
"The good side to this ruling is that they have affirmed to states that this is a state issue and states can decide," he said, offering this message to people who oppose recognition of gay marriage: "The battle is going to be lost at the federal level. Concentrate on your state."
“As a country we can agree to disagree,” Paul said today, stopping for a moment to talk as he walked through the Capitol. “As a Republican Party, that’s kind of where we are as well. The party is going to have to agree to disagree on some of these issues.”
The comments from Paul, a likely GOP presidential candidate in 2016, highlight how the party’s field could divide over gay marriage. Many Republicans have been unusually muted in their reactions to the Supreme Court rulings today.
Paul said he agreed with Kennedy, whom he called “someone who doesn’t just want to be in front of opinion but wants government to keep up with opinion.” He said Kennedy “tried to strike a balance.”
There's no reason to doubt Paul's commitment to pushing the definition of marriage down to the state level. To be sure, it's not clear that the states are the appropriate place to make this particular decision. Apart from technical questions about how, for instance, states with differing definitions of marriage would adjudicate competing claims, if a right is central to human flourishing, then it need be respected at all levels of government, especially the federal one.
But let's skip that question, on which lots of people can disagree, for the moment. Rand Paul's immediate reaction flies in the face of what I, following Forbes' James Poulos, called the Kentuckian's "Hipster Outreach Mofo Party Plan," which smartly focuses on lifestyle diversity not just as a given in any political movement but a strength:
"We need to be like the rest of America," Paul told the gathering. "We need to grow bigger. If you want to be the party of white people, we're winning all the white vote."