Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) argued on the campaign trail on Wednesday that there is no need for employment protections for LGBT people. He claimed there are plenty of opportunities available to them and that creating such protections will only lead to government-sanctioned litigiousness, according to NBC News.
“I think society is rapidly changing and that if you are gay, there are plenty of places that will hire you,” Paul told a crowd at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, in response to a question about whether employers should be able to fire someone based on their sexual identity. “I think, really, the things you do in your house, just leave those in your house and they wouldn’t have to be a part of the workplace, to tell you the truth.”
In keeping with his libertarian leanings, Paul also rejected the need to designate separate classes of people, arguing that classifying the LGBT community as a “protected class,” in the way that laws already recognize characteristics such as race, gender and ethnicity, will simply create a new group “who can now sue.”
“So what happens is it sets up a whole industry of people who want to sue,” Paul said. “So if you happen to be gay, you get fired — now you have a reason you can fire them. But it’s almost impossible sometimes — you know, people don’t put up a sign, ‘I’m firing you because you’re gay.’ It’s something that’s very much disputed. And so I don’t know that we need to keep adding to different classifications to say the government needs to be involved in the hiring and firing.”
Similar arguments have been made over the years in response to calls for LGBT nondiscrimination protections, particularly by Republicans, by dint of being the party opposed to superfluous lawsuits and in favor of tort reform. But LGBT groups, as well as Democratic-leaning candidates or organizations — who have only recently embraced LGBT rights as one of the planks of their party — pounced, arguing that Paul is out-of-touch and that his comments were both offensive and insensitive.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton responded to Paul’s comments on Twitter, tweeting: “The feeling when a GOP candidate says it’s acceptable to be fired for being gay,” with a .gif file of Clinton smiling and saying, “No” in Tuesday’s Democratic presidential debate. The Democratic-leaning political action committee American Bridge 21st Century posted a video of Paul’s exchange under the headline: “Rand Paul Out-Offends Himself on LGBT Rights,” adding that there were “almost too many offensive quotes” packed into his answer.
Meanwhile, the Human Rights Campaign seized upon Paul’s remarks as out-of-step with most Americans and an example of why Congress should pass the comprehensive Equality Act, which would amend the Civil Rights Act to prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination in employment, housing, credit and public accommodations.
“Rand Paul appears to be living in a different era,” said JoDee Winterhof, HRC’s senior vice president for policy and political affairs. “People should not be required to live in the closet or hide who they are in order to be treated equally and fairly under the law. Rand Paul is going to find very little support for his veiws among the nine out of 10 Americans who have an LGBT person in their lives. But Rand Paul’s comments do beg the question of whether his fellow candidates will call him out for embracing a platform of discrimination.”
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