WASHINGTON, November 29, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - As polls show Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul tied for first place in Iowa, media outlets have struggled to understand his distinctive stance on the issues, including same-sex “marriage.” Sheldon Alberts of Canada’s National Post, for example, wrote Monday that “Paul believes: Gays should be allowed to marry.”

The truth is more complex…and perhaps confusing. Congressman Paul’s view of same-sex “marriage” can best be summed up in one phrase: states rights. Ron Paul believes homosexuals should be allowed to “marry”…in states that legalize the practice.

At the same time, Paul is a lifelong Christian who says he personally believes in traditional marriage. In 2004, Paul said on the House floor, “I oppose federal efforts to redefine marriage as something other than a union between one man and one woman.” In August, Paul repeated, “I think that marriages should be between a single man and a single woman.” 

The Texas Congressman and 1988 Libertarian Party presidential candidate has a consistent record of supporting each state’s right to define marriage for itself: opposing attempts to overturn state anti-sodomy laws on one hand and to implement a federal constitutional amendment protecting marriage on the other.

However, Paul has also taken his libertarian views even further, repeatedly stating that he hopes the state will stop sanctioning marriages altogether.

“I think the government should just be out of it. I think it should be done by the church or private contract, and we shouldn’t have this argument,” he said recently.  “Who’s married and who isn’t married. I have my standards but I shouldn’t have to impose my standards on others. Other people have their standards and they have no right to impose their marriage standards on me.”

“But,” he continued, “if we want to have something to say about marriage it should be at the state level, and not at the federal government.”

In his newest book, Liberty Defined, Paul’s chapter on “Marriage” states, “In a free society…all voluntary and consensual agreements would be recognized.” He adds, “There should essentially be no limits to the voluntary definition of marriage.”

“Everyone can have his or her own definition of what marriage means, and if an agreement or contract is reached by the participants, it would qualify as a civil contract if desired…Why not tolerate everyone’s definition as long as neither side uses force to impose its views on the other? Problem solved!”

As might be expected, his position has not sat well with commentators on the Right. Syndicated columnist Ann Coulter took Ron Paul to task in a June column, writing that if states stop sanctioning marriages, legal chaos will erupt:

“How are child support and child custody issues determined if the government doesn’t recognize marriage? How about a private company’s health care plans - whom will those cover? Who has legal authority to issue “do not resuscitate” orders to doctors?...Who inherits in the absence of a will? Who is entitled to a person’s Social Security and Medicare benefits? How do you know if you’re divorced and able to remarry?”

After hearing Paul’s stance at the recent Thanksgiving Family Forum, Bob Vander Plaats of The Family Leader told the Des Moines Register, “I think he let his libertarian view trump his moral compass.”

On the other hand, the homosexual Republican group GOProud released a statement in May thanking Paul “for rightly making the case that marriage and family laws should be decided at the state level.”

Paul’s conflicted congressional record on homosexual issues reflects his commitment to federalism across-the-board. He voted to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” after previously supporting the policy. But he also opposed federal “hate crimes” legislation and criticized the Supreme Court’s 2003 Lawrence v. Texas case for overriding state anti-sodomy laws.

In 2004, Paul said on the House floor, “If I were in Congress in 1996, I would have voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, which used Congress’s constitutional authority to define what official state documents other states have to recognize under the Full Faith and Credit Clause, to ensure that no state would be forced to recognize a ‘same sex’ marriage license issued in another state.” The same year, he co-sponsored the Marriage Protection Act, which would have removed judicial challenges to DOMA from federal courts’ jurisdiction.  (The Marriage Protect Act passed the House, but not the Senate.)

Paul’s views are similar to those of two other Republican presidential hopefuls. Fellow Libertarian New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson has said, “I support gay unions. I think the government ought to get out of the marriage business.” Former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer has agreed, saying, “Each state has a right to determine how it defines a marriage.”

However, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum has strongly challenged Paul, saying: “It sounds to me like Rep. Paul would actually say polygamous marriages are OK…We can’t have 50 marriage laws.”

Paul’s position may receive more scrutiny because of initiatives such as a New Hampshire bill that would legalize civil unions between any two consenting adults, including siblings.

Paul views his opposition to same-sex “marriage” as a personal, religious decision. However, he is unfailingly pro-life on abortion. While he believes the Constitution makes abortion a state issue, he believes “being pro-life is necessary to defend liberty.” 

The doctor’s views were solidified after he witnessed a late term abortion. In his 1983 book-length tract Abortion and Liberty, Paul shared Ludwig von Mises’ view that abortion is “egregious and repulsive,” and he continues to believe abortion has been legalized because traditional morality has eroded.

He wrote in Liberty Defined that he considers protecting the unborn “a state-level responsibility.” His 2007 Sanctity of Life Act would have declared “the term ‘person’ shall include all human life” from the moment of conception. He supports the full defunding of Planned Parenthood at home and all “family planning” measures around the world. Paul told LifeSiteNews.com in an interview last February that he would favor a bill that would bar federal courts from ruling on abortion-related matters.

LifeSiteNews attempted to contact the National Organization for Marriage but did not receive a response by deadline.