One of the benefits of absolutist ethical systems is that they can force you to maintain your integrity when unethical positions are convenient or temporarily beneficial. So it was that libertarian Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tx) emerged from Monday’s New Hampshire debate among GOP Presidential hopefuls as the only candidate who rejected limiting the participation of gays in the military and the infamous “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy. While Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum (naturally), Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty all said, in various and convoluted ways, that they supported DADT, Paul cut precisely to what is ethically offensive about the policy.
“We have to remember, rights don’t come in groups,” Paul said. “We shouldn’t have gay rights. Rights come as individuals….it would be behavior that would count, not the person who belongs to which group.”
I am far, far from being a Ron Paul fan, for his libertarian principles lead him to as many irresponsible positions as ethical ones. And he is certainly emboldened to risk the displeasure of the Republican base as a candidate with about as much chance of getting the Republican nomination as I do (though more of a chance than Newt Gingrich). But on a night when six of his rivals pandered to homophobia and embraced a policy that both violates core American values and endorses lying, Ron Paul alone had the courage and principle to correctly place “Don’t Ask” where it belongs, in conflict with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.