For the right wing, Paul Ryan is the perfect representation of their budgetary priorities — low spending on social services, high spending on defense and the slow unraveling of entitlements for younger Americans. What goes under the radar, however, is his commitment to right-wing cultural values, which is just as strong as his disdain for the welfare state.
On abortion, Ryan is in the far-right of his party. As Michelle Goldberg explains for the Daily Beast, he doesn’t believe that women have any right to terminate a pregnancy, even if the circumstances are dire. To wit, he co-sponsored the Sanctity of Life Act, which declares that a fertilized egg “shall have all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood.” It would criminalize all abortion, as well as in vitro fertilization and some forms of birth control. Indeed, it stands as one of the most extreme anti-abortion measures currently floating in Congress.
On gay rights, he’s just as reactionary. He supports amending the Constitution to ban same-sex marriage, and voted for the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2004 and 2006. He supports the Defense of Marriage Act and in 2003, approved of a bill that would prevent federal courts from considering DOMA and possibly overturning it. He voted in 1999 to keep same-sex couples from adopting in the District of Columbia, he opposed last year’s effort to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and when the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act came up for a vote in 2009, Ryan placed his name in opposition. At most, he supported the 2007 version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would have prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
The Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT rights organization, gave Ryan a 0 percent rating on its score card in 2006. Likewise, the ACLU gave him a 13 percent rating on civil rights when they evaluated his record in 2002.
Ryan receives credit, from all sides, for being a “principled” opponent of government. That’s only partially true. When we need to deal with market failures and provide security for the least well-off, Paul Ryan is a dedicated libertarian. But when it comes to women’s bodily autonomy or the rights of same-sex couples, Ryan is happy to enforce his views with the power of the state.