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Rand Paul says KY clerk’s gay marriage protest is ‘part of the American way’

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MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has given a mixed endorsement to a home state county clerk whose refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples has become national news.

"I think people who do stand up and are making a stand to say that they believe in something is an important part of the American way," Paul told Boston Herald Radio during a three-day campaign swing through the Northeast.

When asked about Rowan County, Kentucky clerk Kim Davis's ongoing refusal to issue licenses, in defiance of the Supreme Court's 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges ruling, Paul's campaign pointed to his Monday interview with the conservative Herald. The question was succinct, asking if Paul "back[ed] Kim Davis and her religious right" to defy the ruling. Paul's answer took him across the plains of legal theory before ending with the "making a stand" statement.

"I think one way to get around the whole idea of what the Supreme Court is forcing on the states is for states just to get out of the business of giving out licenses," Paul said. "Alabama has already voted to do this, they’re just no longer going to give out licenses. And anybody can make a contract. And then if you want a marriage contract you go to a church. And so I’ve often said we could have gotten around all of this also in the sense that I do believe everybody has a right to a contract."

Paul has given that answer on gay marriage questions consistently, before and after the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision that legalized the practice in every state. But the pro-gay rights Human Rights Campaign points out that Paul has co-sponsored the First Amendment Defense Act, a response to the decision that would prohibit "any discriminatory action against a person, wholly or partially on the basis that such person believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman."

In the Herald interview, Paul did not mention the FADA specifically, or "religious liberty" in general.

"There never should have been any limitations on people of the same sex having contracts, but I do object to the state putting its imprimatur to the specialness of marriage on something that’s different from what most people have defined as marriage for most of history," he said. "So one way is just getting the state out completely and I think that’s what we’re headed towards, actually. Whether or not people who still work for the state can do it without the legislature changing it is something I’m going to leave up to the courts exactly how to do it."