Dan Savage runs a letter from a reader pushing back against his tolerance of Paul’s record on gays:

Ron Paul does not advocate for leaving gays alone. He simply advocates for the states to be able to oppress them instead of Washington. Take, for example, this 2003 article. Paul decries the Supreme Court’s Lawrence v Texas decision that eliminated state sodomy laws:

“Consider the Lawrence case decided by the Supreme Court in June. The Court determined that Texas had no right to establish its own standards for private sexual conduct, because gay sodomy is somehow protected under the 14th amendment ‘right to privacy.’ Ridiculous as sodomy laws may be, there clearly is no right to privacy nor sodomy found anywhere in the Constitution. There are, however, states’ rights—rights plainly affirmed in the Ninth and Tenth amendments. Under those amendments, the State of Texas has the right to decide for itself how to regulate social matters like sex, using its own local standards. But rather than applying the real Constitution and declining jurisdiction over a properly state matter, the Court decided to apply the imaginary Constitution and impose its vision on the people of Texas.”

Essentially, Paul has no interest in leaving anybody alone. He only wants to get rid of one government scared into submission by oppressive douchebags and replace it with 50 governments scared into submission by oppressive douchebags. That’s not really any better, and I think you may have missed that in your statement to Dave Weigel.

All this is true. Paul really is a federalist in the extreme sense, and he would give states and their courts the power to decide issues such as these. Of course, that also means that those states, like Massachusetts or Iowa or New York, can advance gay equality in a more organic, less top-down way – and Paul, unlike his colleagues, does not back a federal marriage amendment to prevent them. And note that Paul finds anti-sodomy laws “ridiculous”. Sorry to break the news, but he’s a libertarian.

He is the target now of ads run by NOM because of his refusal to sign their heteros-only marriage pledge. He is not for marriage equality – but the rest of the field are just as bad (as is Obama on the marriage issue alone). Now we find some ugly early statements about people with AIDS, from the 1980s:

“The individual suffering from AIDS certainly is a victim – frequently a victim of his own lifestyle – but this same individual victimizes innocent citizens by forcing them to pay for his care.”

The first point is callous, the second undeniable – but intrinsic to all group insurance. And in terms of libertarianism, you could easily substitute “lung cancer” and get the same result. This is Hitch’s view of his own illness. I certainly take responsibility for mine as well. The absence of any core compassion – and from a doctor! – is awful and glib and nasty. As for the rest, it’s libertarianism writ large. I too loathe identity politics, back limited government, and states’ rights.

I’m no longer endorsing Ron Paul, because he has failed to take responsibility for the newsletters and because his libertarianism really is too extreme for me. But I think the attacks on his writing over two decades ago – when attitudes toward gays and HIV were extremely different than today – is less important than his commitment to limiting government, at home and abroad, now. And I do not believe that he is a bigot. In fact, I think he is remarkably free of such prejudice for a man of his background and generation. Which may be why opponents have to trawl through material two decades old to get him.