Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Wednesday the government shouldn't step in to protect workers against anti-gay discrimination by their employers, arguing that such protections are unnecessary and would expose businesses to legal problems.
Paul, speaking to students at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, was asked whether he believes businesses should have the right to fire employees because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
"I think really the things you do in your house, we could just leave those in your house and they wouldn't have to be part of the workplace," said Paul, who is running for the GOP presidential nomination. "I don't know if we need to keep adding to different classifications to say government needs to be involved in the hiring and firing. I think society is rapidly changing and if you are gay, there are plenty of places that will hire you."
According to Paul, banning discrimination against LGBT workers would create "a class of people who can now sue."
"It sets up a whole industry for people who want to sue," he said."If you happen to be gay and you get fired, now you have a reason you [were fired]. ... People don't put up a sign and say, 'I'm firing you because you're gay.' It's something that's very much disputed."
Paul has previously argued against federal protection of LGBT rights. After the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality in June, Paul said while he supports the right of all Americans to "contract," the government shouldn't be involved in marriage at all.
"Since government has been involved in marriage, they have done what they always do -- taxed it, regulated it and now redefined it," he wrote in a Time op-ed. "It is hard to argue that government's involvement in marriage has made it better, a fact also not surprising to those who believe government does little right."
In 2013, Paul voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would make it illegal for employers to discriminate against LGBT workers. Paul later explained his vote in a Courier-Journal op-ed, saying he did so in part to protect religious groups against "discrimination." In the same op-ed, he said it is "offensive to compare the civil rights struggle of the 1960s to the issues associated with ENDA."
Samantha-Jo Roth contributed reporting from Iowa.