Appearing on NPR's "Here and Now" Thursday, U.S. Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky., says his controversial comments equating gay marriage to bestiality are being misinterpreted.
During an interview with radio show host Glenn Beck, the two discussed the high court's decision to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act and uphold a lower-court's decision that struck down Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriage in California.
Beck argued that changing marriage laws allows for new definitions of the institution, such as polygamy.
Paul questioned if lawmakers should use their moral beliefs when drafting bills but went further saying: "And I think this is a conundrum...If we have no laws on this, people take it to one extension further—does it have to be humans? You know?"
Paul told NPR the same thing, but added the comments are being misunderstood and that people should listen to the recording again.
"In the interview we were talking about not having laws. We weren't talking about gay marriage. We weren't talking about DOMA," he says. "What we were talking about was whether state government should be involved at all and if there are no state government rules what could potentially happen."
"And there was also a tone of sarcasm. You need to go back and put in parentheses when you read the transcript."
Paul, who is considered a contender for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, has been speaking to audiences for months on the need for Republicans to reach out to different constituencies particularly racial minorities.
Last year, Paul told WFPL that Mitt Romney's electoral map was limited and the party needed to reevaluate its national strategy. A number of Republicans have come out in support of gay marriage, but Paul remains a believer in the traditional definition and said same-sex unions should be left up to the states.
"My original concern about him in 2010 was when he was talking about (racial) segregation at private business, which I felt like was a very short-sighted way of looking at things," says Brad Cummings, a former Jefferson County GOP chair who supports same-sex marriage. "If he says he was joking I understand that, but I think he should probably watch that in the future if he wants to be a national candidate."
Asked about Paul's recent comments, gay rights leaders in Kentucky appear unconvinced and say them being called sarcastic makes it worse.
"I don't believe he was joking. I believe he was very sincere and his backtracking now is pretty pathetic," says the Rev. Maurice Blanchard, who has protested against Kentucky's ban on gay marriage. "This shows how inept Senator Paul is about issues that are crucial to humanity that go far beyond a political view."
In the wake of the Supreme Court rulings, gay right opponents downplayed the decision and pointed out it does not legalize same-sex unions in the state. The Family Foundation of Kentucky made it a point to say they disagree with the decision, but it is not the "Roe v. Wage" of gay marriage.
Chris Hartman is executive director of the Louisville Fairness Campaign. He says the fact Paul went further than the Family Foundation shows how out of touch he is with voters.
"If Senator Paul wants to marry his dog he is welcome to build a ground swell of support in America necessary to effect that change," he says. "But this is not what this movement is about. This is a seminal civil rights moment, and to draw the dialogue into an absurd realm has no relevance. Senator Paul is a desperate attention seeker and a headline hound."
Listen to Here and Now's interview with Paul on immigration reform, gay marriage and NSA leaker Edward Snowden.