Kentucky’s Rand Paul, who says same-sex marriage is the result of a moral crisis, is running for president

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) AP

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)AP

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky entered the campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination Tuesday with a declaration that he’s running for the White House to “return our country to the principles of liberty and limited government.”

That message posted on his website prefaced a kickoff speech later in the day in Louisville.

“I am running for president,” his web message said. In remarks to supporters, Paul could be counted on to be a fierce critic of Washington, where he is in his first term as a senator but seldom in line with his party’s leadership.

Paul’s challenge now is to convince Republican primary voters and caucus-goers that his is a vision worthy of the GOP presidential nomination, a prize twice denied his father, former Rep. Ron Paul of Texas.

On social issues, Paul opposes a federal ban on same-sex marriage, arguing states should decide for themselves, but says the Republican Party has room for people on both sides of the issue.

He was criticized recently for a 2013 interview that resurfaced online in which he said he has never used the term “gay rights” because he doesn’t believe “in rights based on your behavior.”

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Last month, Paul told pastors that a “moral crisis that allows people to think that there would be some other form of marriage.”

Previously, he said that same-sex marriage should remain banned because it “offends myself and a lot of people.”

Paul has backed legislation that sought to ban abortion, yet upset some social conservatives by saying U.S. public opinion is too divided to change federal abortion laws. He’s urged GOP leaders to focus less on gay marriage and abortion as a way to help the party grow.

Paul begins the 2016 race as just the second fully declared candidate, behind Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, but he could face as many as 20 rivals for the nomination before the lead-off Iowa caucuses in February.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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