A Younger Conservative's Case Against Gay Marriage

Friday, March 22, 2013

Opponents of Proposition 8, California's anti-gay marriage bill, hold signs outside of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on February 7, 2012 in San Francisco, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/Getty)

In some ways, it seems apparent the tide has shifted when it comes to national opinion on the right of gay couples to marry — especially where younger voters are concerned. According to a New York Times/CBS poll from February, 45 percent of Republicans between 18- and 44-years-old now believe same-sex couples should be able to marry.

Still, some of gay marriage's most vocal opponents come from the youngest ranks of conservatives. Joseph Backholm, executive director of Family Policy Institute, explains why he hopes the Supreme Court upholds the Defense of Marriage Act.


Joseph Backholm

Produced by:

Mythili Rao

Comments [18]

Ed from Larchmont

The Church doesn't declare a marriage null if there are no children, it's if there have been no relations.

One reason to be against same-sex marriage is for public health reasons: same-sex activity is the way several serious diseases are transmitted. We shouldn't be encouraging that activity.

Mar. 25 2013 05:53 AM

Perusing the comments here, with the exception of Charles, it seems that most commenters are looking at the interview from an intensely personal point of view and are not considering the issue of gay marriage from a societal point of view. That is quite understandable, but it doesn't really get to the point the "young conservative" was attempting to make. He is concerned with the effect that a change in our laws will have on society, not himself. Whether you agree with his assessment of things (and I thought he made some thoughtfully compelling points) or not, the subject is not simply a matter of devaluing one person's choice regarding procreation. No, it is about the effect of gay marriage on the entire social order. As such, it is a worthy subject of debate and doesn't necessarily reflect an attitude of intolerance so much as it does a healthy note of caution. Decisions have consequences and we would do well to consider carefully what kind of society we wish to have and the effect of any proposed change in basic institutions.

Personally, I don't care about the subject of gay marriage all that much, but I can see why it is important to be cautious as we consider upending the established order. For example, if gay marriage is upheld, will this result in a legal conflict between those with strongly held religious beliefs and gay marriage advocates demanding their "rights"? This is already becoming an issue in states where gay marriage has been legalized and earnestly religious service vendors find themselves in legal trouble for refusing to provide their services to same-sex couples wishing to engage them for their weddings. If you don't respect religion, you can blithely joke about the effects this has on the religious in our society, but you are also, in the process, supporting the denial of religious freedom to those people--people who comprise a significant portion of the population. This is likely to lead to a conflict between a basic right enshrined in our Constitution, freedom of religion versus a newly discovered right to gay marriage. As I said, there are consequences to be considered. Some are foreseen, others less so.

On another note, I thought the interviewer's questions to be painfully obtuse. His clumsy attempts to draw the guest into some sort of statement that could then be used to demonstrate his "hateful attitude" was to me, and should have been for him, embarrassing. Really, isn't it possible to question people of differing opinions without trying to set them up for some kind of knee-jerk vilification? This is the very reason I don't watch Fox news and it is disappointing to find this tactic used here.

Mar. 23 2013 12:02 PM

Charles wrote the following:
'...The legislative questions belong in legislatures, and with public referenda and the individual states.

The U.S. Supreme Court faces the question(s) only as to whether duly-enacted laws offend some particular provision of the Constitution. It is the very same Constitution under which gay marriage prohibitions have existed for generations. So the argument as to why the Constitution should now be interpreted differently, and what it is in the Constitution protects a right to gay marriage, is a very specific, very technical and very important question."

The Supreme Court has addressed many issues such as these in the past. The history of civil rights is full of such cases. Gay marriage prohibitions may have existed for generation, but so did prohibitions against inter-racial marriage and segregation. Yet, the Supreme Court heard cases on these issues. So, I really don't see why it should not also hear arguments regarding the prohibition of gay marriage. There are certainly constitutional issues which can be addressed, namely, equality under the law.

Mar. 22 2013 07:46 PM
Peter from Salem, OR

I appreciated the guest's respectful tone as he interviewed with John, but his logic is flawed. Other commenters have pointed out certain flaws in Mr. Backholm's logical argument; namely the classes of people for whom child-based marriage would be considered moot. I wanted to point out another obvious flaw in his logic.
Mr. Backholm says that if marriage is about person to person commitment, and gays are allowed to marry, then logically we must allow close relatives to marry, adults to marry children, and people to marry multiple partners, because in each case they could claim to be loving and committed. Instead, he wants to reorient marriage to be about the importance of having children raised by their biological mother and father. However, if we define marriage this way, then we would have to allow close relatives to marry, adults to marry children (at least those of child-bearing age), and people to marry multiple partners, since in each case the couple could conceive and raise children.
I am not saying that Mr. Backholm is claiming that supporters of gay marriage must support marriage in these other cases as well. He is trying to say that with commitment-based marriage it is impossible to draw a fair and consistent line. However, his claim that child-based marriage solves this problem is obviously false.
I won't try to guess his true views, but it seems clear to me that he is trying to develop a line of logic that he can use to avoid saying what he really thinks. I would guess that he knows that his true opinions are rejected by the majority of people and he hopes that he can convince them with a seemingly logical argument. Unfortunately for him, his logic fails utterly.

Mar. 22 2013 06:34 PM

@Charles... I actually heard All Things Considered last night where they actually interviewed Ms. Windsor (the plaintiff in Windsor vs. United States aka the DOMA case) and did a great profile on her and the reasons she brought the suit to court.

Mr. Backholm used the usual canards from the opponents of marriage equality. Marriage is plain a simple a simple corporate contract. Nothing else. The argument that marriage is to procreate is disingenuous as it does not take into account childless marriages. This is a throwback to the days of yore when the Church could dissolve a marriage when there was no child in that marriage despite the couple having had sex with the other.

Mar. 22 2013 06:19 PM
Adam from NJ

Backholm's argument that the law should consider marriage in light of raising children doesn't do much for couples of different sexes where one person is infertile. According to his logic, these people should not be able to marry, either.

Mar. 22 2013 04:07 PM
NJ from Brooklyn

On a side note- I think "tolerance" is really the wrong word to use in relation to gay marriage. It implies that one must "tolerate" these marriages, which would imply that gay relationships have some kind of effect on straight marriages, or straight people for that matter. They dont. We shouldnt "tolerate" these unions any more than we would tolerate the marriages of straight people.

Mar. 22 2013 03:29 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

Gay people should be allowed to get married and have kids. I want Gay folk to suffer as much as I have in my heterosexual marriages. New careers in Gay Marriage Counciling, and Gay Marriage Divorce Lawyers are a coming

Mar. 22 2013 02:52 PM
Vic from Oregon

This infuriates me. As a single parent, a person with a sibling who is unable to have children, who has seen marriages created for medical benefits, citizenship, and other non-reproductive, non-love reasons, this man is so wrong. My children should have the right to marry the person that is right for them, and calling it akin to polygamy, incest, bestiality, is to muddle the conversation.

Mar. 22 2013 01:49 PM
Ryan from Portland, OR

As one who is seriously thinking about marage, I understand how important it is to be on the same page with my partner about having children. However, if we do marry it will because of my love for the other person & not because of their ability to raise children.

Mar. 22 2013 01:47 PM
John from oregon

If marriage is only for the sake of providing benefits and recognizing child baring parents then infertile couples, couples too old to have children, couple that choose not to have children should all be barred from marriage or have their marriages set aside. Because marriage is not only about love but a contract for inheriting social security, pensions and other financial benefits, it is only fair that a same sex couple be able to inherit such benefits .

Mar. 22 2013 01:44 PM

I agree with the other women without children. I have been happily married for 21 years without children on purpose. I deserve to be married just like anyone else in love. I believe if same-sex couple want to raise kids, please do! I do not!

Mar. 22 2013 01:41 PM
Carrie Beveridge

My husband and I do not have children. We never planned for children. By this guest's logic, that must mean that our marriage is invalid, right?

Mar. 22 2013 01:27 PM

So as an older woman with no children, here's another reason I'm not fit for equality in this guy's world. Good to know.

Mar. 22 2013 11:31 AM
Matt from Columbia, SC

It seems to me young people would want a system that weeds out the members of the opposite sex who want to get married so badly they would marry the opposite sex when they'd really prefer to marry the same sex. That would cut out a lot of the rampant cheating with the same sex among people married to the opposite sex.

Mar. 22 2013 10:10 AM

It's nice, that a public radio program took time out from the regular (and incessant, of late, as the Supreme Court takes on the two gay marriage cases of this term) scolding of its audience that any opposition to gay marriage is tanatmount to bigotry, to give voice to another side of the issue.

I'm glad that John Hockenberry had the decency and the intellectual honesty to let Mr. Backholm speak, and finish his answers to the questions.

But I got the distinct impression that John was basically forced to do the interview; that he had little tolerance for the interview subject, other than to use him as an object of cross-examination. The answers were much better than the questions. There is no way on earth, that John Hockenberry would take this tone with a representative of some ideology that public radio favors.

The photo that accompanies this story was a nice touch.

And as always, this story, like a half dozen other public radio stories of the past 72 hours does NOTHING to inform the audience about the issues presented to the Supreme Court for argument next week. Instead, all of these stories are asking questions about whether gay marriage is good, or acceptable, or reasonable, under general sorts of societal values. That is assuredly not a question posed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The legislative questions belong in legislatures, and with public referenda and the individual states.

The U.S. Supreme Court faces the question(s) only as to whether duly-enacted laws offend some particular provision of the Constitution. It is the very same Constitution under which gay marriage prohibitions have existed for generations. So the argument as to why the Constitution should now be interpreted differently, and what it is in the Constitution protects a right to gay marriage, is a very specific, very technical and very important question.

Mar. 22 2013 09:51 AM

What about children who's mother and father have died??? Should we let elderly adults who cannot have children Marry??? Should we prevent military whose lives are on the line from having children??? Where in marriage vows, are the couples' commitment and obligations to their children voiced???

Anyway, "thanks for sharing" your narrow minded view, Mr Backhome

Mar. 22 2013 09:34 AM
Sven from NYC

I am one listener who *does* question the guest's central tenet, that there is a substantial benefit to children of having parents of both genders.

Mar. 22 2013 09:28 AM

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