The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage


“Many of my fellow conservatives have an almost knee-jerk hostility toward gay marriage. This does not make sense, because same-sex unions promote the values conservatives prize. Marriage is one of the basic building blocks of our neighborhoods and our nation. At its best, it is a stable bond between two individuals who work to create a loving household and a social and economic partnership. We encourage couples to marry because the commitments they make to one another provide benefits not only to themselves but also to their families and communities. Marriage requires thinking beyond one’s own needs. It transforms two individuals into a union based on shared aspirations, and in doing so establishes a formal investment in the well-being of society. The fact that individuals who happen to be gay want to share in this vital social institution is evidence that conservative ideals enjoy widespread acceptance. Conservatives should celebrate this, rather than lament it.”

—Former Solicitor General Ted Olson in this week’s Newsweek magazine

WNC Conservatives like to talk about Smaller Government, but they seem fine with using the power of Big Government when it suits their own social agenda. I mean, heck, my good friend and old boss Carl Mumpower can get married and get divorced and get married again, but he’d deny me the right to marry even one person. What gives, Carl?

What is the conservative case against gay marriage and civil unions? What do my Republican friends Erika Franzi, Nathan Ramsey and Bobby Coggins have to say about it?

And how do the rest of you Hooligans feel?


  1. Chris Barron says:

    As a Republican, and a conservative Republican at that, I can think of very few substantive arguments against giving same-sex couples the same opportunities, benefits and obligations of opposite sex couples. As a conservative, however, I do believe there are plenty of procedural concerns about how we get marriage equality (I strongly believe these changes should be made by the people through their elected representatives and not through the over-reaching decisions of unelected judges. I also believe strongly that marriage and family law is the province of the states and NOT the federal government).

    What’s more conservative than encouraging people to enter into loving, long-term, committed relationships? We know that marriage works – that married people are happier, more succesful and live longer.

    Religious institutions are, and should be, free to determine whose relationships to sanction and whose to refuse to sanction – but that’s a role for religious institutions not for our government.

  2. Michael Muller says:

    Thank you for joining us here at Scrutiny Hooligans, Chris!

    By way of introduction, Chris is a North Carolina native and the Chairman of the Board of GOProud — a Washington, DC group that represents gay conservatives and their allies.

    Chris has penned opinion pieces for a variety of leading political figures and members of Congress, appearing in numerous print mediums nationwide including The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, Roll Call, The Hill, Politico, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Chicago Tribune, The Dallas Morning News, the San Francisco Chronicle and The Atlanta Journal Constitution. Chris has also appeared on numerous national and local television channels, including MSNBC, NBC, CBS, CNN, CNN Headline News, Fox News, and ABC News Now.

  3. Barry Summers says:

    So is the Log Cabin defunct?

  4. Paul -V- says:

    Here is the conservative case against gay marriage and civil unions: It provides them with a bogey-man to scare voters to the polls.

    It’s that simple.

  5. Erika Franzi says:

    Hi Michael,

    As we have discussed before, I do not have a problem with the government recognizing gay marriages or civil unions. It’s also not one of my primary issues. You won’t find me at a pro-same sex marriage rally. But you won’t find me in opposition to the government recognizing same sex marriage either.

    In a nutshell, here’s my position. Where government is the designator and interpreter of marriage, it is not the right of religion to define the institution. Where the church is the designator and interpreter of marriage, it is not the right of government to define the institution.

    For the record, I am not a conservative. I can’t understand why conservatives are still fighting this battle when, truth be told, they lost it a very long time ago. They really should let it go and get their own houses in order.


  6. Erika Franzi says:

    Religious institutions are, and should be, free to determine whose relationships to sanction and whose to refuse to sanction – but that’s a role for religious institutions not for our government.

    Amen, Chris.

  7. This is an issue I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. A couple quick thoughts.

    This battle started in the courts whose job it is to interpret the laws and constitutions at the various levels. It is telling that many states’ courts began to legalize gay marriage before the legislatures and plebiscites got involved to overturn such decisions. I have not studied the case law and arguments, so forgive me if I’m oversimplifying a little. But it is as if the courts said, “According to YOUR laws, you are all EQUAL and FREE.” And everyone said, “Equal and Free? Not here in America. Let’s get this changed back to we are UNEQUAL, and the only FREEDOM we want is that one group is free to impose restrictions on another group solely based on who they are.”

    Also, I think it is important for people to understand that members of both the right and the left combine to create majorities where restrictive measures against gay marriage have passed. I’m afraid that those against gay marriage are simply acting out a fundamental prejudice against homosexuality that is as completely irrational as any of the other prejudices we seek to overcome. To those that are for gay marriage, it might be worthwhile to examine your consciences (as I did mine recently and found grave defects) to make sure you are not on the one hand for gay marriage and on the other hand harboring some uneasiness about homosexuality. A majority for change will have a difficult time forming or convincing their opponents if the individuals fighting for change are muddled about the issue they are fighting for.

  8. John says:

    I have a friend who considered running for leadership of the BCGOP. This was one of the issues that made them rethink it was that they were pro-gay marriage. Apparently, there was some guy running YR’s that got pushed out by Tim Johnson. No one really knows the reason why but sexual orientation was one of the possibilities. And while that may be rumor, it seems all too easy to smear a good person in the GOP on this issue.

    While I’m not a Republican, I would find it difficult to fend off progressives on fiscal issues and then members of one’s own party on the social ones. To say nothing of trying to make it through a primary…

  9. Chris Barron could you explain to me how the numerous judicial decisions in several states finding in essense that equal protection and equal status of all citizens under the states own constitutions is an “over-reaching decisions of unelected judges.”

    Personally I find this kind of sweeping generalization about a very fundametal aspect of our system of government and the checks and balances put in place by the framers of the constitution denigrating to the judicial system and destructive to the core foundation of our democratic system.

  10. shadmarsh says:

    I am of the general position that all marriages should be gay.

  11. Gordon Smith says:


    “I do not believe that our society can ever live up to the promise of equality, and the fundamental rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, until we stop invidious discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”

  12. Chris Barron says:

    Christopher, in response to your question. First, under, the “system of government and the checks and balances put in place by the framers of the constitution” that you speak of, the judiciary branch’s role is to interpret the law not to create it. It is the role of the legislative branch to create law, the executive branch is charged with executing the law and the judiciary is charged with interpreting the law. Changes in the fundamental nature of the law should come from the legislative branch – not from the judiciary. There is nothing “denigrating’ or “destructive” about that concept. Indeed, its exactly what our founders intended.

    Second, the best way to ensure that the question of same-sex marriage remains a political wedge issue is to continue to allow the courts to lead on this issue. Over-reaching decisions on complex social issues can have the unintended consequence of permanently polarizing an issue rather than settling it. Indeed, the Roe v Wade decision is a perfect example. Without Roe v Wade, I believe our country would have come to a consensus on the question of abortion. Our founding fathers smartly rested more power with the states than they did the federal government. Had states been able to chart their own course on abortion I believe we would have been able to come to a national consensus that would have removed abortion from the litany of divisive political wedge issues cynically used by both sides. Instead, the Court imposed tortured legal logic to come to an ideological conclusion that a majority on the court – at that time – supported. Immediateley and permanently polarizing the abortion issue.

    Finally, as a gay man I thoroughly understand that allowing for same-sex marriage IS a change to the definition of marriage. A change I believe is a positive one, but a fundamental change nonetheless. We who favor same-sex marriage also bear the burden of proving that this change is a positive one and one that will enhance the institution and improve our society as a whole. I believe it’s a debate we should welcome, rather than seek to short circuit through the courts.

  13. Michael Muller says:

    Ted Olson’s response to the judge as to why this issue should be addressed by the court:

    “That’s why we have courts, to protect those who are discriminated against, when their children can’t go to school because of their skin color. We would not need a constitution if we left everything to the political process. We’d just let the majority prevail and that’s a good thing about democracy, but it’s not so good if you are different, new. It causes gays and lesbians unrelenting pain. We have the courts to take our worthy, upstanding citizens who are being hurt to be protected by the courts. That’s why we are here today.”

  14. Chris when all those state courts said you may not deny gay citizens the right to marry they were interpreting the state’s constitution, saying your existing marriage laws must apply equally to gay people. That is not creating law. That is the very essense of interpreting it.

    The state constitutions were then often changed by the voters at the ballot box or by the legislatures. New laws and constitional amendments had to be created to specifically exclude homosexuals from full civil equality. Again the courts were not involved in the writing of new laws.

    When the judicial branch says your laws must be applied equally or strikes down a law as being unconstitional or interprets vague wording or meaning in laws passed by the legislature they are doing exactly what they were set up to do.

    Not liking the outcome of a judicial decision and then calling it an “over-reaching decision by unelected judges” or that the judiciary is “creating law” is a gross simplification and misinterpretation of the judicial process. It is denigrating to the system and inspires disrespect for the judiciary.

    Without the courts involvement in civil equality for gay citizens, the wait for equality would stretch far out into the unseen horizon.

    It is a presumption on your part to suggest staying strictly within the legislative branch would preclude any issue from being used as a devisive political wedge. That is a cynical political strategy and major fund raising tool. Blaming the courts for the use of wedge issues in elections and fund raising is the true tortured logic.

    Certainly there is good reason for gay people and their supporters to make a positive case expressing their continuing contributions, that has always been the case, to the betterment of families, communities and society as a whole. That moves the ball forward on another front. Yes the debate is welcome. That debate can also rightfully occur in the courts and in many respects leads to a better debate than the puffing pontification of politicians in empty legislative chambers. Using the courts is not short circuiting the process. It is the process. Ted Olson said it above more briefly than me.

  15. Michael Muller says:


    Thanks for chiming in and clarifying your position. I have a feeling that if more WNC Republicans were as articulate, level-headed, and tolerant as you, maybe the GOP here wouldn’t have turned into such a parody of itself.

    By the way, you say that you aren’t a conservative. Would you explain that a little? What does that characterization mean to you and why don’t you claim it?



  16. Michael Muller says:

    I think Tim Peck sums it up nicely over at his blog.

    By the way, I’m still waiting on the conservative argument against gay marriage that doesn’t mention the Book of Leviticus. Carl? Nathan? Bobby? What about Yelton? Nesbitt? Bueller? Bueller? Anyone?

  17. nathan ramsey says:

    The conservative case against gay marriage is that marriage has been traditionally defined in Western Civilization for over a thousand years as an union between a man and woman. To change that history is not conservative in the sense of “conservative” being defined as favoring traditional views and values.

    I am not going to give the perspective based on my personal faith because some will never believe what the New Testament says regarding marriage anyway. From a legal standpoint, states have the right to define marriage in any way they desire so long as they don’t offend the US Constitution. Ted Olson knows more about the law than I ever will but if the voters in a state decide that marriage should only be defined as an union between a man and woman, how does this violate the 14th amendment’s equal protection clause? You are not saying blacks and whites or other races can’t marry, you’re saying girls and girls or guys and guys can’t marry. That is not the same thing so it is not comparable to the civil rights movement. If it were then there couldn’t be any laws at the federal or state level that provide disparate treatment toward gays.

    I don’t view this as a partisan issue because I can give a very long list of dems who oppose same sex marriage and there are some reps (we have a big tent) who support gay marriage.

    Just an aside, regardless of your political or spiritual beliefs, the greatest threat to our nation is our deteriorating family structure with divorce, out of wedlock births, and substance abuse which is causing an epidemic of poverty and reduced opportunities for children. Government will never have enough money to solve these problems if these trends continue.

    I don’t think gay marriage really impacts this trend other than the fact that the places where gay marriage is currently legal are places where birth rates are generally very low. You can argue that gay marriage would further devalue the marriage institution but marriage is already on the rocks. It is ironic that we are in a world where heterosexuals (or at least a majority of heterosexual marriages)want to divorce and gays want to marry. Unfortunately, we live in a McDonald’s society where we get what we want in a relatively short period of time or we move on.

  18. shadmarsh says:

    The conservative case against gay marriage is that marriage has been traditionally defined in Western Civilization for over a thousand years as an union between a man and woman.

    This is a vast oversimplification, if not outright ignorant, view of the history of marriage in western civ for the past thousand years.

    Just an aside, regardless of your political or spiritual beliefs, the greatest threat to our nation is our deteriorating family structure with divorce, out of wedlock births, and substance abuse which is causing an epidemic of poverty and reduced opportunities for children. Government will never have enough money to solve these problems if these trends continue.

    a vast sweeping statement. The family has never been a static institution, it is something that is constantly changing, and evolving alongside the culture. tO simply say that the “break-down” of the family is at the root of our societal ills is blaming a symptom and ignoring the disease…

    I don’t think gay marriage really impacts this trend other than the fact that the places where gay marriage is currently legal are places where birth rates are generally very low.


    You can argue that gay marriage would further devalue the marriage institution but marriage is already on the rocks.

    I believe you just did…yet you never say how it would devalue it…in fact your most coherent argument against it would seem to support it.

    If you don’t mind me making a vast sweeping generalization (hey, everyone else is doing it) most conservatives (whether they be D’s or R’s) are against gay marriage because the thought of two dudes having sex makes them uncomfortable, and they use this “traditional family” crap myth to reinforce their own prejudice (I know I know, you have [the royal you] have many gay friends and yadda yadda yadda)…

  19. Actually marriage has been traditionally defined in Western Civilization for over a thousand years as an union between a man, his wife( mother of his legitimate children ), his mistresses and his property rights.

    Gay people in so much as they were understood or even acknowledged were considered an aberration and less than fully human.

    Now despite all evidence pointing to the facts that gay people are fully contributing members of family, community and society, that they are indeed fully human and made in the image of God just as God intended, Nathan prefers to cling to his fact free and reality challenged conservative values because as Shad has pointed out, the culturally induced ick factor about sex is more than he can handle.

    Because of that he would deny gay people the freedom to marry the person they love, the person they want to bond with in a stable relationship, the person of their choice and then he can’t figure out why denying such a basic freedom to an American citizen violates the equal protection clause.

  20. Michael Muller says:

    Nathan is my good friend — and despite being somewhat misguided on the issue — I should make clear that he doesn’t have a mean or bigoted bone in his body. He’s always treated my partner Mike and me with the utmost respect and kindness.

    That said (and knowing your wicked sense of humor, Nathan) Betty Bowers makes a few good points.

  21. nathan ramsey says:

    Just for the record our very progressive President Obama says he is against gay marriage, just for civil unions whatever that means.

    I have gay friends including M&M, that doesn’t mean I am for gay marriage, I’ve got friends who believe in a woman’s right to choose and I think abortion is wrong, I am a Christian and sinner and I have friends who aren’t Christian, I am a Reynolds grad and I have friends who went to Roberson/Owen/Asheville High (the hated triumvirate) so sometimes you just agree to disagree.

    After just over four years of marriage, I’ve found out that the perfect marriage is where every argument ends in yes ma’m.

  22. shadmarsh says:

    One doesn’t have to be a bigot to have bigoted views. merely existing in a bigoted society–and benefiting from that bigotry– makes us all culpable. IMHO

  23. Michael Muller says:

    Well damn, Nathan — and I was going to ask if you’d give me away at My Big Gay Wedding. I guess now I’ll just have to ask Carl. Oh hey — would you ask Robin if she’ll throw me an awesome bridal shower? I know she will. The Grove Park Inn would be nice, but I’m easy.

    A few things: first off, the President’s position is far more nuanced than simply being “for” or “against” gay marriage. He opposes efforts to ban gay marriage (like California’s Prop 8), for instance. Would you support an amendment to the US or NC Constitution defining marriage as being only between a man and a woman? How do you feel about domestic partnership benefits?

    I fully understand how people of faith would be uncomfortable with the idea of persons of the same gender being married. But Scripture (and a thousand years of tradition) also takes a very dim view of divorce, (arguably even prohibiting it) yet we allow government to recognize divorce. Would you say that people who divorce are committing adultery, as Jesus taught? Should the government not recognize divorce — based on the same reasoning as it ought not to recognize same-gender marriage?

    I don’t mean to put you on the spot, Nathan, but I respect you a very great deal. And I appreciate you taking the time to discuss this.

  24. nathan ramsey says:

    You are being very kind to the President to refer to his position as “nuanced.” He says alot of things to raise money and support from the gay community but hasn’t done much. He is doing his best to thread the needle.

    I believe marriage should remain in NC as it is between a man and woman. Unless the US Supreme Court interprets the 14th amendment’s equal protection clause to require strict scrutiny, the matter will remain the province of political decisions of the states. Marriage is not a federal issue and states have the right to define it in any way they choose so long as they don’t violate their own consts. or the federal const. I don’t believe states should be forced to recognize an out of state marriage that is inconsistent with their own laws and that is why the federal defense of marriage act was enacted.

    Also, I don’t think government should extend domestic partner benefits to gay and unmarried heterosexual couples on the grounds that we can’t afford the government we have now. Some private companies have chosen to offer these benefits and that is their management decison to make.

    Based on my personal faith, I believe God loves everyone (gay, straight, etc.) that we are all sinners separated from Him by our sin, that God sent his Son Jesus to save us from our sins, and that whoever (gay, straight, etc.) believes on Him shall be saved. We can argue about what the Bible says about marriage or anything else but the message of John 3:16 is the important stuff. He’ll take care of the rest.

  25. Gordon Smith says:


    Thanks for spending time to chime in here at ScruHoo. It’s good to have a variety of voices.

    The Charlotte-Mecklenburg study on domestic partnerships showed that adopting equality in health benefits would increase costs by 0.1% – 3% based on how many people accessed the benefits. That board voted to offer domestic partner benefits to same-sex couples only.

    Offering benefits improves recruitment and retention, saving government money on training and through greater efficiency. Healthy families mean happy workers, and that means better work.

    Richard Florida has demonstrated through his economic modeling that the cities willing to openly celebrate and encourage diversity have grown while those practicing discrimination and close-mindedness have stagnated or shrunk. Can Asheville afford not to open her arms to her LGBT citizens?

    There are a lot of other people we could discriminate against to save money, too. Imagine how much we could save if we said that people who’d been divorced and remarried couldn’t get benefits. That would probably cut our costs in half AND comport with biblical teachings. 😎

    Justifying discrimination based on fiscal concerns is a hollow argument that ignores the realities of our LGBT population and our area economy. Equality = social justice and economic health.

    It’s simply unacceptable to institutionalize this kind of bigotry, Nathan, and I won’t be party to it.


    Quote on Richard Florida’s findings:

    “…places having a large gay population tend to have more robust economic growth than less gay places. The explanation for this relationship lies in the fact that gay people tend to live in places that encourage tolerance and self-expression. For their part, creative types tend to prefer a living environment where they can not only sustain themselves financially, but feel safe to be themselves and pursue their interests outside of a traditional nine-to-five work week and heavy social or familial obligations. Florida points out that creative people look for the kind of diversity and tolerance that’s typically marked by the presence of openly gay neighborhoods as well as ethnically diverse ones. A place that successfully attracts more talented and creative people, in turn, feeds its culture of innovation and stimulates economic growth.”

  26. Michael Muller says:

    Y’all might find my comments over at another post on this issue interesting. And thank you, Gordon, for your respect and support of gay and lesbian people.

  27. nathan ramsey says:

    Those who oppose my beliefs can do better than name calling. If you disagree with me, that is fine but I wouldn’t start calling others who disagree with you as bigots. Bigotry is defined as “stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s own.” I respect others that have a fundamental difference of opinion from me, the question is do you?

    The problem with politics today is that all too often on both sides of the political spectrum, instead of engaging in an intelligent, thoughtful policy debate, political opponents just try to personally destroy those serving in elective office. Remember WNCNN in 2006, Parkside, Woodfin power plan, etc.?

    Going back to Muller’s initial thesis, my view is that marriage has traditionally been defined as being between a man and woman, and there is nothing nefarious for individuals to support this definition. By the same token, while I disagree, I certainly respect those who claim that marriage should include same sex partners or that government benefits should be provided to same sex or unmarried couples. There is a political process that will sort out these competing views.

    I believe our community is very tolerant. Despite the many challenges in Asheville and Buncombe County, with a political and cultural diversity that is almost unrivaled in the South, I think we get along fairly well. Those in political office should emphasize solutions for the problems we all face such as better economic opportunities, more choices for affordable housing, better access to healthcare, workforce training, etc., regardless of our differences in faith, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc.

  28. Tom Sullivan says:

    Nathan, thanks for being part of the dialogue.

  29. Michael Muller says:

    I’ll echo those sentiments, Tom. If more Republicans were as thoughtful and tolerant as Nathan — and as willing to engage in productive dialogue — I believe that the local GOP would be in much better shape than it is today.

  30. Gordon Smith says:


    Durn internet.

    Here’s what I intended to mean – “Institutionalized bigotry’. The definition you provide does an excellent job describing how long it can take an institutional culture to recognize its own homogeneity.

    I have scads of respect for you. My apologies for being unclear.

    I think that all of the issues you think we ought to focus on regarding economic justice are vital. So are civil rights.

  31. Gordon Smith says:


    One last thing. You’re right, while there’s no need to toss the ‘b’ word around, I think it’s fair to say that those that advocate against same-sex couples receiving domestic partner benefits are practicing discrimination.

    Discrimination – “treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit”

    Providing same-sex benefits will end municipal discrimination against same-sex couples regarding health benefits. Allowing same-sex marriage will end discrimination against same-sex couples regarding a legal contract now available only to heterosexual couples.