An outspoken conservative academic made his sometimes contradictory pitch against gay marriage at Oglethorpe University on Monday, an appearance that sparked a peaceful protest complete with purple shirts and rainbow stickers.
Matthew Franck, director of the Center on Religion & the Constitution at the New Jersey-based conservative think tank the Witherspoon Institute, spent more than an hour criticizing same-sex marriage, its supporters and judges who ruled in favor it before facing sometimes heated questions from the crowd of about 100 people. About half of those attending wore purple shirts or rainbow stickers in support of a student-organized protest against Franck’s lecture.
“The victories in the gay marriage movement are almost entirely the work of a handful of judges,” Franck (top photo) said. “This handful of judges has uniformly employed shabby reasoning. No movement claiming to stand for human rights in U.S history has so plainly set itself on a collision course with the moral sentiments of the majority.”
Franck also took pains in his lecture, titled “Changing ‘Hate’ in the Same-Sex Marriage Debate: How to Stop an Argument You’re Losing and Endanger Freedom While You’re At It,” to buttress his main argument: Religious opponents of same-sex marriage should not be labeled bigots simply to shut down their arguments against gay marriage.
“This is the point if you take anything away from what I say today, this is it: The religious participants in this shared deliberation are not required to stop talking about their faith. Our religious faith makes us better, more moral persons. Many religious people think their religious beliefs make them better able to contribute to the debates about morality,” Franck said.
Franck also decried the use of heated rhetoric on both sides of the gay marriage debate, suggesting he would support efforts to cool the often loaded language opponents and proponents sometimes toss around over the issue.
“I would gladly link arms with you and march through the streets for public discourse and a fair hearing for everybody and against hateful despicable language against anyone. That’s just wrong,” Franck said.
But Franck’s suggestion belies his support of friends and colleagues who use offensive language, such as Joseph Knippenberg (third photo), the Oglethorpe professor who invited Franck to campus. In a December blog post, Knippenberg compares homosexuality to incest. In a December column in the Washington Post, Franck defended a college professor who described homosexuality as “addictions and compulsions” and who called LGBT people “walking wounded” who need help to “recover their lives.”
Franck’s lecture was sponsored by the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, an organization that is funded by billionaire Charles Koch, who along with his brother David owns Koch Industries and have given more than $100 million to right-wing causes.
During his lecture, Franck said that the expanding marriage to include gay couples would weaken the institution, do it irreparable harm and push it to the breaking point.
“The harm in the adoption of same-sex marriage is not the harm it does to my marriage or to my wife. The harm in same-sex marriage is what it does to an institution that has served us well, not perfectly, but well for centuries by fundamentally dismantling it so to make it in a new form,” he said.
“When an institution that has served human civilization, when such an institution is proposed to expand to the breaking point, the burden of proof is on those who wish to make the change. So far no argument for same sex marriage … has presented itself,” Franck added.
He also argued against gay adoptions, dismissing a student who referred to studies that show there are no differences in children raised or fostered by gay parents and those raised by heterosexual couples. Franck pointed to the Catholic Charities of Boston, which ended its adoption work rather than follow a state law requiring gays be allowed to adopt, as somehow the fault of LGBT activists and didn’t cite any studies that bolstered his argument to keep gays from adopting.
“People who are in the adoption business, their first concern is what they see as the welfare of the child, including their moral welfare. According to the Catholic teaching, there is only one kind of sexual union that is morally permissible – the conjugal union of a man and a women in marriage. Whatever claims of harm may be made by those on the other side, we have on the side of the Catholic Charities serious claims about the welfare of the children and institutional religious conscience,” Franck said.
Franck also dismissed two Supreme Court decisions – the 1996 ruling in Romer v. Evans that nullified as unconstitutional Colorado’s Amendment 2 that banned municipalities from offering protections to gay citizens, and the 2003 case in which the court struck down the sodomy law in Texas in Lawrence v. Texas.
“Legal principals have their own logic and they keep gaining traction like a jeep in low gear in forward drive. They just slowly motor on in the direction they are pointed. That is what is wrong with cases like Lawrence,” Franck said.