Meet the Man Trying to Ban Same-Sex Marriage in the Constitution

Rep. Tim Huelskamp would like to make it clear: "The debate of marriage is just starting. It's not over."

Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan. (National Journal)

The Supreme Court may have given a boost for same-sex marriage supporters, but that doesn't mean Rep. Tim Huelskamp is giving up.

Late last week, the Kansas Republican introduced a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage. To be sure, adding an amendment to the founding document of the United States is a long shot to say the least, even if it gains some attention in the beginning stages.

Though Republican leadership have yet to back the measure, the bill has 28 cosponsors.

The bill reads:

Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.

In an interview with National Journal, Huelskamp said grassroots support in the states can pressure enough lawmakers to support the measure. But in the face of the inertia of the same-sex marriage movement (same-sex marriage is now supported by a slim majority of Americans in polls, with young people strongly in favor), Huelskamp's measure will probably not gain any momentum beyond his conservative colleagues.

"Any constitutional amendment is a very difficult hill to climb, but I think my colleagues are going to be surprised of the support coming from people back home," he said.

So why push? It's all about the children, who were the victims of last week's Supreme Court decisions, he said.

Here are edited excerpts from the conversation with Huelskamp:

NJ: You've had some time to reflect on this. How do you feel about the Supreme Court rulings?

HUELSKAMP: I still remain disappointed. After looking closer at them, they could have gone much further. They didn't declare a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. So, it's good to see the Court was not able to garner enough votes for that.

I'm continually amazed at the tortured logic of the two different majorities on those decisions and how they came to the goal they clearly wanted to get to. They're kind of schizophrenic decisions if you put them back to back.

NJ: Well, that's where you come in with your proposal for a marriage amendment. What sort of support are you seeing from your colleagues on this amendment? Any Democratic support?

HUELSKAMP: Too early to tell. In the Republican conference, we have John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and Cathy McMorris Rodgers who were here the last time we voted for a marriage amendment. They voted for it and hopefully they'll be back saying the same. Hopefully they haven't changed their positions on that given how strongly the speaker was trying to defend [the Defense of Marriage Act]. Hopefully we'll get some strong support from leadership.

NJ: You've had some experience with this. You were behind the Kansas marriage amendment ban. What sort of lessons do you take from that?

HUELSKAMP: We were watching what was happening in other states and there were plenty of folks on the Republican side in general who wanted to make sure it was a very potent political weapon with the timing of when to put it on the ballot. And I understood all that, but I said at the end it's the issue that matters. And there were Republicans who didn't want to do it, but at the end of the day they said, "OK, if you put it to votes, you're going to make us vote for it." And we got it done. But it took two sessions and one election intervening. A number of folks got beat in 2004 because they were unwilling to put it on the ballot.

When we deal with constitutional amendments, every member of Congress needs to do his due diligence. But at the end of the day, you've got to put it out to the states. States make the decision eventually.

It'll get a full hearing over here. Any constitutional amendment is a very difficult hill to climb, but I think my colleagues are going to be surprised of the support coming from people back home. As much as we follow the decisions, there are only a few thousand people looking at the SCOTUSblog and the real world is still going on. And they hear the news and said, "Really? This is where our country has gone to? And we have 37 states that have this and these five justices will overrule 7 million Californians and this is all pretty strange and pretty nondemocratic." The debate of marriage is just starting. It's not over.

NJ: One of the things you have cited is the effect on children. Justice Kennedy, in his opinion, wrote that DOMA "humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples." Other studies, including from the American Sociological Association, show that children are not negatively affected by having two parents of the same sex. On what do you base your opinion that same-sex marriage is harmful for children?

HUELSKAMP: I'd like to see the one study. The study you're talking about is very limited and in my background — I do have a Ph.D. and am used to reading those kind of things — every study that I've seen is pretty conclusive. Social-science studies obviously have their limitations, but we also have centuries of human experience.

But what is a really shocking statement from the court is Kennedy proclaiming Bill Clinton and 400 members of the House and Senate back then as haters, that they have animus. There is no case for that. It's just an outrageous statement. To demonize like the Court did I think is going to upset all the folks who go to church every Sunday and a lot of folks who worry about their own families and wondering what it means.

It won't end the debate. It's just beginning. A good example is Roe v. Wade 40 years ago. The Left thought they won and 40 years later they're losing, they're losing ground. We're gaining on the life side and I think it's instructive and hopeful to those of us on my side of the debate here.

NJ: Is there anything you feel is important when discussing this issue?

HUELSKAMP: I still think the issue over children just gets lost. The idea that the desires of two consenting adults — there are court cases involving polygamy moving up through the system as well, but we'll leave it at two consenting adults — but somehow that trumps the needs of children? That's what gets lost too much. If you ask the average mom in America, "Would you like dad to be around?" Well, absolutely. And marriage has been that institution, the least intrusive institution, which make fathers into dads. And that's how we build a stronger society for our children. And that's what the studies have shown. And I think every mommy asking if you'd like a real dad around, really involved, really engaged. The best way to make that happen has always been marriage. And so that's what I think has gotten lost over the debates over two consenting adults. What about all our kids?

We have four adoptive children. That's what I see. I was happy to provide a mom and a dad for four kids, and I think it's helpful to them. And I'd like to promote that. That's been the societal ideal and that's been the goal of this legislation up here, at least the stated goal.