Rep. Jason Lewis, who is running for reelection in Minnesota's 2nd District, has offered the Republican Party’s go-to line on opposing same-sex marriage since he was elected to Congress in 2016 — that the decision should be left to states.
But before then, Lewis promoted extreme opinions about gays and lesbians on his radio show, comparing them to rapists, criminals, and polygamists. He contended that gay rights activists were "shredding the Constitution," and that same-sex parents "could harm the kid."
On the Jason Lewis Show in 2013, he argued it was acceptable to single out gay couples with discriminatory marriage bans, just as rapists and speeding drivers could be targeted by criminal laws. But if a court ruled that the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause granted same-sex couples the right to marry, he said, that would be equivalent to providing constitutional protections to a wide variety of lawbreakers.
Lewis said a court ruling based on the Equal Protection Clause in favor of gay couples "would undo the entire state criminal code because we’re all treated unequally. Speeders, when you’re flying down the highway 10 miles an hour over the speed limit, next time a cop pulls you over, say, 'I’m going to file a Supreme Court challenge to this ticket. I am being treated unequally. The guy next to me is not getting a ticket but I am just because I’m a speeder. The law has a disparate impact on speeders.'"
"When we pass a law against rape, you’re not treating a rapist equal," he went on in the program. "The law, the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution, simply means this: that people who find themselves in similar circumstances must be treated in a similar way. … You must discriminate against all smokers, you must discriminate against all rapists."
"So if the law says that we’re not going to allow three people to marry, then you’ve got to treat everybody the same way," he said, extending the argument to bans on polygamy. "No three people can marry. Same is true for gay marriage. It’s not discrimination. It’s not unconstitutional. The law discriminates all the time. It discriminates against behavior."
The June 26, 2013, program was unearthed by American Bridge, a Democratic opposition research firm.
But the Supreme Court struck down bans on same-sex marriage two years later, using the opposite interpretation of the 14th Amendment. The court found that gay couples had been treated unequally to similarly situated straight couples, thereby violating the Equal Protection Clause.
On the same program, Lewis claimed that "the gay rights lobby is playing underhanded to get their will and in the process, they are shredding the Constitution of this country."
"They want marriage," he said of gay couples. "They want the imprimatur of the state because they are a bit insecure in their own relationships and they want that approval. Which is rather odd because I know a number of gay people and I know a number of gay people who don’t give a whit about gay marriage and they’re the most secure ones. They tell me, 'Ah, this whole marriage thing, who cares?' It is the insecure activists who somehow think they have to get the approval of the straight crowd that is driving this."
As for children, he added, "I’ll probably get in trouble for this, but I’m still not convinced that it’s a great idea for children to grow up with two moms or two dads. Call me a Neanderthal, I’m not saying it’s bad, I don’t know, there hasn’t been some longitudinal long-term studies on this but we’ve rushed to this judgment that growing up with two mommies is a wonderful experience. I don’t know, maybe it’s not so wonderful. Maybe it could harm the kid."
Lewis also came under fire in July after CNN unearthed a recording of his show on which he called women "sluts."
Lewis will face Democrat Angie Craig, a lesbian mother of four who lost a 2016 race against him by just under two points in the swing district in November.