NASHUA, NH — Republican Bob Giuda may be a man of conviction, but on Monday, he took that conviction too far — or at least as far as a group of teenagers were concerned.
Speaking to rising high school seniors at a leadership conference, Giuda’s typical stump speech devolved into a series of confrontations with the teenagers, many of whom took offense at his strong criticisms of gay marriage, among other positions.
In the discussion, Giuda became defensive and angry, and his arguments verged on the offensive and ridiculous, even for a socially conservative candidate.
In regards to the danger of gay marriage, he said, “What’s next? Men and sheep? Women and dogs?”
He called gay marriage the root of ill in society, referring to it as the “downfall of the nation.” He called single motherhood a result of a “breakdown in marriage,” and went so far as to blame the fall of Sparta, a military power in Ancient Greece, on homosexuality among its soldiers.
The students at the American Legion Boys State and Girls State, a leadership seminar focused on government, challenged Giuda’s stances on gay marriage, in addition to his positions on such issues as taxes and national security.
The teenagers — most of whom are not yet old enough to vote — engaged Giuda in an impressive manner, quoting Thomas Jefferson and the Constitution in their arguments. They asked him how he could simultaneously discourage government intervention and also support its maintenance of marriage as a “moral and social” institution.
“Why do you have the right to legislate my morality?” asked 16-year-old Corinne Dolan of Pittsfield.
Giuda — who does support civil unions — stuck to his original premise that marriage is a moral construct intended to foster the growth of children, but he became visibly irritated and short in speaking to the teenagers, some of whom challenged or questioned his views.
“You know, there are a lot of students who want to ask questions, so I think we’re done here,” he said to a young man asking why gay couples couldn’t adopt children.
Giuda often told students who disagreed with him to “know your history” or “look at the facts” as a way of dismissing their questions.
“I see a contradiction in his views,” Dolan said. “It seems like he just wants to use government to legislate for his own beliefs.”
A Gallup poll conducted in May of 2010 showed that only 44 percent of Americans believe that gay marriage should be validated under the law, as opposed to 53 percent who think it should not be validated. Read the full report here.
However, same-sex marriage is legal in New Hampshire, and an April 2009 poll showed that 55 percent of Granite state residents support gay marriage.
But even though most of the students — who overall described themselves as fiscally conservative but split on social issues — seemed to disagree with Giuda, one young woman became very emotional as she told Giuda how much his speech had meant to her.
“I’m a Christian so it’s powerful to hear someone speak like this,” said 17-year-old Olivia Touba of Bedford. “You always hear, ‘Oh, we need to be tolerant.’ No. We need to be intolerant. We need to stick to the Bible. The way we’ve wandered, it’s sad.”
Giuda continued to argue with some of the teenagers long after his speech was over.
“So let me understand what you’re saying,” Dolan said. “If gay marriage is moral failure, and the decline of every civilization is based on moral failure, than gay marriage is…”
“The downfall of the nation, yes,” Giuda responded.
“Okay, thank you, I’m done,” Dolan told him.