Friday, August 31, 2012

Dan Savage Debates Brian Brown On Gay Marriage

For an up-to-the-moment view of the current Gay Marriage debate, check out this hour long video of Dan Savage debating the National Organization For Marriage's Brian Brown, in Dan's home on August 15, 2012.

There's an overview article here at, and an after-the-debate commentary by the moderator, Mark Oppenheimer, here in the New York Times.

I think Dan represented the pro-gay marriage side very well.

It was interesting that Dan's idea of inviting Brian into his home to have dinner with Dan's husband and teenage son before the debate didn't have the impact Dan had hoped... rather than impress upon Brian the day-to-day reality of our gay families, Dan felt it hampered him by imposing a "host" mentality, making him more conciliatory than he intended.

I wish Mark or Dan had asked Brian if he believed there is a civil realm of marriage, separate from the religious.  With Brian repeatedly falling back on "natural law" and marriage being the bringing together of the "two sides of humanity," he was arguing a religious point of view when the debate is over civil marriage rights.

And that idea that gender is so binary is really due for re-thinking!

Brian's scoffing that marriage focused on adult wants (rather than the needs of children) would lead to the destruction of marriage altogether (gay marriage would then lead to polygamy - marrying more than one person) ignored the reality of the family whose home he was in - two married men, raising a child.  A family much like mine.

It was also fascinating to read in the New York Times article that Brian's wife didn't join him on the trip, though she was invited - she was home, pregnant with their eighth child.

At the end of the debate, Mark asked both Brian and Dan if anything could ever shake their view on Gay Marriage. 

I'll let you listen to their answers, but if found myself wondering...

If, statistics being what they are, one of Brian's children grows up and realizes they are gay, and comes out, and finds love... will Brian attend that child's wedding?  Will it change his religiously-based view of marriage when keeping gay people out of his 'marriage country club' affects someone he loves?

Because right now that's what it feels like.  Marriage is a country club that Brian and his fellow country club members would like to keep just for people like them.  And if they let us in, they're sure it will destroy marriage - destroy the club - completely.

And then they complain of being called bigots, when all they want to do is keep the club pristine and unsullied by the likes of us.

There's one word for that desire:  Prejudice.

Watch it, and let me know your take on the debate...


Heather said...

Denying two consenting adults the legal right to marriage based on their sexuality is prejudice plain and simple.

This was incredibly frustrating to watch. I had to pause it several times because Brian Brown never answered Dan's points. He talked about being attacked for his beliefs (and really, if I cannot hear one more well off, white christian whine about their rights being trampled), and marriage being meant for man and woman based on his own religion (ignoring all of the examples Dan gave of how the definition of marriage has changed throughout the history of Christianity). He did not directly address the core question of the legal, separate from religion, right to marry. Brian's arguments hold no validity from a logical point of view.

It seems that Brian's sticking point is the word marriage. If the religious community wants to claim the word "marriage", let them have it. I am happy to call what my husband and I have a civil union, it doesn't diminish what we have together. What does not feel right is that we have legal rights as a couple simply because we happen to be heterosexual. A private institution that does not take money from the government has a right to make their own policies, an individual has a right to their own opinions and beliefs. They do not have a right to force those beliefs on others through the state and federal legal system.

It is wrong that my family members and friends have to fight for what should be a basic human right, protected by law and celebrated in love.

Dan did a great job debating Brian, he held his temper far better than I ever could have in the face of such terrible ignorance. He should not diminish himself by characterizing himself as someone who runs at the mouth. He is speaking up loud and clear for his rights as a human being, something that's powerful, beautiful and requires no apology.

Anonymous said...

"And if they let us in, they're sure it will destroy marriage - destroy the club - completely."

I don't think that's it. It's such an obviously false hypothesis, that I don't think opponents of gay marriage really believe it. They mouth the words because they think it sounds good; it's pseudo-logic.

I think the reality is more that they are afraid of homosexuality being normalized, accepted and sanctioned by government entities. Right now, "it's wrong because it's illegal" and "it's illegal because it's wrong" forms a self-perpetuating, circular view. The same logic was behind opposing gays serving openly in the military: if the military OKs it, then homosexuality is one step closer to being a fully accepted part of mainstream American life.

Mainstreaming and government affirmation of gay rights scares them unbelievably, and I would love to know why. What do they think is going to happen: orgies in the streets? The truth is, life would carry on much the same as ever, except fewer people would suffer, and bigots might have to deal with seeing more same-sex couples holding hands on the street once in a while. Too bad they are so extremely afraid of that. It really wouldn't bring civilization crashing to a halt.

Caltheous (Erin) said...

The biggest thing I saw in this fascinating debate is that Brian Brown displayed two very strong traits that are leading him down the road he is on. The first is fear of desire. The second is non-existent critical thinking skills.

Regarding the strong fear that giving in to our human desires is harmful to society. Brian spoke about divorce and gay marriage in these terms - just human desires being put before the responsibilities as parents. At first I fell for this idea for a moment. I found myself feeling terribly guilty about my recent divorce (I have two kids). Then I remembered how much fun I had with my kids tonight at my parent's house and how my clear happiness these past few weeks (as I've been recovering from the divorce and feeling really good) has made my kids SO happy and healthy. The truth I'm seeing in action is that when mom and dad are truly happy, the kids feel it and they are happy too. My desires are not evil or bad and the only thing about them that harms me or anyone else happens when some Christians try to make me think they are. My ex and I are able to love and parent our kids together even though we are no longer married.

Second, and this one is sort of mean, I thought it was really funny that Brian didn't pass the "Test of falsifiability of Carl Poppers." Dear Brian, I acknowledge that a square is not a circle, but if you showed me that what I thought was a circle was actually a square with the edges concealed by a piece of cloth, then I would in fact acknowledge that I did have two squares after all. There are programs that could teach you critical thinking skills - I'm not sure how successful your endeavor would be but if you took the challenge on, you would be a stronger debater. See this site for guidance and materials in learning how to think scientifically so that in the future you can understand Dan's points: IQ's are on the rise and I don't know if the - Beware, your desires are evil! argument will work on anyone with an IQ above 100. While I agree that some things are harmful to others, I find it really humorous that you can't find anything actually harmful in gay marriage but are certain that the two words just can't be in that order because of some syntax error that God programmed into the universe. Hahaha, that's really rich stuff.

Dan, I am so sorry for the pain you've suffered on this issue. To think that someone could sit across from you and say he meant you no ill will but at the same time question your very humanity and then act shocked that you would get upset about it is truly a sign of a weak mind and a heart filled with fear.

Book Dragon said...

I feel that ALL marriages should start civilly then those that want the church marriage can do that after. No Civil Partnership? No church marriage.

I know this will mess with adoption agencies and people's minds but these things need to be re-thought as well.

FYI: hetro, 2 kids, married 27 years.