From AC360 Nov. 12, 2008: Anderson Cooper brings on Dan Savage and Tony Perkins to debate Proposition 8 and the protests against it. Savage makes Perkins look like the hapless James Dobson mouthpiece he is.
I'm sorry. This is all about civil liberties in my book. It's all about freedom, something the right-wingers trumpet to the media whenever it suits them. Why are they so afraid of gay marriage?
DAN SAVAGE: Part of the democratic process is if you're going to throw a punch you're going to have a punch thrown back. You don't get to march in the public square, slime people, malign people and demagogue against people and then jump behind a bush and say, no God we're a church. You can't criticize us. You can't bring it back to our frond doors and say we have a problem with what you've been saying about us in public and doing to us in the public square.
The Mormon Church has politicized itself with this movement and -- in California to ban same-sex marriage. And it wasn't just the Mormon Church encouraged its followers. The first prophet of the Mormon Church had a letter read from every temple, every Mormon temple in the land instructing its members as a religious duty to donate time and money to this campaign. You cannot campaign against the vulnerable minority group in this country in the political arena without expecting some sort of response
DAN SAVAGE, AUTHOR, "THE COMMITMENT": Part of the democratic process is if you're going to throw a punch you're going to have a punch thrown back. You don't get to march in the public square, slime people, malign people and demagogue against people and then jump behind a bush and say, no God we're a church. You can't criticize us. You can't bring it back to our front doors and say we have a problem with what you've been saying about us in public and doing to us in the public square.
The Mormon Church has politicized itself with this movement and -- in California to ban same-sex marriage. And it wasn't just the Mormon Church encouraged its followers. The first prophet of the Mormon Church had a letter read from every temple, every Mormon temple in the land instructing its members as a religious duty to donate time and money to this campaign. You cannot campaign against the vulnerable minority group in this country in the political arena without expecting some sort of response.
COOPER: Tony, is what the church did appropriate? And I know you've been critical of the demonstrations. Is it inappropriate for demonstrators you think to focus on the Mormon Church?
TONY PERKINS, PRESIDENT FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Well, I mean, you can also focus on the African-American churches, where African- Americans voted over 70 percent of them voted for the marriage amendment in California.
This really underscores what many people were saying that this advancement of same-sex marriage was going to bring about this confrontation with religious liberties. And it's very frightening when you begin to see --
SAVAGE: There is no confrontation with religious liberties.
PERKINS: -- these demonstrations of Violating the spaces of the church and going in and disrupting their services.
SAVAGE: That hasn't happened.
PERKINS: Yes, it has happened. They've been spray painting churches, vandalizing churches.
COOPER: Tony, the tens of thousands of people demonstrated so far most have been extremely peaceful. There may have been a few incidences here and there. But I don't think it is accurate to say there has been a large scale of invasion of churches.
SAVAGE: Gay bars have been fire bombed.
PERKINS: It's just like this; Dan will not allow people to speak. There was a full debate on this. In fact Dan's side raised more money and it came from special interest groups or wealthy individuals like Tim Gill who put in the money and they had this full discussion about this in California. In fact, they've had it twice now. I don't understand --
SAVAGE: They had it twice now and in 2000 your side won by 20 to 30 points. This time you won by four points. You guys are losing this war against religious freedom. There are religions in this country that will marry gay and lesbian couples. What about their religious freedom?
PERKINS: Look, the courts have stepped in -- you've gone to the courts, the courts overthrew the vote of over four million people from 2000. They gathered over a million signatures.
SAVAGE: Which is part of what courts in our system supposed to do; the constitution exists to protect minorities against the tyranny of the majority.
PERKINS: No. You don't understand the rule of law that, if you want to change the law, instead of using the courts to redefine marriage.
SAVAGE: So Loving v. Virginia when the courts declared interracial marriage to be a constitutional right in the teeth of popular support which was against interracial marriage at the time.
PERKINS: Dan, you know that is a red herring. That is absolutely a red herring.
SAVAGE: It is not a red herring. You were talking about the function of the courts.
COOPER: No one can hear either of you talk. Dan, finish your thought and will have Tony respond.
SAVAGE: Well, Tony is saying that the courts have no right to overrule the will of the people. That's what the courts exist for. That is what the constitution exists for. That's what the bill of rights is there for; to carve out from the tyranny of the majority.
COOPER: Tony, should the civil rights of individuals be left up to the majority to decide?
PERKINS: No one has unrestrained liberties in this country to marry whomever they want. Someone can't marry a close blood relative or an underage person. There are restrictions upheld in almost every civilization for millennia.
SAVAGE: For millennia it was legal for men to beat their wives.
PERKINS: Dan, would you let somebody else speak.
COOPER: Tony, you've got to finish your thought because I want to ask one other question. Tony, finish your though.
PERKINS: Look, this is about redefining marriage. It is not about what -- you try to compare this to interracial marriage. It is not the same thing. There were extra provisions put that would prohibit people that were man and woman to marry.
This is redefining marriage. This is a total different issue. The people of California have spoken. In fact, every time this has gone on to the ballot and people have had a chance to vote --
COOPER: There is a huge generational divide. In the results of Proposition 8, basically older Americans voted --
SAVAGE: The Mormon Church bankrolled this and shoved it through. The protest could also, I guess, be at old folks homes because older people voted more. This is bigotry. This kind of homophobia and racism is part and parcel of older vote.
PERKINS: Why don't you take to the African-American community. Take that to the Hispanic community.
COOPER: Do you feel that over time within a very short amount of time this issue, I mean each time this is getting closer and closer. Do you think the history and Barack Obama's part in it is in your favor?
SAVAGE: You know who redefined marriage? Straight people redefined. Marriage used to be one man acquiring the property of another man, a daughter that became a wife. Straight people redefined marriage to be two individuals who commit to each other because of a bond of love. There can be children or no children, it could be a monogamous sexual relationship or not a monogamous sexual relationship. There can be a sexual relationship or not a sexual relationship. That's what marriage means now in our culture and they want to define it back to the patriarchal sexist institution it was.
PERKINS: Come on, man. You know that is not true.
COOPER: Tony, it does seem that young people though view this issue very differently than you do. Do you worry at all that you are just on the wrong side of history?
PERKINS: No. No, not at all. Anderson, what we're seeing actually among young people is they understand more than anybody what happens when you redefine marriage. Especially when you see young people who have grown up --
COOPER: The young people under-whelmingly voted against Proposition 8.
SAVAGE: Yes, they did.
PERKINS: You are still saying -- it is not a majority.
SAVAGE: Yes. It is a majority. A majority of the young people voted against Prop 8.
COOPER: I want Tony to answer the question and then I give you both a final thought. Tony.
PERKINS: Well, you can't get a word head wise.
SAVAGE: When you strip me of my rights when I interrupt you, who is really suffering here?
PERKINS: Look, the policy this country has adopted in the last 40 years which has minimized the importance of marriage; there is an understanding the purpose of public policy is to achieve a greater good. It's not designed to shape out narrow anomalies. It is for a broader reality.
The reality is that kids need a mom and a dad. That is what marriage is about. It is not about two moms, two dads, three dads, three moms. It is about a mom and a dad. And that's what public policy should promote
COOPER: Dan, your turn.
SAVAGE: That is not what marriage is about. People without children can get married. Marriage is not defined by the presence of children.
PERKINS: They can but that is not the purpose of government being involved regulating marriage.
SAVAGE: Individual liberties is the purpose of our constitution. For you to write individual liberties out of our political system --
PERKINS: Then you must be for polygamy. You must be for every other form of relationship.
SAVAGE: We can debate on marriage one at a time.
COOPER: We're going to have to leave it there. Tony you're your thoughts. And then Dan, your final thoughts.
SAVAGE: I hope Tony Perkins doesn't pray to Jesus with that mouth because he bears false witness against his gay and lesbian neighbors and that is a violation of one of the Ten Commandments.
PERKINS: And how would you suggest I do that, Dan? This is about public policy which is to promote the greater good and in the best environment the social science --
SAVAGE: Not at the expense of minority rights and individual liberties.
PERKINS: -- the social sciences show overwhelmingly that children do better with a mom and dad.
SAVAGE: That is a lie. Those are studies that are funded by bigots; more bigots to justify bigotry. The studies you cite have all the validity of tobacco institute studies telling us in the 70's and 80's that smoking was safe.
COOPER: We have to go. I'm sorry, we have got to go.