When two worlds collide under one roof, over Northwest sockeye salmon and Washington sweet corn, the result can be unpredictable.
But what is now being dubbed the Dinner Table Debate did just that. Spawned from the speech Dan Savage, the originator of the anti-bullying campaign It Gets Better and columnist of Savage Love, gave to a high school journalism convention, during which he attacked the Bible, Brian Brown, a conservative Catholic and president of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), challenged the notoriously loose-mouthed media pundit to a debate.
“You want to savage the Bible? Christian morality? Traditional marriage? Pope Benedict? I’m here, you name the time and the place and let’s see what a big man you are in a debate with someone who can talk back,” Brown wrote on his blog. “Bring the wife, my husband will be there,” Savage responded. “You have to acknowledge my humanity by accepting my hospitality, and I have to acknowledge yours by extending my hospitality to you.”
With instigation by New York Times writer Mark Oppenheimer, a date was circled and two of the most recognizable men on both sides of today’s most heated debate peacefully dined together. After dinner and once the steak knives had been taken away, the pair sat down and discussed their views of marriage equality, the Bible and federal law underneath the watchful eye of a religious statue and rosaries.
Savage began with citing scripture, statistics and studies about how the Bible should not be taken literally in today’s modern world, especially when that interpretation prevents rights to an entire demographic of citizens.
“Tolerate doesn’t mean celebrate. Tolerate means to endure or put up with. And I think conservative Christians can learn to tolerate legal, civil same-sex marriage the way they’ve learned to tolerate legal divorce, which violates Catholic teachings, interfaith marriages and non-religious marriage,” he explained.
“If somebody wants to talk me out of my marriage to Terry, I think they should knock themselves out. I don’t think that they have the right to use the law to do that, to deny us equal protection under the law because of your interpretation of the Bible or your interpretation of God’s will. Imposing your interpretation of the Bible onto someone else is not religious freedom as you attempt to redefine it. That is religious tyranny.”
Brown retorted back with references to the recent shooting of an FRC guard (which had ironically been that very day) and Savage’s infamous speech in which he belittled Christianity and called the students who walked out “pansy-assed,” the latter which he later apologized for.
These two blows fell particularly below the belt because, I, like many others on this side of the battle lines, look at those two events with similar disappointment of the individuals involved, and to throw those two unique instances out as a defense against marriage equality as a whole just shows how little backing beyond religion Brown has. It’s like punishing the entire team for one player’s screw up. Brown continues by referencing books in the Bible that back-up his beliefs and strikes down Savage’s accusations of NOM’s involvement with the one-sided studies that ruled against same-sex marriage. He also conveniently bypasses the discussion of why religion should play a role in a governmental law in the first place while consistently playing the victim card.
“There are two halves of humanity, male and female and we complement each other. And that complementarity bears fruit in children. And even without children, the unitive nature of marriage brings together the two great halves of humanity,” Browns says. “This is not something that we will ever discard. We will always have this view. There will be Christians who will always stand up for this view. And they don’t do so, in my view, overwhelmingly because of any adamance or hatred. They do because they believe this is true. They believe that faith and reason are not at odds here. That the scripture reinforces something that is true about human nature and good and beautiful.”
Oppenheim quasi-unbiasedly mediates between glasses of wine, as they go around in a circle, neither party giving an inch. When Oppenheim probes into whether or not Brown favors making divorce illegal again, Brown responds, “No! Because you think something is wrong doesn’t mean you should make it illegal.” “Then why not have that same policy toward civil gay marriage?!” exclaims Savage. At which he gives a long-winded response as to why gay marriage “just can’t be.” When cornered about exactly how same-sex marriage being legalized would affect straight marriages, Brown tiptoes around the question with not-so-applicable references and simply states that it will “damage the institution.”
At the end of the hour-long debate, neither side has seceded to the others’ viewpoints, and Brown has managed to completely deviate from the arguments presented by Savage, leaning on mere biblical stories and personal opinions as talking points, neither of which will be able to hold up federal law much longer.
Watch the full video here: