Savage Vs. Psycho: Dan Savage Debates Prop 8 with Professional Homophobe Tony Perkins

Best line is at about 8:05:

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’s a violation of one of the Ten Commandments.

Complete transcript


WHOOPI GOLDBERG, CO-HOST, “THE VIEW”: I think people just kind of feel like they would like the rights, if they want to get married, that all Americans have.

And that is to raise your children, to raise your family, to do all of the things that you want to do and achieve the American dream. And you don’t have to be my idea of the American dream or even your idea. It is just the idea of the American dream.


COOPER: Whoopi Goldberg tonight with protesters outside the Mormon Temple here in New York City, part of a wave of demonstrations, really, against the church for spearheading a multimillion-dollar campaign to pass Proposition 8 in California last week, which makes same-sex marriage there illegal.

The Mormon Church encouraged followers to donate time and money. By some estimates, $22 million was raised by Mormons, which went to a massive ad campaign and phone-banking blitz to drive the passage of Proposition 8.

While same-sex marriage is now illegal in California, it became legal today in Connecticut, where the first same-sex couples wed.

Joining me now, writer Dan Savage, author of “The Commitment,” who was at the protest tonight here in New York, and Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, which supported Proposition 8, and author of “Personal Faith, Public Policy.”

Good to have you both with us.

Dan, I want to read in part a statement that the Mormon Church put out about these demonstrations. They say, “It is disturbing that our church or any group would be singled out for speaking up, voting, and being part of the democratic process.”

Why is the Mormon Church being singled out?

DAN SAVAGE, SYNDICATED SEX ADVICE COLUMNIST: Part of the Democratic process is, if you’re going to throw a punch, you’re going to have a punch thrown back, that you don’t get to march into the public square, slime people, malign people, demagogue against people, then and jump behind the bushes, and say, oh, 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 have 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 a 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 have 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 could focus on the African-American churches that — where African-Americans voted — over 70 percent of them voted for the marriage amendment in California.

But, you know, this really underscores what many people were saying, that this advancement of same-sex marriage was going to be — bring about this confrontation with religious liberties. And it is very frightening when you begin to see these demonstrations of…

SAVAGE: There is no confrontation with religious liberties.

PERKINS: … violating the spaces of churches, going and disrupting their services…


SAVAGE: That hasn’t happened. There’s been no disruption of services.


PERKINS: Yes, it has. It actually — it has happened. They have been spray-painting churches, vandalizing these churches.


COOPER: Tony, of the tens of thousands of people who have been demonstrating so far, most have been extremely peaceful. There may have been a few incidents here and there, but I don’t think it is accurate to say that there have been a large-scale of invasion of churches or spray-painting of churches.


SAVAGE: Gay bars have been firebombed by people stepped in the hate that Tony Perkins peddles.


PERKINS: Just like this, you know, Dan will not allow people to speak.

You know, 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 have had it twice now. I don’t understand…


SAVAGE: They have 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.


SAVAGE: There are religions in this country that will marry gay and lesbian couples. What about their religious freedom?

PERKINS: Look — look, the courts have stepped. You have gone to the courts. The courts overthrew the vote of over four million people from 2000. They gathered over a million signatures, put it back on the ballot. They passed it this time over five million votes.


SAVAGE: Which is part of what courts in our system are supposed to do. (CROSSTALK)

SAVAGE: The Constitution exists to protect the rights of vulnerable 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 that is a red herring. That is absolutely not true, because…


SAVAGE: It is not a red herring. It’s analogous.


PERKINS: … because when you talk about interracial marriage…

SAVAGE: It’s a total parallel.


SAVAGE: You are talking about the function of the courts and the role of the Constitution. And that’s what I’m addressing.


COOPER: No one can hear if…


SAVAGE: Well, he’s filibustering.


COOPER: Dan, finish your thought, and then we will have Tony respond.

SAVAGE: Well, Tony is saying the courts have no right to overrule the will of the people. That’s what the courts exist for, what the constitution exists for. It’s what the Bill of Rights is there for. To carve out certain things from the tyranny of the majority. COOPER: Tony, should 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. This — you know, someone can’t marry a close blood relative. They can’t marry an underage person. There are restrictions that have been upheld in almost every civilization for millennia. I mean, this is not something…

SAVAGE: For millennia, it was legal for men to beat their wives.

PERKINS: This is talking about…

SAVAGE: For millennia…

PERKINS: Dan — Dan, would you let somebody else speak?

COOPER: You’ve got to finish your thought, because I want to ask one other question. Dan — Tony, finish your thought.

PERKINS: Look, this is about redefining marriage. It’s not about what — you try to compare this to interracial marriage. It’s not the same thing. There were extra provisions put that would prohibit that were man and woman marrying. This is redefining marriage. It’s a totally different issue.

The people of California have spoken. In fact, every time this has gone on to the ballot and people have…

COOPER: There is a huge generational — there is a huge generational divide here, though. In the results of Proposition 8, basically older Americans voted more…

SAVAGE: The Mormon Church — the Mormon Church bankrolled this and shoved it through. The protest could also, I guess, be at an old folks home. Because old people voted.

COOPER: Do you feel…

SAVAGE: This kind of homophobia and racism is part and parcel for older vote.


PERKINS: Take that to the African-American community. To the Hispanic community.

COOPER: Do you feel that you are, though, that I mean, over time within a very short amount of time this issue — I mean, each time this is getting closer and closer as it’s come to a vote. Do you think the arc history that Barack Obama has brought in is in your favor?

SAVAGE: … of time. Because you know who redefined marriage? Straight people redefined marriage. Marriage used to be one man acquiring the property of another man, a daughter that became a wife. And straight people redefined marriage to be two individuals who commit to each other because they have a bond of love. There can be children or not children. There can be monogamous sexual relationship or not a monogamous sexual relationship. There can be a sexual relationship or not a sexual relationship.

PERKINS: That’s not what it means in our culture.

SAVAGE: And they want to define it back to the patriarchal, sexist institution it once was.

COOPER: Tony, it does seem that young people, though, view this issue very differently than you do. Do you worry at all that you’re 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: Young people overwhelmingly voted against Proposition 8.

PERKINS: No. You’re still saying — you’re not saying it’s not a majority. It’s not a majority.

SAVAGE: Yes. It is a majority. A majority of the young people voted against Prop 8.

PERKINS: What you see is there has…


COOPER: Tony, answer a question and then I’ll give you both a final thought — Tony.

PERKINS: You can’t get a word in edgewise.

SAVAGE: When you strip me of my rights when I interrupt you, who’s really suffering here?

PERKINS: Look, the policy that this country has adopted in the last 40 years, which has — which has minimized the importance of marriage, there’s an understanding that the purpose of public policy is to achieve a greater good. It’s not designed to shape out narrow anomalies. It’s for a broader reality.

And the reality is that kids need a mom and a dad. That’s what marriage is about. It’s not about two moms, two dads, three dads, three moms. It’s about a dad and a mom. And that’s what public policy should promote.

SAVAGE: That is not what marriage is about.


SAVAGE: People without children can get married.

PERKINS: They can, but that’s not…

SAVAGE: Marriage is not defined by the presence of children.

PERKINS: That’s not the purpose of government being involved regulating marriage.

SAVAGE: Individual liberties is the purpose of our constitution. For you to try 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.


COOPER: We’re going to leave it there, Tony. We’ll get a thought from Dan. Your final thought?

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’s 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 the best environment, social science…

SAVAGE: Not at the expense of minority rights and individuals.

PERKINS: Social sciences show overwhelming…

SAVAGE: That is a lie. It’s studies that are funded by bigots, for bigots, to justify bigotry. The studies you cite have all the validity of Tobacco Institute studies telling us in the ’70s and ’80s that smoking was safe.

COOPER: I’m sorry. We’ve got to go. Dan Savage, I appreciate it. Tony Perkins, as well. Thank you. An interesting discussion.

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