The Smackdown in Seattle


The Smackdown in Seattle

By Frank Schubert

My friend and NOM's President Brian Brown absolutely put a smackdown on Dan Savage the other day in their grand debate about marriage in Seattle, Washington. For those who don't know him, Savage is the foul-mouthed face of the gay marriage movement. To understand how badly Brian demolished Savage, consider this: Savage is complaining about the subject chosen for the debate (which his hand-picked moderator selected); he's complaining about the location (his own dining room table, also his choice); The New York Times reporter who moderated decided to write a kitschy odd-ball article about the encounter (including how he was drunk), rather than a substantive review of the debate, and Savage has buried the video of the debate down near the bottom of his own website.

In other words, Brian so demolished Dan Savage that gay activists and the media now want to bury it.

Let's begin at the beginning. You may remember when Savage was a keynote speaker at a national conference for high-school journalists, held in Seattle. The creator of the "It Gets Better" anti-bullying campaign, Savage is himself a renowned bully. During his "lecture," Savage was true to form and used the occasion to berate the young Christians in the audience who were compelled to attend, mocking their faith, calling the bible "B...S..." and ridiculing people who accept the bible's teaching on homosexuality. After this diatribe had gone on for a while, some students began to walk out, and they were targeted by Savage with hateful and insulting comments. You can watch the video here, but be forewarned—Savage seems unable to communicate without resorting to cursing and invective.

Anyway, Brian saw the clip of Savage berating the teens and he immediately called him out in an email to NOM supporters, challenging him to a debate anytime, anywhere. "I'm here, you name the time and the place," Brian wrote. "Let's see what a big man you are in a debate with someone who can talk back." A few days later, Savage accepted the debate challenge in a three-word post that included an f*bomb. (Savage's incessant use of the f*bomb and similar language reminds me of the great line from the film "Broken Trail," when the character played by Scott Cooper asks the foulmouthed matron of a bar, "Do you kiss your mama with that mouth?")

I don't imagine that Dan Savage realized what he was getting himself into. It's my sense that our opponents have a view of us as bumpkins and boobs, reliant solely on our belief in God, and unable to defend our position on the basis of reason and rationality. But if you know Brian Brown, you know that he's an Oxford University-educated and intellectually gifted advocate who can combine philosophy, religious history, natural law and economics in mounting a reasoned defense of marriage. He's one of our movement's many brilliant advocates, not the least of whom include NOM's co-founders Maggie Gallagher and Robby George.

Dan Savage picked the location of the debate—Savage's own house. Savage picked the debate moderator, New York Times reporter Mark Oppenheimer. Oppenheimer, a supporter of same-sex marriage, picked the topic: "Resolved, Christianity is bad for LGBT persons," which both Savage and Brian accepted. And Savage insisted that the debate be recorded, no doubt relishing the thought of pushing out clips to a waiting gay activist community, anxious to see him take on the "evil" Brian Brown. Brian agreed, asking only that both sides get the full video to make publicly available.

I don't know too many people who would accept a debate under such circumstances, where even the moderator is openly on the other side. Yet Brian not only accepted, he embraced the opportunity… and he went on to demolish Savage!

As a political consultant, I've seen my share of debates. I could tell immediately that Savage was not up to the challenge. He appeared nervous and stilted, and he had pages of notes in front of him. No doubt he'd been very heavily coached. He managed to avoid the use of the f*bomb entirely, but was not able to avoid the occasional reference to bull excrement. Brian on the other hand was comfortable, confident in his subject matter, laughed easily, and had no notes.

The debate lasted just over an hour. Some of you have already watched it in its entirety. But I realize that not everyone has the time in their busy schedule to watch the full debate, so I went through the video and picked out about ten minutes of highlights. Please take a few minutes to watch.

What you will see is a passionate, reasoned, articulate defense of marriage, and a presentation of the profound public good it serves. You will see Brian demolish Dan Savage's arguments that the bible cannot be believed when it comes to marriage. You will see Brian make a case about the inherent nature of marriage, and how that nature cannot be altered. It is what it is and it cannot be redefined. Gay "marriage" can never exist, Brian explains, because marriage is intrinsically the union of one man and one woman.

Most of all, you will see Brian make a reasoned argument about the very nature of marriage as society's way of connecting children to their parents, and about how marriage is and always must be about something more than satisfying the desires of adults. If marriage is only about the public recognition of the relationships adults want for themselves, Brian asks, then why would this recognition be limited to just two people? Why not three, or four, or even more? Dan Savage struggles with the polygamy/polyamory argument, first bristling about having to answer it, and then articulating (poorly) what is essentially an economic argument against the practice—that under a polygamist regime, high-status men will accumulate many wives because of their status, which would create a shortage of women for less accomplished men. That would be unfair, Savage argues. Hmmm. I can think of a lot of arguments to mount against the inherent immorality of polygamy, but an appeal to economic equity isn't one of them.

As an aside, take a look at the statue of Jesus behind Dan Savage in some of the clips. Notice how he has it adorned with what appears to be press passes and convention tags, along with a "NYC Pride" badge. That tells you all you need to know about how the nation's leading gay marriage advocate feels about the role of faith in America.

One of the things that has bothered me the most about the marriage debate over the last few years is the way elitist judges and media commentators sanctimoniously contend there is "no rational basis" for maintaining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. This pabulum is served up regularly on the editorial pages of The New York Times and others in the elite media. And it's what the corrupt gay former federal judge Vaughn Walker ruled in declaring Proposition 8 to be unconstitutional. As the campaign manager for Prop 8, I was on the list of potential witnesses that Ted Olsen and David Boies were to call at the trial. Regrettably, they didn't have the guts to put me on the stand where I could deliver a reasoned, passionate defense of the institution of marriage.

The other day in Dan Savage's dining room, Brian Brown spoke for me, and for millions of others, and he did so brilliantly.

Sometime later this year, the US Supreme Court will very likely accept a case that will be the Roe v Wade of marriage. They will be set to determine if there is, indeed, a rational basis for defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Brian Brown answered that question resoundingly in the affirmative during the Smackdown in Seattle. Someone ought to forward a copy of the debate to the justices of the Supreme Court. If they see it, it will be game, set and match.

Bravo, Brian!

Frank Schubert is NOM's National Political Director. He managed the successful marriage campaigns in California, Maine and North Carolina and is managing all four campaigns on the November ballot this year.

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