Public Matters: Gay Marriage
  • Public Matters

Gay Marriage

Washington has just become the seventh state in the nation to approve same-sex marriage, but opponents promise to mount an effort to repeal the law in a referendum vote. We examine the controversy surrounding this contentious issue.

  • About the Program
  • About Cascadia
  • The Socratic Method
  • Hypothetical Questions

Premiere Episode: Gay Marriage

The first episode of "Public Matters" examines the controversy surrounding gay marriage. Washington has just become the seventh state in the nation to approve same-sex marriage. But opponents promise to mount an effort to repeal the law in a referendum vote in November. Both sides are digging in for what appears to be a protracted fight over this contentious issue that strikes at the core of our state's values, and raises intriguing questions of morality, equality, politics and faith.

About the Panelists

  • Dan Savage
  • Joe Fuiten
  • Ed Murray
  • Joseph Backholm
  • Pepper Schwartz
  • Jennifer Shaw
  • Gerry L. Alexander
Dan Savage
Dan Savage

Dan Savage is the Editorial Director for the weekly newspaper The Stranger and the author of "Savage Love," an internationally syndicated sex advice column. He and his husband are the founders of the "It Gets Better Project," which was created to help young LGBT people overcome bullying and discrimination. Dan lives in Seattle with his husband and adopted son.

Watch "Conversations at KCTS 9" with Dan Savage

Joe Fuiten
Joe Fuiten

Joe Fuiten is the Senior Pastor of Cedar Park Assembly of God in Bothell which operates eight churches, Washington State's largest private school in five locations, a day camp program, several State-licensed counseling centers, as well as a funeral home, cemetery, and mechanics shop. He is also on the board of directors for the Family Policy Institute of Washington, which filed Referendum 74.

Ed Murray
Ed Murray

Ed Murray is a Washington State Senator representing the 43rd Legislative District and was one of the primary sponsors of Washington's new Marriage Equality law. In 2009, Murray led the effort to pass the domestic partnership law known as the "Everything but Marriage" Act. He lives in Seattle with his partner.

Joseph Backholm
Joseph Backholm

Joseph Backholm is the Executive Director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington. He is the leader of the Protect Marriage Washington campaign to repeal Washington's marriage equality law. Joseph and his wife live with their three daughters and one son in Brier, Washington.

Pepper Schwartz
Pepper Schwartz

Pepper Schwartz is Professor of Sociology at the University of Washington in Seattle and the author of 14 books on sex and relationships. She is also the creator of PerfectMatch.com. Dr. Schwartz lectures nationally and internationally on relationship topics, women’s issues, and parent and child issues.

Watch "Conversations at KCTS 9" with Pepper Schwartz

Jennifer Shaw
Jennifer Shaw

Jennifer Shaw is the Deputy Director of the A.C.L.U. of Washington where she is responsible for leading the policy advocacy work and for coordinating multi-disciplinary, high impact campaigns for civil liberties that involve legal, legislative, public education and mobilizing programs.

Gerry L. Alexander
Gerry L. Alexander

Gerry L. Alexander is the former Chief Justice and a former associate justice of the Washington State Supreme Court. He was first elected to the Court in 1994, but retired in 2011 due to the court’s age limit of 75. He is now in private practice as an attorney in Olympia, Washington.

Watch "Conversations at KCTS 9" with Gerry Alexander

About "Cascadia"

Throughout our program, C.R. Douglas and his guests frequently refer to "Cascadia." No, they're not talking about Cascadia, Oregon. Nor are they referring to the community college in Bothell. Cascadia is our name for the fictional state where our hypothetical situations are set. In reality, Cascadia refers to the entire region of North America encompassing the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia. By setting our hypothetical questions in a fictional state, we allow guests to broaden the discussion and analysis beyond the confines of reality, and both pose and answer the larger questions of, "What if...?"

About the Socratic Method

The Socratic method is a form of inquiry that uses intense, continuous questioning between two individuals to stimulate critical thinking and get at the heart of a particular issue. Frequently the questioner will present a series of hypothetical situations, asking the other person to confirm or eliminate possible outcomes until the best hypothesis is found. The goal is to get the student or interviewee to question commonly held opinions, scrutinize their own beliefs, and reach a conclusion through logic and reason.

The method is named after Socrates, a Greek philosopher who lived from 470-399 BC. While he is widely regarded as one of the greatest philosophers who ever lived, Socrates left no writings at all. Nearly everything we know about him comes from the work of his students, such as Plato and Xenophon. Their writings portray Socrates as engaging and questioning his students in a continuous search for truth over belief.

The Socratic method is commonly used at law schools across the nation. It is known to strike fear in the hearts of many law students, thanks in part to its portrayal in the 1973 film The Paper Chase. In truth, however, it is a valuable tool that helps students develop and refine skills in critical thinking and objective analysis.

The Hypothetical Questions

Throughout the program, C.R. Douglas poses hypothetical questions to the guests, challenging them with situations that present difficult decisions and both moral and ethical dilemmas. Here are some of the hypothetical situations and questions we presented during the program? How would you answer them?

Suppose Washington's new law allowing same-sex marriage has taken effect. If you had the legal authority to sanctify a marriage (such as a priest, pastor, or judge) and an opposite-sex (straight) couple asked you to marry them, would you do it? What information would want to know about the couple?

What if they told you they don't plan to have children? Would that matter?

What if they told you they were not in love and were getting married for a different reason such as financial benefits, or to secure residency for one partner? How would that affect your decision?

If a same-sex couple asked you to marry them, would you do it? What information would you want to know about them?

What if one of the people was your son or daughter? Would you support their desire to enter into a same-sex marriage?

If they asked you to attend a same-sex marriage with them, just to see what it was like, would you go?

Which relationship is more deserving of marriage:
A straight couple that is not in love, but seeking financial benefits or residency; or
A same-sex couple that is in love?

If a "throupple" (three people in one relationship) asked you to preside over their ceremony, would you do it?*

* Note – "Throuples" or "Triads" are not legal in Washington or the U.S., but are recognized and have been performed in other countries.

What if one of the "throuple" was your son or daughter? Would you support them?

All factors being equal, who will do better:
Two adopted children being raised by a same-sex couple; or
Two adopted children being raised by an opposite-sex couple?

All factors being equal, who will do better:
Two adopted children being raised by a same-sex couple; or
Two adopted children being raised by a single parent?

Under Washington's new law, religious organizations are exempt from presiding over or providing services for a same-sex marriage if it violates the organization's tenets or beliefs. Non-religious affiliated businesses, however, are not. Should a business such as a photographer, florist, tuxedo shop, bakery, or event facility be allowed to refuse to provide services for a same-sex marriage because of the business owner's personal or religious beliefs?

Should an individual employee of the business be entitled to "opt out" of providing services for a same-sex marriage because of his or her personal or religious beliefs?

In 2006, the Washington Supreme Court upheld the state's Defense of Marriage Act and ruled, essentially, that gay and lesbian couples did not have a fundamental right to marriage.

Do you think there is a "compelling state interest" to limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples in order to encourage procreation?

If marriage is about procreation and raising children, should a straight couple that doesn't want children be allowed to get married?

Comments

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12/12/13

The warning to parents about it may not be suitable for all viewers at the beginning of this program was a warning that haters are present on the program and that their advocacy of bigotry and discrimination is harmful to children and all people.

The hate advocated by NOM and the preacher in the name of Jesus is immoral.

07/03/12

There's very little that anyone can do to "stop the future from happening", regardless of anyones personal beliefs, same sex marriage is here to stay, it's just a matter of how quickly the states adopt laws.

03/09/13

Yes these person also have life and they also wanted to live it as a normal human , so its better for them if same sex marriages stays live.

07/03/12

What a great show! Keep the series going. It is a great public service.

How about doing a show on the state income tax debate, the death penalty and school funding.

04/25/12

There are simple solutions available in the U.S. such as that practiced in many European countries. Is there a reason why we can't adopt the simple solutions?

In 1792, with the French Revolution, religious marriage ceremonies in France were made secondary to civil marriage. Religious ceremonies could still be performed, but only for couples who had already been married in a civil ceremony. Napoleon later spread this custom throughout most of Europe. In present-day France only civil marriage has legal validity. A religious ceremony may be performed after the civil union, but has no legal effect.

04/25/12

Civil Rights are not *conferred* by the state, they are *recognized* and then protected by the state. Civil rights that aren't recognized or protected are still rights, just not recognized as such (yet) or protected as such (yet). Our understanding of what these most basic rights are have evolved over the past centuries, and they will continue to evolve.

04/20/12

NICOLE 1963

"The failure of the theory you pose lies in the belief that marriage is and always has been nothing more than a religious rite. Long before Judeo/Christian practices appeared in society the so called institution of marriage existed. It is not some sort of exclusively religious rite but a civil contract."

Name one society ever that allowed and condoned homosexual marriage? Religious or not. What you want has never been accepted in human society. You are free to hope and work for that to change but as it is not at all natural, you will have a difficult time.

05/14/12

I'll name several:

Argentina
Belgium
Canada
Iceland
Netherlands
Norway
Portugal
South Africa
Spain
Sweden

04/19/12

If all gay people just care about a certificate then they can get a "domestic partnership" certificate. Domestic partnership is recognized nation wide. Gays have their rights, they are recognized. That doesn't mean they should change what straight people have and change what my child will be taught in school, and what my child will be forced to believe is "socially acceptable". By allowing Gays to get "married", it takes away my right as a parent to teach my child what I want to teach her. It undermines what I will be teaching her. I will raise her with morals, christian beliefs and teach her the bible and that Gay is not ok. and then she will go to kindergarten and tell me that Mr. Allens husband came to class today, and I will have to explain to her that the world is wrong in various ways. Oh but you better believe I will teach it to her that Gay marriage is wrong. Gay is wrong. 1 man and 1 woman!

04/19/12

And if gay people actually care about being treated equally as straight people, there is no reason for two institutions for what is legally the same thing - separate but equal is unequal.

Domestic partnerships are not recognized nationwide - in some states, out-of-state domestic partnerships/ civil unions/ marriages of same sex couples are recognized, and in some states only marriages of same sex couples are recognized.

Marriage equality does not change what straight people have, it allows same sex couples to participate in the same institution.

This legislation does nothing to change what will be taught in school.

Nobody will be forced to believe anything is socially acceptable, especially not by a couple having a "marriage" vs. "domestic partnership.

When same sex couples can marry or get a domestic partnership, your ability to teach your child what you want is not changed.

If anything undermines what you teach your child, it is reality and same sex couples that she will see in her life.

Whether gay couples can marry or not, get domestic partnerships or not, you are still free to raise your child with any beliefs you wish, just as anyone else can.

Whether she tells you that Mr Allen's husband or partner came to class, you are still free to teach what you believe - and you will have to explain why you think the world is wrong in various ways anyway, even if they couldn't get a domestic partnership.

But your beliefs and what you want to teach your child are no reason that same sex couples should not be married and their children should not be protected under that marriage.

04/19/12

"Domestic partnership is recognized nation wide" -- This statement is 100% wrong. Not all state allow for DPs or recognition of DPs.

You can teach your child anything that you would like. If you dont believe in interfaith or interracial marriages you can teach your child that too. You can teach your child that all other faiths are going to hell but your --- but as society as a whole as rebuked that notion just as it is doing with the marriage of gay people.

04/20/12

DP's are not recognized everywhere. In fact, there are only a few states where they exist, and very few where out of state dp's are recognized, and the federal government doesn't recognize them anywhere in the country. Where did you get your idea? Have you done any research on the topic at all or are you just repeating what you heard from your minister, or Rush Limbaugh?
What exactly will change for you if I get married to my partner? You, sir, are lying. There is no impact on anyone's marriage from anyone else's marriage.
How does marriage equality limit your right to pass your homophobia on to your child? Concrete, real world evidence please, no more lies and distortions.
You have a log in your eye, and are talking about the splinter in mine.

04/20/12

Typical homosexual commentary. No impact on marriage? Of course there are huge impacts! look at europe. They have a 70% out of wedlock birth rate. Look at Canada where ministers cannot freely teach bible verses that deal with the sin of homosexaulity as it is now called hate speech. Look at NY where the Catholics have had to close their orphanages as they will not adobt to gay couples. Now that gay marriage is the law there, they had to choose between their faith and possible lawsuits. The log isnt in our eye, its up your you know what but I guess thats where you like it.

04/20/12

So what you're saying is, we should treat entire groups of people as second-class citizens, because if we didn't, it might inconvenience a few people.

04/21/12

"They have a 70% out of wedlock birth rate."

[Citation needed.] I'm not aware of any statistics which record births to non-married couples. While not equivalent, teenage pregnancy could be a predictor for this, and it's much higher in the US (3.4%) than in many European countries(e.g. Netherlands is 0.3%, 0.7% in Sweden and Denmark, UK 2.6%, etc.)

04/21/12

OK, found some stats. Wikipedia sources http://unmarriedwithchildren.net/ for Sweden, the UK and France has having 56%, 42% and 48% respectively of newborns being born to unmarried persons, though that page itself has no sources. Moreover, two of the countries in question don't have laws which allow same-sex couples to be married. You also haven't demonstrated that there is a causal connection between gay marriage and those stats, even assuming they were valid.

Your statement about the adoption agencies has some errors in it. The case your thinking of is in Illinois, which does not yet have same-sex marriage, though it does have civil partnerships. Moreover, they were not forced to shut down: their contract with the state for their adoption and placement services was not renewed. When they left, another organisation picked up their slack and continue to place these children (who were wards of the state, btw) in foster homes.

04/18/12

I'd like to say two things.

@billwald:

"The problem is generated by theoretically righteous hate on both sides. Both sides want to own and control the word, "marriage."

I resent that assessment.

Loving gay couples are fighting for their share of the Constitutional pie, and that means a government-issues marriage CERTIFICATE, a CONTRACT.

There is NO religious connotation whatsoever to federal marriage; it is NOT "holy matrimony."

Gay couples see use of ONE version of marriage: the certificate that comes with forming a couple used as a tool on which to build a life.

On the other hand there is "holy matrimony," and gay couples, in most cases, are not pushing for that. Those that are understand that they cannot DEMAND that privilege.

So, you have one side wanting one of the versions, and the other side wanting BOTH all for themselves.

And when your fellow Americans aggressively fight to prevent you from enjoying the SAME rights they themselves are afforded for their citizenship and tax dollars, how SHOULD one respond? That person has made himself your enemy. How would ANYONE feel in such a position? Violated, disrespected, marginalized, and in some cases, as we see every day in this debate, demononized and dehumanized.

Hate is unfortunately a natural response.

I myself struggle to ward it off EVERY SINGLE DAY.

Then somebody, usually a religious person, angrily tells me I'm out to destroy America, or that I'm a threat to the American family, or that I am the personification of Satan himself, and I feel it surge all over again.

And this is ironic, because every single gay person I know simply wants to build a life just life everyone else.

Peacefully and productively contributing to society.

As an aside, as far as gay people allegedly wanting to destroy society and civilization, please let me remind everyone that it was a gay man, Alan Turing, who, during WWII, helped SAVE society and civilization by cracking, among others, the Enigma Code, which ultimately brought down Hitler and the Nazis.

When Mr. Turing, an Englishman (widely known to be "The Father of the Computer," without whom we wouldn't be tapping away on our keyboards) was caught with another man, in a private residence, Mr. Turing was charged with, and eventually convicted of, homosexuality.

A grateful nation's thanks to Mr. Turing's efforts to win WWII?

He was offered a choice of punishment: prison or chemical castration.

Mr. Turing chose the latter and shortly after killed himself.

Point: Gay people are NOT demons deserving of social barbarism. And being gay truly challenges belief in humanity. Mr. Turing's death was very preventable. He could have been treated with compassion, decency, and humanity, but no...we are indeed social barbarians.

And it continues today, each and every time people like Mr. Hutcherson condemn gay people in jaw-dropping statements of cruelty and ignorance.

Having said that, I found my gay brother when he attempted suicide as a teenager. My father's response when he found out what my brother had done? He beat him so badly my brother had bruises and black and blue marks on him for weeks. Today? Today my brother is 39 and still very much gay.

This is intolerable.

And one rejecting Mr. Hutcherson's barbarism is NOT hypocritical if one is a proponent of "tolerance" as a concept. Tolerance has its limits, and tolerance need not yield to willful ignorance and malice.

Thank you for reading, if yoou have.

04/17/12

At about the 37 minute point, Pastor Ken Hutcherson says that the way for parents to treat actual, or supposed gay children is for them to beat the children with belts. Hutcherson said that just as a parent can beat the "criminal gene" out of their children, they can beat the "gay gene" out of their children. Hutcherson's shocking, ignorance-fueled barbarism should serve as a motivator for any decent person in Washington State to do everything in the power, better to protect the fundamental human rights of sexual minorities. At just 3 years of age, Ronnie Paris, Jr. was beaten to death by his father who thought he was going to turn out gay. To see Hutcherson's smug fatuousness in his cruel insanity is almost surreal.

04/17/12

Mr. Hutcherson stated, "Discipline, understanding, good parenting removes the homosexual gene."

04/19/12

And "discipline" was what he said right after referring to beating a child with a belt. It is fairly obvious that by discipline, he means to include beating.

04/13/12

The problem is generated by theoretically righteous hate on both sides. Both sides want to own and control the word, "marry."

The simple solution is to get the government out of the "marrying" business. Having the government regulate the sacrament of marriage makes as much sense as the government regulating the sacrament of baptism. (That should stir the pot. )

Strike "marriage" in all forms from all legislation and replace those words with "personal contract." Strike "domestic partner" in the same way. Each side will be equally unhappy. The churches will be able to "marry" whomever they choose with no legal implications.

04/16/12

@billwald

The failure of the theory you pose lies in the belief that marriage is and always has been nothing more than a religious rite. Long before Judeo/Christian practices appeared in society the so called institution of marriage existed. It is not some sort of exclusively religious rite but a civil contract.

However, every time the anti-equality forces rise to contest same sex marriage one quickly finds that behind all their rhetoric and unfounded assertions resides the shadow of religious intolerance. Not simply content to follow their own dogma and subjective dictates these groups actively work to enshrine in law the foundation of their religion while at the same time defending their abhorrent acceptance of discrimination.

Too often when these anti-equality groups are called out on their religiously fueled opposition to civil law and rights they choose to play the discrimination card themselves. The flood society with false accusations that those who do not agree with their active efforts and doctrine of trying to take away their religious freedom.

No matter what your religion says you should not have the right to demand I abide by your beliefs. Nor should society allow you the ability to enshrine in history the idea that others that do not subscribe to you ideology and may differ in composition from you are a lesser entity.

Marriage and its so called definition have constantly been in a state of flux do to the evolution of civilization. To demand that suddenly it stop being fluid simply because it has reached a composition that encompasses you and serves your beliefs is paramount to using the “I’m aboard now pull up the ladder” sea rescue mentality. In other words it is a failing argument and all that advocate its use know that. They use it because fear and a designed program of repeated misinformation promote confusion, which usually benefits the status quo in this case their false assertions.

Marriage equality will be the law of the land it is not a matter of if but of when. In the end society will toss off the yoke of discrimination and laws based in religious ideology and accept equality for all.

04/17/12

The problem is that religion has NOTHING to do with marriage but the tyrannical theocRATs sure would like to change that. Religions are about holy matrimony and wedding RITES not marriage RIGHTS. Tyrannical theocRATS need to keep their noses out of the United States Constitution and stick to what they do - wedding rites. Only a state-issued marriage license, signed by the married couple, witnesses and filed with the state confer the 1138 Federal and State rights of marriage. The wedding RITE confers none of these Marriage Rights.

Marriage is a fundamental constitutional unalienable human right and not debatable.

As for what else heterosupremacist tyrannical theocRATS can do - they can shove their kill gays bible down their own throats and choke it down with their Jesus Freak Koolaid.

04/20/12

"Marriage is a fundamental constitutional unalienable human right and not debatable".

Says who? Not only are you perverting the bible, now you are perverting the US constitution and the bill of rights. Quote me where you found that marriage is a constitutional right.

08/06/12

"Quote me where you found that marriage is a constitutional right."

Loving v. Virginia

The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.

Marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man," fundamental to our very existence and survival.

04/20/12

The government currently only controls marriage in regards to the following criteria: age, consanguinity, consent, and sexual orientation. This is why it is inherently unfair, since gay couples can satisfy all but the last requirement, and it's the only one which serves absolutely no legitimate state interest. How does preventing gay couples from marrying help anybody, except religious fundamentalists who wish government approval and support for their animus?

04/20/12

"This is why it is inherently unfair, since gay couples can satisfy all but the last requirement, and it's the only one which serves absolutely no legitimate state interest."\

I totally disagree. The states interest in marriage is indeed to promote strong and stable families for the procreaation and nurturing of children. This is pecisely why gay marriage is not in the state's interest. Otherwise why have marriage at all? Why not a certificate for room mates, for couples living together? Its all about encouraging and protesting the family unit and procreation. While gay couples may be able to satisfy other requirements, they cannot satisfy the most important one, creating children.

04/20/12

Why is it not simply in the state's interest to promote strong and stable families — regardless of whether those families contain children?

If there are children, then so much the better, as more individuals are protected by the stability of marriage. But that protection doesn't count as nothing for childless families.

The simple matter is that, undercurrent law, the ability to marry does not hinge on the ability or desire to have biological children. Indeed, seven states make it a requirement that certain couples CANNOT be able to procreate if they are to be allowed to marry.

Even leaving that aside, nationally, 35% of gay couples are caring for children. If, under your definition, marriage is about the protection and nurturing of children, how is your stated interest served by denying marital protections to those families? We allow and even encourage gay couples to adopt, yet deny their families the protections of marriage. What kind of policy is that?

04/22/12

You need to be more clear, is the interest in procreation? Or is the interest in raising children?

Gay couples do raise children all the time, just like adoptive couple's do. Gay couples do use surrogacy and egg/sperm donation, just like infertile heterosexuals do. Does the state have no interest in protecting these families? I believe it does.

Does the state have no interest in protecting childless marriages? Those past the age of fertility? Then why can they marry, and gay couples with kids cannot?

You are free to believe "creating children" is THE requirement for marriage, but that means denying all couple's who can't have kids and who adopt from marrying. And inconveniencing many gay and straight families, which the state DOES have an interest to protect.

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