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April 18, 2012

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

Dan SavageDan 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 FuitenJoe 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 MurrayEd 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 BackholmJoseph 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 SchwartzPepper 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 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 ShawJennifer 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. AlexanderGerry 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?