At a high school journalism conference in April, Dan Savage ruffled the feathers of social conservatives when he called out the hypocrisy in using the Bible to justify anti-gay positions while other verses are ignored. “We can learn to ignore the bullshit in the Bible about gay people. The same way, the same way we have learned to ignore the bullshit in the Bible about shellfish, about slavery, about dinner, about farming, about menstruation, about virginity, about masturbation,” he said. “We ignore what the Bible says about slavery, because the Bible got slavery wrong… the Bible got the easiest moral question that humanity has ever faced wrong. Slavery. What are the odds that the Bible got something as complicated as human sexuality wrong?”
Several students walked out, prompting Savage to note their “pansy-assed” reaction, for which he apologized. A furious Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for marriage, accused Savage of bullying and challenged the brains behind the “It Gets Better” campaign to a debate: “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,” wrote Brown.
Dan Savage accepted and named the place as the dining room table at his Seattle home. “The trick here is you have to knowledge my humanity by accepting my hospitality and I have to acknowledge yours by extending my hospitality to you,” he said in a podcast. Before the hour-long debate, Brown broke bread with Savage, his husband Terry Richardson, their son DJ, and moderator Matt Oppenheimer.
At the onset of the debate, Savage unpacked even more Biblical contradictions before speaking about Brown’s position and how it directly affects his family: “‘Illegal’ is not a religious term… and I believe people are free to prosthelytize. If somebody wants to talk me out of my marriage to Terry, I that they should knock themselves out. I don’t think they have a right to use the law to do that, to deny us equal protection under the law because of their interpretation of the Bible or their interpretation of God’s will. Imposing your interpretation of the bible on someone else is not religious freedom, as you attempt to redefine it, that is religious tyranny.”
Later, he added, “I do feel that NOM is in the bearing false witness business, and routinely bears false witness against your LGBT neighbors.”
Brown responded by blasting “academia and elite culture” for denying the “unique and special union” between a man and a woman. He continued that the far-left is responsible for launching an attack on Christianity. “What I see attempted here… is the notion that those of us who know that marriage is the union of a man and a woman, we are deserving of treatment less than others because we are bigots and we deserve what we get,” he said.
Moderator Matt Oppenheimer of the New York Times soon interjected, questioning NOM’s fervent opposition to civil marriage for same-sex couples as compared to its apathetic stance on divorce. “Divorce is not permitted in Catholicism, right? It’s not my understanding that the NOM is pushing as hard to prohibit civil divorce as you are to prohobit civil marriage for gay people,” he said. “I don’t see you putting money and lobbying efforts towards eliminating the permissibility of divorce.” Aghast, Brown responded, “Of course not.”
Shaking his head, Savage offered this rejoinder: “Because that would touch on the rights of straight people. Because then you would be attacking the rights of the majority and not a tiny defenseless minority.”