Thursday, August 23, 2012

Dan Savage vs. Brian Brown on The Bible and Gay Marriage

I got little blogging done on Wednesday night for Thursday morning for two reasons: 1) life sometimes gets in the way and, 2) I watched the hour long video below.

A little background: Dan Savage is an outspoken gay rights activist and sex advice columnist. He was asked to give a speech at a school (the school knowing who he was, and the subject matter involved), and he irritated a small segment of them by calling some of the things in the bible "bullshit." Brian Brown is the head of the "National Organization for Marriage" (NOM), the badly named group that wants to prevent or reverse same-sex marriage everywhere across America.  Brian challenged Savage to a bible debate after the school event, and the result is here:

My review of the piece will be brief, because the piece above is so long. First, Savage acquits himself well, sounding calm, prepared, logical and well-reasoned. I wish he would have steered the talk early to say: religion has nothing to do with CIVIL marriage unless the participants WANT it to. So, the Bible argument is largely irrelevant to the subject of marriage equality. But Dan makes his points well, speaks for his 15 minutes, and then somehow sits for 15 minutes through Brown's bit.

To his credit, Brown sat through Dan's time without interrupting too. Through Brown's portion though, I just kept returning to the thought, "irrelevant" to all the bible talk about marriage. Nobody is talking about changing holy matrimony in churches. I'm a gay-married atheist. This is all just piffle to me. But alas, a "Bible debate" was what was entered into. Moving on. . .

NOM created a whole page, and several blog posts about this event, before its release. The framing is decidedly
negative, at least toward Savage, and somewhat triumphant toward Brown.
Dan got some rebuttal time, and again acquitted himself well, but again didn't hammer home that civil marriage isn't about religion. He did point out that Brown's religion shouldn't dictate Savage's marriage, which was good, and that civil marriages don't have to be sanctified by any church. I just wish that point was the centerpiece. I really think it's the key to the whole argument.

Dan gets into a little trouble, being unable to restrain himself in Brown's rebuttal. But it doesn't come off rude, and as I said, I don't know how he managed to be so quiet for so long. Brown gets in too deep with the "marriage = children" business, which has far too many exceptions to be taken seriously. Brown fails on his explanation for why Leviticus is important with the gay stuff, but nothing else. Even the moderator couldn't pull it out of him. But, Brian Brown loses his entire argument when he says,
“Because you believe something is wrong, doesn’t mean you make it illegal.” — Brian Brown @ 47:55
And then, when he starts saying that gay marriage "can not exist," and gets into cats and dogs, he's just ridiculous. I was tempted to just stop there, but thought. . .I can push through this. As I continued to watch, I was struck by how well Savage--essentially on the defensive--comes off very strong, but not belligerent.Well, until a little later, where he gets more interrupty (I would have too!). Brian Brown by then end is on defense, and seems inflexible and frankly starts talking in circles.

Ultimately, Savage is dealing more in the fact-based world, and Brown is dealing in faith and conjecture (what might happen), which was bound to happen in this sort of debate. There were probably few fence-sitters swayed, unless they were already predisposed one way or the other. But they proved it can be done. If I had to score it, I'd give the edge to Savage, and it wouldn't even be close, except for demerits for his interrupting late in the debate. But I soooo understand. . .

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