Last week, the United States Supreme Court announced that it would take on the issue of same-sex marriage and give a decision to the country by June 2015. Currently, 36 states allow same-sex marriage, as well as the District of Columbia, leaving just 14 states still awaiting a decision. Countless LGBT couples will be affected this ruling, which will have a huge affect on their lives whether the decision is positive or negative. While more than 70 percent of Americans currently live in a place where same-sex marriage legal, the Supreme Court’s decision is still a huge moment in the history of the LGBT rights movement. But there are plenty of political opponents who are opposed not just to same-sex marriage, but to the courts deciding the outcome of the political war. That was probably why FOX News decided to host a debate between conservative Tony Perkins and lawyer Ted Olsen over the weekend, but they probably did not expect Perkins to be destroyed in the segment.
Tony Perkins is the president of the Family Research Council, an extreme right wing organization that is opposed to the legalization of same-sex marriage. Ted Olsen was Bush’s solicitor general and argued the court case that saw George W. Bush given the hotly contested election in 2000. Hosted by FOX News’ Shannon Bream, the debate ran for a little over five minutes and featured worn out arguments about letting the people vote on the issue and that legalizing same-sex marriage would lead to all sorts of sexual perversion. Olsen was completely unperturbed by this drivel coming from his opponent’s side and used the logic of the legal process to correct the misapprehensions that Perkins put forth.
It all began with the fact that more than 70 percent of all Americans live where same-sex marriage is legal and Bream asking the anti-gay marriage crusader Perkins whether that meant he and his organization had lost the fight. Perkins optimistically said no, noting that in three states where people have voted on the issue they have said no. He told Bream that he hoped the court would decide with the majority of Americans who obviously oppose same-sex marriage and do not want un-elected lawyers and judges deciding on this important issue.
Then Olsen stepped in a dropped a few facts on Perkins. According to Olsen, in 10 states where either the people or the state legislature has voted on the issue, they have legalized same-sex marriage. That is not even mentioning the overwhelming support for gay marriage that has been revealed by numerous opinion polls (a fact that Olsen would mention later). Then Olsen set Perkins and Bream (who was more than just sympathetic to Perkins’ view during the segment) straight on what exactly the court is supposed to do. As he explained, “The reason we have a Constitution, the reason we have separation of powers, the reason we have the 14th Amendment is to provide the courts with the opportunity to override the will of the people when the will of the people leads to discrimination against a segment of our society.” With that information provided, Olsen was able to argue that Perkins’ argument about voters was not only unconstitutional, but was discriminatory against a whole class of people just because of their sexuality.
After killing Perkins’ whole argument on the very first point, Olsen went on to smack down the idea that marriage is not a fundamental right. When Perkins made that very odd argument, the Bush era lawyer noted that in 120 years of deciding on cases involving marriage, the courts had said 15 times that marriage was a fundamental right and they did not specify the sexes that had to be involved in such a union. Unable to argue with the facts of history, Bream moved the debate on to a different point.
In a question that would only make sense if Bream was trying to help Perkins along, the FOX News host noted that the Supreme Court’s decision could backfire by galvanizing support for traditional marriage, much like it did after Roe v. Wade was decided on the issue of abortion. It was a laughable attempt to scare supporters of gay marriage, especially since it completely ignored the fact that the majority of people support same-sex marriage being legal. Olsen noted this in a dry tone and noted that today people cannot understand how interracial marriage was once illegal. He foresees the same outcome for gay marriage in the future, especially in light of the statistics regarding how many people support it.
Then came the shrillest moment of the segment with Perkins arguing that if same-sex marriage was legal they might as well legalize incest as well. He noted the recent story that a girl wanted to marry her father (leading to a priceless moment where Olsen asked if Perkins cared about a story written in a non-conservative magazine). Olsen reminded both Bream and Perkins that while more than 30 states had legalized same-sex marriage, nothing bad had yet to happen in those places. Bream gave Perkins the last word by ending the segment on a cry about religious liberty being threatened.
For lovers of a good debate, this segment will be a letdown. Perkins looked like an amateur at best next to the calm, informed Ted Olsen, who used facts and data to back up his arguments. The Family Research Council president was left no leg to stand on, but as the leader of a noted hate group, winning with facts was hardly what he was there for. Bream was an obviously biased host, which just made the entire farce even more laughable. In fact, this FOX News “debate” between Tony Perkins and Ted Olsen is probably more in the line of monster truck fans who like to see things get destroyed than an argument of ideas.
Opinion By Lydia Bradbury