Behind The Scenes At The Dan Savage/Brian Brown Marriage Debate

The New York Times’ Mark Oppenheimer has written about his own perspective as moderator of the Dinner Table Debate between Dan Savage and the National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown. It seems that both Brown and Savage, as well as Savage’s partner Terry Miller, found the debate to be unproductive:

MILLER: Brian’s heartless readings of the Bible, then his turns to ‘natural law’ when the Bible fails, don’t hide his bigotry and cruelty. In the end, that’s what he is. Cruel.

BROWN: There’s this myth that folks like me, we don’t know any gay people, and if we just met them, we would change our views. But the notion that if you have us into your house, that all that faith and reason that we have on our side, we will chuck it out and change our views — that’s not the real world.

SAVAGE: Playing host put me in this position of treating Brian Brown like a guest. It was better in theory than in practice — it put me at a disadvantage during the debate, as the undertow of playing host resulted in my being more solicitous and considerate than I should’ve been. If I had it to do over again, I think I’d go with a hall.

Indeed, Brown did not once acknowledge the lives of same-sex families or their children, even though he was enjoying one such family’s home and hospitality. But Savage perhaps underestimates how the civil tone demanded by his hosting may very well help viewers better appreciate the cogent arguments he was making, as opposed to how much more abrasive he may have let himself become in a hall with an audience cheering him on. Indeed, as Jeremy Hooper points out, NOM posted its own separate (and branded) copy of the debate video in hopes of getting more positive responses on YouTube, because the original video is overrun with comments criticizing Brown’s arguments.


Many who have watched the debate identified a key quote from Brown that encapsulates not only all of NOM’s hypocrisy, but also the cold reality that its motives must be connected to anti-gay animus. At one point in the debate, Oppenheimer challenged Brown to explain why, if his organization is so concerned about defending marriage, that it devotes all its resources to obstructing same-sex marriage instead of advocating against divorce. Brown explained, “Just because you believe something is wrong, it doesn’t mean that you make it illegal” — words he clearly doesn’t live by.

Here again is the full debate: