Dan Savage and Brian Brown Debate Gay Marriage Over the Dinner Table


THE ancient Greek symposium, which combined drinking with elevated discussion, was often held in a private house; at Parisian salons, conversation frequently took place in the bedroom. Once upon a time, intellectuals knew they could do their best thinking at home, not in a public venue, and that debate would be helped along by food and drink. 

But is such gemütlichkeit possible in this country in 2012, when our young century has already been strafed by culture wars and juvenile attack ads? Last week, four of us put it to the test.

The Dinner Table Debate, as we are calling it, was set in motion last April, when Dan Savage, the sex columnist and originator of “It Gets Better,” an anti-bullying campaign, gave a speech to a high school journalism convention here, attacking the Bible as the root of much anti-gay bullying.

We can learn to ignore the nonsense in the Bible about gay people the same way we have learned to ignore what the Bible says “about shellfish, about slavery,” he told them, referring to Paul’s injunction that slaves should obey their masters.

As some students walked out, Mr. Savage taunted them: “It’s funny, as someone who is on the receiving end of beatings that are justified by the Bible, how pansy-assed people react when you push back.”

Two weeks later, Brian S. Brown, a conservative Catholic who is president of the National Organization for Marriage, an anti-gay-marriage advocacy organization, issued a challenge to Mr. Savage on the group’s blog: “You want to savage the Bible? Christian morality? Traditional marriage? Pope Benedict? I’m here, 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.”

On May 22, Mr. Savage responded in his weekly podcast, offering to hold the debate at his dining room table, in his home in Seattle. “Bring the wife, my husband will be there,” he said. “You have to acknowledge my humanity by accepting my hospitality, and I have to acknowledge yours by extending my hospitality to you.”

Written By: Mark Oppenheimer
continue to source article at nytimes.com


  1. Of course, after an evening of performing mental gymnastics to justify his views, Mr. Brown helped himself to a second serving of dessert on his own website: 
    http://www.nomblog.com/27438/ to make sure his followers know exactly why he is the big winner.


  2. Mr. Brown is against no fault divorce says it all. This guy is more obsessed with control and rules than that of peoples’ well being and rights.

  3. I’ve a moderate evangelical relative I’d like to send this to, but I think he (and more so his wife) would not watch the whole thing because of the swearing. It’d be useful if there was a version where it was bleeped or blanked out.

  4. I would take government out of marriage completely. I would replace it with a simple contract, that you had to read and understand, that set out your rights and obligations as spouses. The religious and secular aspects of marriage are already slowly separating. I would make a clean break. If you are religious, you have a religious ceremony, but just is it is in much of the world now, it is doing the secular legal paperwork that marries you in the eyes of the law. 

    A secular, civil marriage, is very much like a combination of having mutual powers of attorney, and mutual joint ownership of all your assets, plus custody and guardianship of any children you have. 

  5. Epic conversation. It ended just as they were really getting fired up though! Brown was still never able to give a reason how any heterosexual marriage would ever be damaged by an LGBT one… It undermines the institution? Huh?

  6. I can’t think of anything more unnatural than spending my entire life with one person, man or woman.

  7. Brian S. Brown, argues that gays should not be allowed to marry because they have not been allowed to marry in past. That is simply the way things are supposed to be. Whether gays are or are not permitted to marry would not affect his life in the least, but he assures us he bears no malice toward gays, even though he compares gay marriage to bestiality, pedophilia and polygamy. What a liar!

    Brown claims it is inappropriate to criticise someone’s religion. It is disrespectful. How would the Spanish Inquisition have had ended if someone did not have the courage to speak out? Why should a church be permitted to encourage pedophilia and bullying of children without opposition?

    Brown argues that gays should not be allowed to marry because they cannot bear children with outside help. However, he notes that it would be ridiculous to bar straight people from marrying who were similarly disabled. He insists there is nothing in the least bigoted or inconsistent in his position.

  8. I found myself unable to listen to the douchebag on the left. He never seemed to listen to a word either of the other guys said. The gay man listed a bunch of reasons for such and such and then the other guy would say, give me one reason why blahblahblah…I wanted to scream at the screen — HE JUST DID! What an idiot. Grow up and realize you’re wrong on this issue for the love of Pete!

  9. Dan Savage repeatedly pressed Brian S. Brown, President of the National Organisation for Marriage for what terrible thing he imagined would happen if gays were allowed to marry. Brown gave two answers:

    People will think I am a bigot. (Surprise. They already do.)

    Children in school will be taught to feel no shame in having two daddies. He wants kids to feel ashamed of something that they had no part in creating. What a nasty old fart!

  10. The moral necessity of marriage equality is not a subject that is up for debate, any more than the falsehood of creationism is up for debate. Indeed, I find it deeply offensive that people would even suggest that a debate needs to be had. No thank you, we shall not be debating whether gay people are human beings deserving of human rights and equality, that shall be taken as a given.

    We wouldn’t debate whether Irish people deserve an equal right to medical treatment. We wouldn’t debate whether left-handed  people deserve the right to own property. We wouldn’t debate whether the over 70s should be allowed to vote. If anyone suggested “debating” these points, we would rightly tell them to get lost and think them utterly beyond the pale. And so it should be with marriage equality.

    Admitting the nauseating bigots who champion discrimination to the discussion is crediting their views with a legitimacy they do not deserve. This is not an issue on which there are two competing sides, this is a cut and dried issue which admits of no rational challenge. In  circumstances such as this debate is utterly counter-productive. The only real debate to be had is about how to change the law to introduce equality as soon as possible, not whether to.

  11. I watched this, and tunderf00t’s debate with Eric Hovind(which is hard to stomach but worth a view) back to back, and I noticed a common theme, one which I now realize is at the root of all religious arguments: Empirically unjustified assertions.  The argument literally goes nowhere because one side, the God side, doesn’t play fair, and in the gay marriage debate, the bigots don’t even realize their own bigotry. There were all types of stupid reasons for disallowing interracial marriage, and they were stupid because they weren’t justified by empirical evidence, which is what all decisions and beliefs should be based upon.

    In the face of valid criticisms of the anti-gay interpretation of scripture, Christians rarely budge. This is because the scripture is in cahoots with ones innate aversion to the sex which one is not attracted to. A pro-gay straight male initially uses reason to bypass the feeling of disgust at the sight or thought of two males being intimate or having sex, and may eventually learn to see the beauty in two men kissing, as I have. The holy books themselves are the poison. The root problem is that most people still take cues from an inconsistent, incoherent, factually incorrect, superstitious collection of ramblings written by ignorant bronze age goat-herders. Religion doesn’t deserve respect, and it only gets it because of fear. Religion is intrinsically linked to the fear of death, and the aversion to suffering. This is why we are supposed to tread lightly. This is why we can’t bring it up at dinner parties. This is why religious people cling to bigoted ideas. Because if they are intellectually honest with themselves about homosexuality, then it may lead to them giving up their cozy belief in cloud paradise and big papa smurf in the sky.

    Brown asserted that the personalities and qualities of a man and a woman feed off each other and compliment each other, and therefore both sexes are necessary for  “true marriage” and for the raising of children. This epitomizes the way religious people simplify the complexities of nature, and perhaps shows that they don’t understand gay people at all. Just because you have a penis doesn’t make you a man. Just because you have a vagina doesn’t make you a woman. Some gay men are manly, some are womanly, some gay women are manly, and so on. There is a continuum of sexual orientations and we have to accept them all, as along as they don’t have tangible negatives attached. Sexuality is incredibly complex, and the systematic religious repression of it has gone on for way too long. Sexual liberation will further emancipate humanity from self-inflicted shackles.

  12. ‘Huge quantum leap’ ? 

    For the rest, another uncoming together of minds.


  13. I have discovered something quite peculiar — the people most opposed to promiscuity, the people who believe marriage is such a wonderful institution that they call it sacred, the people who believe that children should only be raised by two-parent married couples, insist most strenuously on denying marriage to others.

    They see themselves as so superior to everyone else, they believe that allowing others to partake would defile the institution. Normally, humans want to share institutions they value. These Christian bigots claim to be strong supporters of the US constitution, but ignore the first amendment and insist on imposing their religious superstitions on everyone.

  14. Brian S. Brown’s comments were largely of the form organisation X accused my people of a bad thing.   It was uncalled for, whether the accusation was true or not. My feelings are hurt. How dare you think there exists a bigoted bone in my body! Therefore I am morally superior to all gay people. Therefore I should get my way in denying gays the right to marry simply on the grounds I think it is weird.  My sense of what it weird trumps everyone else’s because I am right.  What’s the matter with you people?  Why won’t you acknowledge my logic is irrefutable?  What a pompous little porcupine!

  15. It’s been my experience that whenever I’ve become really good, close friends with both parties to a heterosexual
    marriage with children, they inevitably confess to me about times when they could have figuratively
    strangled both their kids AND their spouse when some “not-so-good” incident has happened.

    I would have asked Mr. Brown why he feels that only human heterosexuals should have to suffer like this. It
    seems MOST unfair to me.

    The “institution” of marriage  just “loves” additional volunteers!!!!!!!  

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