Yesterday, before Gay Pride got under way in New York City, San Francisco and other towns across America and the world, politicos and pundits were on the Sunday morning shows debating pride's de facto raison d'etre this year, the end of DOMA and the start of same-sex marriages in California.
On Meet the Press, Rachel Maddow, suddenly relevant again Evangelical leader Ralph Reed and staunchly conservative former South Carolina U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint argued over same-sex parents and their children. According to DeMint, the 37 states where same-sex marriage remains illegal "want to protect the marriage between a man and a woman because they know that that's the environment where children can thrive and succeed. I mean, that's been proven." "It's not about the desires of adults, it's really about the best environment for children."
Maddow was having none of this, and replied:
"Justice Kennedy addressed that issue specifically in his ruling. He says that by denying marriage rights to same-sex couples who have kids, you’re humiliating and demeaning those kids... You are just arguing for more discrimination. And more discrimination doesn’t make straight people’s lives any better."
Reed got defensive over the claim that he's intolerant, and tried, unsuccessfully, to turn Maddow's message onto President Obama. "This suggestion that because somebody wants to affirm the institution of marriage that they're ipso facto intolerant? By that argument, Barack Obama was intolerant 14 months ago… Was he a bigot 14 months ago?" An astonished Maddow retorted, "Nobody's calling anybody a bigot."
Elsewhere, on ABC's This Week, Chad Griffin from HRC was invited on to tout his group's role in the big win and to preview their coming moves: state-based ballot initiatives and legislative measures aimed at ending marriage discrimination once and for all. "We have to acknowledge there are 37 states that still don't have equality…. We'll fight on all courts. [We'll] fight them at the ballot box with opportunities, the state legislature, and ultimately it will come back to the federal courts."
Sadly, there wasn't much back-and-forth between Griffin and This Week host George Stephanopoulos's next guest, hateful National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown. Brown of course went straight for the histrionics by calling the majority opinion a "travesty" that "robbed" anti-equality activists who live in "lawless" California.
Brown's colleague, NOM Chairman John Eastman, took a similarly stormy message over to CNN's State of the Union, warning host Candy Crawley and the viewing audience of nebulous "harm" on the horizon. "It is going to take root over time, just as the harm that's flowed from loosening the divorce laws and going to no- fault divorce and kind of just utter weakening of the cultural institution behind marriage and the cultural support of that.”
Crawley also hosted David Boies, the attorney who successfully argued the Prop 8 case with Ted Olson. Like Griffin and all other marriage activists, Boies says he'll use his legal expertise to help couples in other states. "There isn't any state we're giving up on," he said. "Our goal is to have marriage equality that's guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, enforced in every single state in the union."
Their efforts will no doubt include Indiana, where anti-gay groups continue pushing for a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage, and Illinois, where a special legislative session may be called to discuss an almost-passed marriage bill. Brown and NOM are looking toward the Land of Lincoln, too. And, if Brown's remarks on This Week are any indication, we can expect them to employ some of the race-baiting of which they're so fond. "I think there's a hard fight in Illinois going on where we've seen the African-American legislators and pastors, Democrats saying we don't want marriage redefined."
If only Michael Eric Dyson had been there. The author and regular MSNBC contributor would have had a lot to say about Brown's tactics, as he did on Meet the Press, when he used race not as a wedge issue, but to show Ralph Reed that historic precedent proves American culture can and should change to include as many people as possible.
Replying to Reed's claim that same-sex marriage threatens Western civilization, Dyson replied, over many interruptions, "The same argument was made…in defense of white supremacy against African American people, the very same argument: It will destroy civilization. It will undermine the American family. It will challenge our civic institutions. It will unravel our civil policies. The reality is, the same arguments were made on behalf of [segregation]."
Dyson went on:
"…In the American culture, yes, people can change their mind. They can evolve, they can grow, they can think that one thing was true then, another thing is true now. Most Americans believed 50 years ago one thing about issues of race. Now they believe something different as we make a move toward progressive realization of what is enlightened viewpoints. Your affirmation of marriage for those who are heterosexual goes against people who are affirming their rights as same-sex people."
Unfortunately, Dyson may have lost them at "enlightened." The Age of Enlightenment did, after all, go against blind religious bromides.
Here's footage from the morning shows mentioned, with Maddow, Dyson and Reed leading the way.