Gay Marriage Debate: ‘Religious Liberty Placed on a Collision Course with Sexual License’

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, appeared on Fox News Sunday alongside a former solicitor general who has helped overturn same-sex marriage bans, Ted Olson. With guest host Shannon Bream, the two debated the Supreme Court’s upcoming ruling on same-sex marriage.

The debate centered around deciphering what the Constitution says, and perhaps what it doesn’t say, about the right to marriage. According to Olson, the responsibility on interpreting the Constitution falls on the shoulders of the Supreme Court, while Perkins said that it should be up to the will of the people.

While Olson maintained that homosexual marriage in no way poses a threat to heterosexual marriage, Perkins disagreed, saying that the religious liberty of American citizens has been directly targeted for purposes of political gain.

Read the debate below:

Olson: The Supreme Court, again and again, has said it is its responsibility to decide when the Constitution trumps the will of the people. Justice Kennedy held for the court, striking down a Colorado measure a number of years ago that discriminated against gays and lesbians. He voted for the court, and wrote the opinion for the court, striking laws in Texas and laws throughout the United States that prohibited private same sex conduct in the privacy of home. And he voted — wrote the opinion for the court in the decision striking down the legislature’s overwhelming decision to enact the Defense of Marriage Act. So ultimately, 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. 

Perkins: But the difference here is that this is not recognized as a fundamental right. This is not deeply rooted in our history. We’re talking about something that’s unprecedented. In less than two decades, we’ve had state after state go to the polls and people express themselves. This is not how we reach broad social consensus over major issues like this. I mean, as evidenced by what’s going to take place this week — the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade. The court said it was going to decide this issue in 1973, it has not. It will not decide this issue that imposes a one-size-fits-all scheme of marriage on the American people.

Olson: I want to say one thing about that; the United States Supreme Court 15 times over the last 120 years, have said that marriage is a fundamental right.

Perkins: Marriage, but not same-sex marriage. 

Olson: Never once, in any of those cases, did it say it had to be between a man and woman. Fifteen times they said it was a matter of privacy, liberty, association, dignity and respect for the individual. That’s what the Constitution was all about.

Host Bream: Well, Ted, let me ask you about this Roe v. Wade point, because Justice Ginsburg has said publicly that it went too far too fast — meaning legalizing abortion across the board — instead of allowing it to play out state by state. Many are making the same argument with regard to same-sex marriage, saying that if you get a sweeping decision here, it’s actually not going to help you, it could hurt because it seems that Justice Ginsburg is suggesting that pro-life forces were mobilized and motivated by Roe v. Wade. 

Olson: Well, in the first place, in 1967 the Supreme Court struck down laws prohibiting interracial marriages — striking down the laws in 16 states. Today, we don’t even understand that we could possibly have prohibited marriage between people of different races. The president’s mother and father couldn’t have been married in Virginia. They would have been guilty of a felony. Overwhelmingly now, young people, particularly, support the right of individuals to get married to the person that they love. The American people now are 55% to 60% in support of same-sex marriage. People recognize that this is an important right. It hurts gay and lesbian people to discriminate against them and it does no harm to heterosexual marriage to allow those people to marry the person that they love. 

Bream: Let me ask you though, Tony, because I’ve talked to, and I’m sure you’ve talked to, some civil rights leaders who don’t like the comparison. They don’t feel it’s appropriate for them — some of them. 

Perkins: No, because it’s a specious argument — because there, you had a man-made barrier keeping the races apart. Here, you have judges attacking a natural bridge that brings the sexes together. And if we take down the state’s rights to define marriage for public policy purposes — I mean, if two people who love each other can get married, I guess Ted is okay with the story out of New York Magazine this week that an 18-year-old daughter wants to marry her biological father. I mean, are you okay with that?

Olson: Are you all of a sudden interested in what you read in New York Magazine, for heaven’s sake?

Perkins: It was on Fox , too.

Olson: I mean, it’s very easy to say the sky is going to fall. We are talking about…

Perkins: We’re talking about taking down barriers.

Olson: We’re now talking about something that’s permitted in 36 states — or 37, depending upon South Dakota last week and the District of Columbia — no harm whatsoever has been done to heterosexual marriages as a result of that.

Perkins: That is not true. Religious liberty has been placed on a collision course with sexual license because of a handful of unelected judges and lawyers. The American people have a right to speak on this. They have. The court should respect the voice of the people.


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