[About the Participants] [Opening
Statement by Norm Allen] [Opening Statement
by John Rankin][Dialog] [Questions
from the Audience] [Closing Statements]
[Return to Mars Hill Forum]
Is Same-Sex Marriage Good for the Nation?
Questions from the Audience
[NOTE: Names of questioners are not included in the transcript in order to protect personal privacy.]
Questioner: I have a question for Mr., Rankin?
John: Rankin, yes.
Questioner: Mr. Allen gave a bunch of examples of countries that have recognized gay marriage in recent years. You gave the example of France two-hundred something years ago. So I guess my question is, why can't you talk about the countries that have recognized gay marriage recently? What evidence in those countries, like Canada and the Netherlands, can you point to of marriage being abominated, or whatever you said would happen. And I have a second question for you. How do you reconcile yourself with the fact that so many members of your religious movement -- like I could just name a few, Ronald Reagan, Rush Limbaugh, Bob Barr - have been divorced, have cheated on their wives, and yet I don't see you calling to illegalize their lifestyle?
John: OK. Let me answer the second question first and then go back to the first one. First of all, I've made no political allegiance tonight. The only allegiance I have is to God as my Creator and Jesus as my Messiah, and to the integrity of the Bible on its own terms. Secondly, as I answered Norm earlier, the overwhelming amount of my energy (and I've written 600 pages in volume 1 of my trilogy on this) deals with the positive basis for faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman. If someone divorces then they're accountable to God for that. I am as equally opposed to that. Why? I mean, I have so many friends that are divorced. I see the absolute rupture in their lives and in their children's lives, and the outward ripple of this. It is not a good thing. Also, another element here is my agenda here tonight is not to naysay anything, it's to give a positive. The only reason that we're doing this forum, and the reason I had to testify before the Judiciary Committee, is a political agenda that was trying to establish something that I think is a threat to something positive. Now back to your prior question. I could certainly if you want to let me get ahold of you, get in touch with a lot of research data on the question you asked about the Netherlands and nations like that. I've read the stuff. I'm not a walking encyclopedia on it. I do know that in some of those nations, one nation, and I wish I knew which one, if it was Denmark or Norway or Sweden. It's one of the three, maybe Holland, one of the four. It was one nation, and this is in the last six months or so that made civil union marriage for homosexuals equal to that of heterosexual marriage at every level. And I think the language is very close. What they have found is that real marriages -- my definition of marriage, heterosexual marriage -- has gone way down, and men living with women outside of marriage, getting them pregnant and taking off, has gone way up. So I think the data is there. I know resources I can get where I can refer them to you. So if you want to ask me afterwards, I'll get you the data. My conviction is very simply that once you break the union of one man, one woman, one lifetime and the complementarity - sexually, intellectually, morally, emotionally, spiritually - then I think you're looking for trouble. If Norm wants to say something to that.
Norm: I see no data whatsoever to back up what you just said.
John: Then I'll supply it to you as well.
Norm: To simply say that they're undermining heterosexual marriage, I've just never seen any evidence. On the contrary, I've seen that in the Netherlands marriages haven't really gone down. How can you say that? Isn't that like the post hoc, ergo hoc, homological fallacy, that just because something supposedly happens after a particular event, that event is necessarily the cause? Can you really show a causal relationship between gay marriages and a decrease in heterosexual marriages? I doubt it seriously.
John: I think those are all good questions. I was simply quoting the study and saying that I don't have all the facts in front of me, and it's worth pursuing. But there is something that is very evident in all the studies from all angles. And that is, the majority of people who are lobbying for same-sex marriage, their definition of marriage is an open marriage. It is not a mutual lifetime commitment.
Norm: I see no evidence of that either.
John: Then I'll provide that to you as well.
Questioner: I've been listening to your arguments. I've heard both of these arguments and I've read the Bible actually cover to cover, some sections multiple times. I'm Catholic. I just would like to comment that the idea that a non-two-parent, and non-male-female-parent family would somehow create moral disruption and disunity. I find that really hard to believe, basically on the fact from personal experience. I was raised by my mother. My mother was an unwed mother. I was also raised by my grandmother. I don't really know my father. I think that to judge a family structure based on very traditional roles is offensive not just to me but to the idea that human beings have the capacity to be resilient and come through what are considered abnormal things. But I don't feel in any way a victim because I didn't grow up with a father. So I wouldn't say resiliency is perhaps the best adjective to describe myself. One of my main questions is why is homosexuality per se a danger and an infringement upon your rights as an individual, because I don't really understand how my relationship with another woman would infringe upon your rights per se. That I don't understand.
John: First of all, I've been involved for years in pro-life ministry. Ninety-five percent of all abortions are upon women after the man has taken off and refused responsibility. So I've been involved in helping a lot of courageous single mothers raise their children. And so you have nothing but affirmation. I haven't used judgmental language. I have simply made a positive argument of what we should aim for. In fact that's the specific language I used. You've been very personal and I respect that, but I'd ask you this. Would you liked to have known your father? Would you have liked to have had a loving father?
Questioner: Not because he was a male. But just because it would be nice. I'm in favor of knowing as many people who are good and loving as possible. But not because he was my father per se.
John: So would you say that that's an equal or superior role for a child to be raised in?
Questioner: I would say it's definitely equal. I would say it's superior to any family where there are significant elements of abuse.
John: Well, when you're dealing with abuse you and I are on the same page. For example, about seven or eight years ago there was a well-known nationally publicized study that showed that between seventy percent and ninety percent of all men in jail for larceny or above grew up functionally or de facto without fathers. You've got David Blankenhorn with the National Fatherhood Institute. There's other movements like this that have tremendous research data behind them. They will show you that once you remove the father from the equation, overwhelmingly, social well-being goes all the way down. You see, I believe we are male and female. So for example, someone can understand themselves to be a homosexual. They can do a trans-gendered operation, but even after the operation every cell in their body is still their original sexuality, male or female. The bottom line is we have male and female complementarity. I believe there is a lot of resilience in all of us because there is a lot of trials and hassles in our lives. I recognize that. I honor that. I will take away from no one's humanity. But I will state as a positive argument, of the goal for heterosexual, faithful, monogamous marriage. Personally, there's no threat to me. This is the second part of your question. Personally, it's no threat to me in terms of…
Questioner: [unintelligible] children per se?
John: Oh, I think overwhelmingly. Yes, because I think the children need mom and dad. That's what we need to aim for. I think they need a healthy male and female role model. There's no question about that.
Moderator: We should give other people a chance to interact.
John: Personally not, but my unalienable rights argument is where I go on the larger sphere.
Questioner: Rev. Rankin, I've got a couple of questions for you. Now you're saying that you're supporting others for life, liberty, and what, ownership of property?
John: Life, liberty, property slash pursuit of happiness.
Questioner: Great. Follow me if you will for a minute. In the state of Connecticut when a man and a woman are married, at the point that that marriage certificate is registered with the state of Connecticut, the woman or the man in that relationship has equal rights to property, correct? In the case of illness or sickness or hospitalization they have equal rights to right of survivorship or right of support, correct? Hear what I'm saying?
John: I'm not a lawyer but I understand what you're saying, yes.
Questioner: Right, exactly. This is my partner. We've been together for a little over eleven years. Currently in the state of Connecticut our relationship is not codified. If I were to drive home tonight and get into an accident and get into a coma, he has no rights to make any decisions on my behalf. If I were to die tonight, the property that we have built together over the last eleven years transfers to my mother as my only rightful heir, not to the person I've shared my life with for eleven years. So here's my question. How can you sit here and say that you are supporting life, liberty, ownership of property, but at the same time not saying that you're in support of a legal arrangement that's codifying the loving relationship that my partner and I have?
John: Very good question and I'll try to be brief. The first question I have for you in response is a theory of rights different than the theory of rights I've given, rooted in the Creator. And so I think you'd have to show a different theory of rights. My understanding, and this is the debate between Calvin and Hobbes, not the comic strip, but John Calvin and Thomas Hobbes. John Calvin says rights are given by God, and we learn trust in society by the integrity of our parents' marriage. We pass that trust on forward. So rights are given by God, and then family on up, is how society should be ordered. And Thomas Hobbes a half a century, a century later, says no, we're all so irascible (he who didn't believe in original sin argued for it pretty well), he said we need a leviathan monster government to keep each other from our throats. And so I'm saying we have one of two theories of rights: give and it shall be given (that's Yahweh Elohim, the God of the Bible) versus take before you are taken (and that's everything else in terms of religious origin texts). That's the first answer. Now another thing I'll say to you, and I'm glad to put you in touch with attorney Mark Dost, who's on our coalition. He has actually helped gay homosexual relationships do all the kind of stuff you're talking about, as a man who testified against same-sex marriage before the Judiciary Committee. Now why was this? He wrote an article on this, I can supply it to you, we presented it to the whole legislature that shows that all of those "rights" are available through power-of-attorney and similar stuff. Again, I can't talk legally about that.
Questioner: See, this is the rub for me, is that as a man and a woman with a simple act of filing one piece of paper, all those rights follow through. As a man and a man, we have to spend an inordinate amount of time, money, effort to come approximately to the same codified relationship. However, it's not ironclad.
John: Will you also face the same marriage-penalty tax if you succeed politically?
Questioner: We would, and you know, I would take that on. I just want to come back to one other thing you said about your parents teaching you respect. My parents taught me to treat everyone equally and unconditionally, and with all due respect I find you a bit hypocritical. [scattered audience applause]
John: Well let me ask you this: what is love?
Questioner: What is love? Love is respect. Love is a willingness to put your life in jeopardy for another, as I do my life for my partner.
John: OK, very well. Let me ask you this then. And this is on tape in California five years ago. The partner of the NOW [National Organization for Women] head of the ACLU in California, a lesbian woman, stood up at the end of an evening event on the same topic, and she tried to ask questions that would get me angry. Let me finish please. I gave her my answer. She went to sit down. I looked at her and I said to her, if ever your life were in jeopardy, and I were in place to risk my life to protect your life [snap of the fingers], I would do it like that. That is not hypocritical, sir. I think the real issue we're dealing, excuse me, I think the real issue…
Questioner: I'm making the argument to your idea of rights, life, liberty, pursuit of and ownership of property. What's happening is an unequal world that we're living in, where my partner and I have to spend extra money, extra time, extra effort to come not to an equal footing as a man and a woman would then, sanctioned by the state to share everything. We can come close to it, but if there is someone in my family that wanted to argue it, they can argue it. It's not ironclad.
John: Let me ask you…
Questioner: So if you're saying you're supporting life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness for all people, I welcome your support for my partner and me having the same thing. I'm not saying that I want legal marriage. I'm saying that this…
John: Well, I need to …
Questioner: …state needs to rewrite its…
John: One quick response here.
Questioner: …needs to take a look at that, and to codify our relationship equally.
John: This is because you and I have a different basis of defining rights, OK? And therefore, since you have a different basis and I have a different basis, how do we conduct ourselves? I have said, you have just as much freedom as I have to argue your case as I do. OK. Therefore that's not hypocritical, that's respectful in the face of profound disagreement.
Moderator: Next question.
Questioner: Actually is a statement and a question. Actually I respect both of you having the nerve to be here today with this particular audience. I also found the graffiti walking in very offensive. It just wasn't acceptable. I also believe that we as Americans, as human beings, have a right to disagree, and to agree to disagree, and do that in a respectful manner. Also, I'm offended by individuals who decided, however you come to this conclusion, that you decided to be homosexual, that you condemn people who are not homosexual and think that we're all homophobic. And we're not, OK? Just because we don't agree with something doesn't mean that you have the right to call us names. I find that offensive. I love my son and I don't agree with him smoking marijuana, and I tell him that. But I still love my son. I'm a Christian and I'm proud to be a Christian. I love you without knowing who you are. And that's the God I serve and that's what he teaches me. I work with homosexuals. I support homosexuals. They cry with me. I cry with them. We share concerns. We eat. We fellowship. We are truly friends. We love each other dearly. We respect the fact that we disagree. But I still love them. And they love me for who I am and the Christ that's in me. And that's the point we need to get to here. That's the thing that we need to understand. This gentleman here has an opinion. He has an opinion. He's strong about his, he's strong about his. You want to make sure that you get to decide on if you die, he gets to decide what you do, make sure you have a will. My mother was in a coma for two years. I didn't get a chance to decide on how she died, because we weren't expected to be in one. I love her just as much as you love him, or more. I am not a homophobic. Now if you make that choice, understand that the America that you live in, deal with it. It's not going to be an easy road for you because you understand the issues in America. But just cuz I can't shove me, a black woman, down a racist throat, you can't shove your decision down my throat. But I will respect you. So my question to you, sir, is why can't you agree to disagree and respect where he is in life, OK, as a difference of opinion? Not that he dislikes who you are personally, or dislikes your philosophy. He's just different. Just like you're different.
Norm: Well I believe that you're different, and that you really are sincere. I agree with what you said about the fact that you can disagree with homosexuality and not be homophobic. My point is when you start trying to make it a matter of public policy, that's when you start crossing the line. When you start trying to say how the government should treat people, when you start trying to influence public policy to have negative impacts upon the gay community, then you've crossed the line. If you merely believe something, that's part of your religion. Your religion teaches you that homosexuality is immoral, that adultery, fornication and so on and so forth, those are all immoral. However, so many of these people from the religious right who are opposed to homosexuality, and supposedly all these other sins, they're not going after people. How many of these conservative Christians went after Newt Gingrich when they found out that he was unfaithful to his wife. But when they find out that somebody's gay, then they go all berserk. That's my point. There should be some consistency, and when there's not consistency then there's homophobia.
Questioner: I want to say something to him. I didn't like Newt, OK, and I'm Republican. And I don't like Newt, and that's strange for a black woman.
Norm: OK, but you probably wouldn't have started a movement the way conservative Christians have against gays.
Questioner: Well I'm just letting you know, I just couldn't get to Newt. The other thing is this young lady right here. I also want to say to you, I was raised in a two-parent home. I had a child out of wedlock and raised my son single. If I had to do it again, I would never do it again. He knows his father and the trauma associated with my decision. He deserved more. If I had to do it all over again I would have married his father and did it the right way because of the impact it had on him. He deserved better. Now that's my right. I have that choice. Whatever you comfortable with, you be comfortable with it. But in my situation, it didn't work for me. Now he's better, he's healing, he's in college, he's on the right track. But it's not always a good choice. It's probably not the right choice.
Norm: I agree with that. I just briefly want to say, I just briefly want to add to that, that there are some of us who were better off without having our fathers in our lives, because they were abusive. Just because you have a father doesn't mean anything. It's gotta be a good father. If he's not a good father you might be better off without him.
Questioner: OK, my question is for Rev. Rankin. I go to a Congregationalist church in North Carolina, and we adopted an open and affirming statement probably four years ago, five years ago.
John: You may want to define that for everyone else.
Questioner: OK. We have a statement that says our church is open and affirming of people from all ages, genders, races, ethnicities, and sexual identities, and sexual preferences. During the debates about that, we decided not to try to translate the Bible literally, because we were just going around in circles. For instance, we look at our constitution and we don't translate it word-for-word literally. We look at what is meant by the constitution. Because I feel it has a lot more power that way, just like the Bible does, so we can see the meaning.
John: If I could just interject, so you're saying that "word-for-word" can be separated away from total meaning?
Questioner: I feel like if you try to look literally at the Bible and try to ask a specific question and look for an answer word-for-word, you're going to go around in circles.
John: You can get in trouble doing it that way. I think you need to take the Bible on its own terms and take it from there.
Questioner: Right. We found in my church that male-female relationships, marriages, have been strengthened by celebrating all mutually-monogamous relationships. And now we probably have twenty percent two-parent same-sex families in our church. And so my question was, how much research are you familiar with on the children that come out of these healthy, monogamous same-sex families, raised by two people, very stable, and perhaps raised in a very faith-based community?
John: Well, that question has been raised briefly, recently in history. But the problem is that in terms of the history of domestic partnerships, and now same-sex unions in Vermont and so forth, the data is very preliminary. So it's very hard for people on both sides to make that observation. Norm earlier quoted the statement by the American Association of Pediatrics saying that children raised in homosexual liaisons were just as healthy. Well I've read most of the data on that, and that was a PR push. The data is very incomplete and where they drew the data from, most of it doesn't meet any scientific standard of control group and so forth. Most of the people they solicited were from homosexual newspapers and they never compared them to intact, heterosexual married families. One study compared them only to single parents in other situations. Now, that's something I know about. I'm glad to supply to you my research data if you want to ask me afterwards so you can read it yourself. So the answer basically is, it's preliminary, number one. Number two, that's a little bit about what I know. Number three, I believe that all human psychology in history, and as I said earlier, this well known study on fatherhood demonstrates the need for male and female. Can there be exceptions? In every direction there can be exceptions. But what is the rule for the normal health and well-being in society? That's what I'm aiming for.
Norm: I just wanted to say that in those studies there was remarkable consistency found. The problem is that it's difficult to have a perfect study because we live in a homophobic society. It's hard to get a lot of people to come out and participate in these studies. So you're going to have those types of difficulties, but regardless, there was remarkable consistency found. And all of these various social scientists and physicians support the study. So there's really no reason to really get all bent out of shape about it.
John: And they were all in favor of same-sex marriage. Look at the data.
Norm: I'm talking about the vast majority of social scientists and physicians. I'm talking about…
John: I was talking about the AAP study.
Norm: … people who belong to these leading organizations who ought to know.
Questioner: I just had a comment for you, Mr. Rankin. I just wanted to suggest that the gasp you heard in the audience may not have been of recognition, but rather people feeling offended that you're pathologizing them. Because I gasped when you said it, not because I related to having been abused by a man, but because I was really offended that you would relate that circumstance to people being gay or lesbian.
John: Were you offended that I gave an honest anecdote by three lesbians who approached me, unsolicited, at Harvard? Is it inappropriate to give a testimony like that when I've been on campuses all across this country, I've been in a lot of cases, and I have had people come up and tell me this over and over again? I've also seen the sociological research. Now no, I didn't say this was a statistical claim. I'm not saying this is true for everyone. So I only submitted that as an anecdote. And I have been face-to-face with a lot of people, and I do know that for some of them the gasp was that. But I didn't say it was everyone's gasp.
Questioner: No, you didn't, but you do use that very small, very anecdotal piece of information in both your written work and many of your spoken engagements. I think that for three women to have told you this, and for people to come up to you after you say it and confirm it…
John: Who knew hundreds. Who literally knew hundreds who testify to the same thing, unanimously. And it's not statistical, but it was a powerful story.
Questioner: I just wanted to ask you about some of what you feel about the nature of society supporting this. Your arguments are almost exclusively based on Judeo-Christian texts. But the Supreme Court, for example, in Engel vs Vitale, there was one dissenting Justice, and the Supreme Court ruled that you cannot establish religion. You cannot establish a religion. You cannot establish the Judeo-Christian God. You certainly cannot decide to make public policy the exclusive matter of your religious beliefs every time.
John: Well let me ask you this, OK.
Questioner: I question how you can go against so many judicial rulings that have clearly said that we are not a Christian country.
John: Very well, let me ask you two questions. Number one, what is an establishment of religion? And number two, am I trying to establish a religion? If I could have his response. Bring him back up. Let me ask you first, what is an establishment of religion, historically and constitutionally upon which the Court based itself?
Questioner: It has at times been as simple as prayer in schools.
John: Now that's not constitutional. An establishment of religion was the Founding Fathers of this country saying we will not have the state establish a religion everyone has to follow, the Church of England, or the Roman Catholic Church in France. And it was based on securing religious liberty, so that every person of their religious liberty or non-religious liberty has an equal place at the table. So you and I each have beliefs, whatever they are. We have one vote in this society. I never ask for anything more than that.
Questioner: It so happens that homosexuals are an extreme minority in our society. And the Constitution was written…
John: I'm a minority here tonight.
Moderator: We're going to have to move to the next question.
Voices in audience: [unintelligible]
John: To give them equal freedom, to have their vote heard and their rights protected, I agree.
Questioner: I was just wondering, for us as students, I know personally legislation, public policy is not my issue right now, but it will be as family and my rights become more important to me. I was wondering in going into this next millennium, next century, where do each one of you see we can gain wisdom, whether it be from the past or from a religious text, to make wise decisions that will benefit future generations?
Norm: Well I believe that you can't blindly follow anything, be it a religious text or a Founding Father, or any particular revered individual. We can go back to the past, but it's foolish to try to live in the past, or to try to bring back positions that just no longer apply to today. We have to be forward in our thinking, and I believe that if we're going to talk about the importance of liberty, then let's be consistent. If you want to have particular rights for heterosexuals, they should be extended to everyone throughout society. To say that someone's legitimate rights is going to somehow undermine everyone else's rights, or undermine the family, or undermine society, if you want to make that statement, you should be able to back it up with solid social science, or some other type of research. And I haven't had that. But I believe that the best thing to do is to go back and look at what we can learn from the past, but not to be wedded to the past, since it was in our past. It can't be changed, but we can go forward. We've got to be willing to have the courage to go forward. And to change the mistakes we've made. We've made mistakes. Our religious leaders have made mistakes. Our secular leaders have made mistakes. We've got to be not afraid to go forward. We've got to go forward and we've got to realize that we might be making mistakes now. But sometimes we've gotta make changes. We can't be afraid of that. There's no easy way out. There's no easy text that will give us all the answers like some people believe. It all comes back down to critical thinking for the most part.
John: In terms of my response there, no, I don't blindly follow anything. I was raised a skeptic, and I'm more skeptical than ever because I'm in pursuit of the truth. My skepticism leads me to a biblical worldview. Norm just said something about denying someone's legitimate rights. Well here's the whole thing. We're debating whether or not same-sex marriage is a right, a legitimate right. Marriage to begin with is not a civil right, OK? So that's the debate that has to happen at that point. And so what I'm saying is that based on the predicate of the image of God, on religious and political liberty rooted in the God of the Bible, that everyone has an equal say at the table to make their argument. I can live with winning or losing, because my ultimate identity is not in human politics. I believe God is just, merciful, and that's the One whom I pursue.
Questioner: I just wanted to say two things. First thing is I wanted to talk about how you talk about the pursuit of happiness. I just want to point out that your concept of pursuit of happiness comes within your worldview, which is the Creator God and your Judeo-Christian point of view. That's a given. The second thing I want to talk about is the concept of homophobia. Now, homophobia, a woman over there talked about being offended, that she's not homophobic…
Voice in audience: I'm not.
because you love people that are gay, and that you sit with them.
Questioner: OK and I agree with you. I love people, too. But the thing that I want to talk about is that you can't choose whether or not you're homo…
Voice in audience: That's my right.
Questioner: You live in a homophobic…
Voice in audience: That's my right!
Questioner: You live in a ho…
Moderator: One at a time. One at a time.
Questioner: You live in a homophobic culture. I'm racist. I live in a racist culture. It does not mean that I don't love people of different color. But I live in white privilege. You live in heterosexual privilege. You live in white male privilege. Everyone lives in certain worldviews and in certain world structures of privilege. That doesn't mean that you are not homophobic. That means you live in a world where we can sit in judgment, with power, over people that we…
Voice in audience:
John: In this culture? You're not serious.
Norm: Yes, you are.
Questioner: Are you kidding me?
Norm: Come on.
a Jewish person, I can tell you we're living in a Christian culture.
John: Now that's a cultural statement, not a theological statement, which is a point of my reference, OK? And also, I'm someone who is utterly grateful for the Jewish origins of my Christian faith.
Questioner: Wait, I'm not finished. I'm not finished. And there's also the Fourteenth Amendment which calls for equal protection under the law. Even if these rights aren't necessarily unalienable rights - I would say that they are - but even if they aren't, equal protection has to be all of those rights. One more thing. How would you fit intersex children into your model of male and female?
John: Intersex children. Those who have a biological problem? [scattered laughter from audience]
Questioner: Intersex is a child who is born with an undiscernable sex. Whether it be actually physical or genetic.
John: I think that's obviously an abnormality, but I'm not a scientist or doctor who would be able to comment beyond that. I do want to ask you one question in response to your question. Is there any way in which you can tell me how not to be homophobic?
Questioner: No, I don't think it's very possible for you not to be homophobic, but you can…
John: So essentially what you are saying is I am consigned morally from your perspective to a second class.
Questioner: No. I don't think that homophobia [unintelligible]
John: You don't think homophobia is a moral sin?
Questioner: No, I think homophobia is a moral situation. I think that you are actually acting on your homophobia as a moral situation, but having these feelings isn't necessarily. Does that make sense?
John: It's a different definition than most of what I've heard.
Questioner: I have one quick comment and one quick clarification. My comment, first of all, is just that I'm a queer kid from a healthy male- and female-parent family, with no history of abuse. My clarification is to the signs outside. I know a lot of the people involved with the planning of that event and the posting of those signs. The intention was not to say that this space is unsafe for people because of the presence of Christian people and certain viewpoints. There was concern that the structure of this discussion and this debate, which risks pitting gay rights and queer rights issues against religious issues, could be extremely unsafe for religious, gay, lesbian, and bisexual people. And so that space was created…
John: Have you found the structure at all unsafe or disrespectful?
Voice in audience: Yes.
both sides are heard equally? You know, when we…
John: Interesting. You know, when we started this process we invited Gary Comstock to be the one to be here. And he is a Protestant chaplain who is homosexual, I am told, and who is in favor of homosexual rights, and creates a safe space. So I think it's remarkable. What I hear you saying is that this is not safe space if a different view is heard. What we're talking about out there was not the safe space issue. It was the four-letter words, OK? So what I'm hearing from the other side of this difference of opinion about homosexuality, is not an equal respect for people who differ with you.
Questioner: Were you talking about the signs or the chalkings?
John: Chalkings. I didn't see any signs.
Questioner: Oh, OK, I'm sorry. I thought you were talking about the signs.
John: I didn't see signs. I only saw chalkings.
Questioner: I just have a couple of comments. I will try to make this succinct. I enjoyed coming here tonight, you know, very heated, controversial kind of subject. But it's amazing, Reverend, how you use the word "rights." You know, you sound like when you use the word "rights" like you, this is an abstraction the way you using it. What kind of rights do, if you going to define rights, you got money you got rights. If you ain't got no money, you don't have no rights! [scattered audience applause] Therefore, even with cultural and sociological things, the dominant culture makes rules. And you sit here like that, and talk that talk, and you know dat! And you know, basically, when you talk about the Bible, about Jefferson, they was slave holders! They had slaves! If he had a sense of right, why didn't he loose the slaves then?
John: I agree with you.
Questioner: If he had a sense of what's right and wrong? So how could you even use that as a premise? Using them slave holders and presidents! You said "inalienable rights." What is that? That's nebulous. If I don't have no money, I ain't got no rights! [scattered audience applause]
John: Well you know, that's a very fine question. And I said that Jefferson, in spite of his hypocrisies and those with him behind the scenes, appealed to the right source of unalienable rights. God says that you and I have life, liberty and property. Property, the right to own property, that's the money you're talking about. We have those liberties in God's sight. And Jefferson, despite his sin, he appealed to that. So I'm supporting what he appealed to, not how he lived.
Questioner: What did Max Weber say? You've read Max Weber?
John: Years ago, and the sociological structure of the Protestant work ethic. He talks about the Protestant work ethic. And he talks about how that's the basis for prosperity in our country. The Puritans came over, and not looking for material prosperity worked hard as a vocation to God, and prosperity came equally among those in that community. Now that community did not continue in its equality, but they had the right foundation, at least partly.
Norm: I just wanted to say that unalienable rights, it just seems that one of our rights is the pursuit of happiness. So often what I'm hearing here is that certain groups just don't have the right to pursue happiness. You're definitely saying that heterosexuals have the right to pursue happiness…
John: I'm not.
Norm: …but when it comes to homosexuals, well, they can't pursue happiness on their own terms, they have to pursue it on your terms.
John: The "pursuit of happiness" from John Locke's language that Jefferson depended on was based in the right of private contract. And once you could own your property, you had the power to pursue happiness. That's what it meant. And I affirm that for everyone equally.
Norm: Well, you don't pursue the right to pursue happiness for someone who wants to pursue happiness in a same-sex marriage. That's a pursuit of happiness as well.
John: We're debating over the definition of these terms, and I afford equal opportunity for anyone who disagrees with me.
Questioner: Unfortunately I'm not as well learned in the Bible as actually I would like to be. So I'd like to steer away from the chapter and verse that's been brought up this evening. But I would ask you to read the last three points, the concluding points on your argument, that you said at the very end. It's been so long that I've forgotten. I would like to hear them one more time.
John: I said, one, it codifies and does not heal a cycle of pain, human pain. Two, it opposes the unique basis for unalienable rights upon which this nation is founded. And three, children suffer the most.
Questioner: OK, the last one is the one that I would like to talk about. My mother recently about four years ago came out as a lesbian. Since then she has had a partner and we have all lived together very happily for the last four years. I find it insulting, so to speak, that you can challenge that my personal happiness has been infringed upon, that I am a weak person, say, or that my life has been affected because of that. I consider my family existence to be extremely stable and some of the other what you would call a typical marriage has very dysfunctional problems. I know a lot of friends who have problems with their parents who are a mother and a father. My father is very accepting of my mother's current lifestyles, and he is with me here tonight to support that. [scattered audience applause]
Moderator: Please finish your statement.
Questioner: What you're saying, that it affects me so much that I'm going to have problems in life, I think that is so wrong because I'm…
John: But you notice something I said earlier? I said there are exceptions to every rule. There are people who against odds do very well.
Questioner: But I'm not alone in that either.
John: I know you're not alone, OK? I talked about data about fatherlessness. I talked about psychological health and the need for mother and father. And I talked about that as a healthy prescription for society. In so doing that, I've expressed my conviction. In doing that I do it no more than the voice of one person, OK? So it comes back to the foundational concern I brought up tonight. How do you and I or other people here who disagree, how do we conduct a civil dialogue? I find no better basis than what I said. I don't…
Questioner: I find this argument very [unintelligible]
John: OK, good. But there's no belittling, you see, at all. I disagree, OK? But I'm not your judge. And I'm grateful for that because I'm a fallible human being. God is our judge and I trust his justice and mercy for all of us, if I'm as wrong as can be.
Norm: I want to reiterate that fatherlessness in and of itself just isn't the issue. You have a whole lot of women who are being abused. You have a lot of people out there in marriages who are extremely unhappy. If it's not a good marriage, if it's not a good father, then you're not going to have a good situation. What you need to be doing is talking about the importance of good fathers, but I don't hear that. I just hear, have a father. A mere man isn't going to do it. He's gotta be a good father. A lot of us really were better off because we had bad fathers who left our homes. That's the fact of the matter. And that's what you need to do. And if you have two good parents, if you have two gay men or two lesbians, or a woman and a man who are happy together in raising their children, I don't know what the problem is.
Questioner: I just wanted to ask you that in the future when you give these anecdotal experiences that you can mention that you met someone also who was never pained by men, or is not resorting to homosexuality because I just can't deal with being with a man because one hurt me. It is very insulting and you've heard that from a number of people today. And yet you still continue to say that, no, I acknowledge that it's not for everyone. And yet you only give the one example of the three Harvard lesbians who were all hurt. [audience laughter] I'm sorry, I go to Wesleyan and I'm not as good as Harvard, I know. You've referred to Harvard many times, I'm very impressed. However, …
John: Listen, I enjoyed ninth grade so much I took it twice.
Questioner: You know, I studied feminist theory. I'm graduating this year. Nothing that you said really made sense to me, especially when you're talking about how all the cells in your body are either male or female. That is actually not true. So I would question your knowledge of feminist theory, especially contemporary feminist theory.
John: Is that a theoretical statement or a physiological statement…
Questioner: It's both.
John: …down to the human cell?
Questioner: It's both.
John: Well, I was reading in a medical journal recently where they diagnosed that reality.
Questioner: You can say this to people space, that you don't hate them, and yet you say the most hateful things in the world. And that's what I really don't understand about you.
John: I gave the testimony, OK, when I said this is not a statistical claim, OK? Now you could ask me, and of course I wrote this under a time limit, but you could ask me to be explicit about that. I can be very explicit about that because I've met many homosexuals who will testify quite otherwise. And I write about that in another context. But that's part of the challenge of a little bit of time and trying to say something cogent.
Questioner: Building in some ways off of what she said just now, you have been congratulated for, and implicitly through that congratulation apologized to, for the audience you've had to speak to today. I'd like to suggest that the content of the talk you've given today should only be addressed to an audience with a strong queer representation. Because to present this material without any sort of responsive queer body…
John: It was written for the Hartford Courant. It was presented before the legislature.
Questioner: I'm just responding to something that was said, saying that maybe this was an unfair audience for you to need to address. I think that this is the only fair audience for you to address.
John: How many people here are on my side of the issue? I'm not in the majority.
Questioner: I'm not attacking you with that at all. I'd also like to speak to your use of glorifications of the democratic basis on which our nation was founded and the separation of church and state that's fundamental in that establishment. You cited many early liberal theorists. You cited many of the fathers -- patriarchy, anyone? -- fathers [scattered audience laughter], fathers of our nation. To begin with, marriage is not an inalienable right.
John: I agree.
Questioner: Marriage is a right afforded only to heterosexual male and female monogamous partners.
John: I don't think it's a right for them either.
Questioner: I believe that it is a right in law, and I believe that that is wrong.
John: There are rights that are protected, but I don't believe it's an intrinsic right. Not everyone has that right to demand from the government.
Norm: But it's a legal right, is it not?
Questioner: I have a really quick question, but first I just want to comment on what this lady said over here. She said that her last statement said that she does not have the right as a black woman to force her blackness down a racial person's throat, and a gay person does not have the right to force his decision down a homophobic person's throat, or a heterosexual person's throat. You do not choose to be black or female, and I did not choose to be male or white or gay. Whether or not I stand up for my rights or force my sexuality down someone's throat, it was not my decision. And I just want to clarify that homosexuality is not a decision in today's culture. It is who you are. It defines who you are. You don't choose to be it. My quick question was that I think you'll agree that in order for society to work, the members of society have to be happy. And I question how you can take away the right of a member to be happy, because I know that by me not allowed the same right, the recognition under law, in church, of marriage, I will not be as happy as many heterosexual couples. And therefore I don't think society as a whole can be as happy and as functionable.
John: And in response to your question, we come back to a difference in definition of rights, OK? And whether or not this is something you are owed. If this is something you are owed and you prevail legally, then you prevail legally, but you have to do that through the democratic process, OK? And so I'm simply making my argument why I believe it's wrong, going back to the source of rights themselves.
Questioner: Hi. I just wanted to say thank you for your ideas in sharing how you feel, to both of the speakers. I just wanted to speak about something that I don't think that we're really talking about here, I guess. We're making this a national issue, but for me it's not so much a national issue, but it's really personal for me. I am a Christian and I'm at Wesleyan University and I enjoy being here. Many times I feel like I can't share my feelings about sexuality or homosexuality, or many things, sexuality in general. I'm offended by many things, many of the chalkings that go on. If it was just about sexuality I would be offended. Homosexuality, I'm offended about it if it's offensive. I guess in my religious beliefs, in general, I'm not for same-sex marriages because I believe in what the Bible says, and I believe it's the inspired word of God. And I do love people, and I would like for this dialogue to go on, and for us to continue talking, because I feel like this is a liberal university, and we all should have a right to speak our minds. A lot of times as a Christian I have not felt like I had that right here at this university. I just wanted to share that.
Norm: Well I'd like to defend your right. I'd also like to say that we are dealing with a society in which homophobia is pretty widespread. If you believe that homosexuality is wrong, that is part of your religion. But at the same time there are other people who don't belong to your religion. There are other people who don't share your views. Their views also have to be respected. Whenever people start writing to their congressmen and trying to get involved in other ways in interfering with other people's pursuit of happiness, no matter how they define it, there's a problem. So if that's just your view, as someone said earlier, that's just your view. But once you start trying to make your own personal religious view a part of public policy, then you're interfering with other people's rights.
Questioner: This wasn't meant to be a follow-up question but I guess it just perfectly follows up. I just want to know how you felt personally about the chalkings and the graffiti outside about Rev. Rankin, or if that was directed toward you or your beliefs?
Norm: It was directed towards Rev. Rankin. I feel the same way. I was really offended by it, by the four-letter words and by what I sensed is the hostility. But I do understand sometimes that's how people fight back. For example, if you look at our history, we had people who fought back very strongly. Like someone like Malcolm X. He didn't always tell white people what they wanted to hear. And then you have people like Louis Farrakhan today, who doesn't always say what you want to hear. So I understand why some people do react that way, but I was still offended.
Questioner: I actually just wanted to go back to a question that was raised a little bit earlier that I thought could use a little bit more clarification. Just about defining homophobia in general, because that was going in an interesting place. I'm wondering if we can go back there real quick. I'm curious to know what Rev. Rankin's perspective is on homophobia as well as Mr. Allen's.
Norm: Right. It is a good question you brought up because I kept thinking about that. How to define it. There are people who believe that if you believe that homosexuality is wrong, that automatically makes you homophobic. If your religion teaches you that it's wrong, that makes you homophobic. But at the same time you can believe that adultery is wrong, but that doesn't make you against heterosexuality. You can believe that fornication is wrong, that doesn't make you against heterosexuality. So I'm not so sure just buying into your religious belief that it's wrong, makes you homophobic. I'm more concerned with your actions. I'm more concerned with your ideas regarding all of these so-called sins, and how you respond to them. Why is it that people will say that I'm also against fornication, adultery, and other sins, but you don't have this groundswell of support coming against heterosexuals. It's just a lot of hypocrisy there. If you're against it all, then be against it all consistently. If not, then you can be justly accused of being homophobic.
John: I think to answer that you will find, as I said earlier, I'm in favor of the covenant of marriage between man and woman. I would be in equal disagreement of anything outside of that, simply because of my conviction of what is the well-being for most people. I think the discussion this evening about homophobia really does come down for many people -- I've seen some nuances of definition -- and that is if you disagree with me you're a homophobe. If that's the case then we have no political comity left. C-o-m-i-t-y.
Questioner: I actually came in here thinking that if you disagree with homosexuality you are homophobic. But I do respect the sort of religious conviction, I guess, but I think there has to be some respect taken into account that, even though you might not be homophobic, well I guess this is to you, I appreciate that you might love me. That it still is uncomfortable for me to talk with someone who completely negates and doesn't believe in my existence. Secondly, about homophobia, one thing that I think was left out of the definition, Rev. Rankin, is that I think part of the fear of homosexuality is the fear that other people are expressing what you want to express.
John: Well I disagree with you on that, but you know, maybe for some people they've had that experience, OK? Something you just said a minute ago, I just lost the train of thought about being a homophobic. The real issue for me is this. If you or I believe that something is true and good and beautiful, can we just not make a positive case for it? So for example, let me ask you this question. Do you think that the Bible is homophobic intrinsically? And therefore wrong?
Questioner: I actually can refuse to answer. I think your sort of whole dialogue is tautological and religious and…
John: How is it tautological? I thought that was an honest question.
Questioner: It goes in circles.
John: It goes in cycles when there's no answers. I was asking for an equitable answer.
Questioner: I'm not going to engage. It's not worthy of a response.
John: OK, that's fair enough.
[About the Participants] [Opening
Statement by Norm Allen] [Opening Statement
by John Rankin][Dialog] [Questions
from the Audience] [Closing Statements]
[Return to Mars Hill Forum]