NYT’s Mark Oppenheimer on the Savage-Brown Debate

Jim Burroway

August 23rd, 2012

Oppenheimer served as the debate moderator. A few days after the debate, he asked Dan Savage and Brian Brown whether having the debate at Savage’s dining room table changed the dynamics of the discussion:\

I spoke with Mr. Brown by phone, and he seemed to agree that the setting had made little difference. “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,” he said. “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.”

As for Mr. Savage, he felt that being on his home turf had actually worked against him. “Playing host put me in this position of treating Brian Brown like a guest,” he said. “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.”

You can see the entire debate here.


August 23rd, 2012

Absolute waste of time. As soon as Mr Brown’s wife declined, Mr Savage should have cancelled. I suppose it’s possible that someone of good faith might find his mind changed but Brown isn’t that: he’s a professional propagandist and I think the time has now come that he and Gallagher should be ostracized and treated like the PR flacks they are.


August 23rd, 2012

Way to go Brian! Stick to your guns. Show the world how tough and committed to principle a Christian leader should be. Why would anyone think that a person might find compassion for the “sinners” and the oppressed by going into their homes and dining with them? I can think of NOTHING less Christian! You certainly wouldn’t have caught the Christ doing bleeding heart, liberal, socialist shit like that!

Oh, wait a minute…


August 23rd, 2012

Shorter comments:

Mr. Brown, I am an a-hole.

Mr. Savage, I am not an a-hole.


August 23rd, 2012

Can we write Savage off yet?

There are people making much better arguments. Savage lets the other side define the debate too much. The other side says this is about religion so Savage argues about religion. The other side says this is about families so Savage argues about families. Savage tries to convert people. Proselytizing is one of the best way to make enemies & one of the least effective ways to gain support. Also, it even seems as if Savage is still fighting the old battle that we’ve already won: what is the place of gay folks in society; rather than the current one: our equal treatment before the laws.

We don’t have to convert anyone. We just have to get them to agree that we’re human beings endowed with inalienable rights. We have to remind them about the mechanisms of Federalism & the Constitution & then explain why our rights are enshrined there too. Explain to them why separation of church and state prevents their religion from being co-opted & employment discrimination from extending over all religious institutions & then, blam-o.

They can only oppose our equal treatment before the laws by betraying the very foundation of our national freedom. THAT’S how you move the disinterested middle into our camp.

Also we if we approach the debate from that perspective we can even poach a portion of the Evangelical/fundamentalist crowd by giving them a third option. Right now they have to chose between our humanity and their religion, but if we allow them the leeway to hold onto their religious beliefs than we can appeal to the ones who both want their understanding of the bible to not go unchanged but at the same time believe in the principals of the American revolution.

I’m not sure what good insisting that their sincerely held (& terrible) religious beliefs are wrong or terrible. They don’t think they are and they’re not open to being proselytized to or converted. Change in religious beliefs will only happen within churches; not because Dan Savage argues at religious folks.

What’s really fun is that when you engage a homophobe on this level they almost always try to write off our motivation to an unseen force, which if they say out loud, makes them look ridiculous. “Hmmmm, Satan?”

Regan DuCasse

August 23rd, 2012

Brown’s mind is made up, it doesn’t matter where he goes or who he talks to. As he just said, he hasn’t just met gay people and nothing they do or how they live or show it, will matter.

Most of us know how Brown spins situations in which he has no control: he plays the victim of tyranny, and threat. He avoids environments that he’s able to discern as challenging, and now, Savage realizes that too.
That the opportunity for REAL public engagement, where people can observe how Brian Brown behaves in person and in public. And questions and challenges can come from several kinds of people.

But Brown AVOIDS these places. And uses the excuse that he’d be or is threatened if he did.
The proponents of Prop. 8 used it, and still do.
As if they are silenced or threatened in some way if they HAVE to appear in a place that they don’t think will allow them to say whatever they want unchallenged.

The whole reason this debate was set up, was because Savage was rude to some high school kids.
He apologized for it. But his task is an extremely VALID one.
Young people torment their peers and gay children suffer a great deal from this assault.
It’s a LIFE and DEATH issue for gay teens, whereas for Brown, it’s just a means in which he wants to maintain the fiction of superiority.
And no amount of Scripture, or gov’t owes him that indulgence.


August 23rd, 2012

I though the debate was fairly worth it and I hope there are more tete-a-tetes between the two sides. I’m glad Savage felt restrained because I think it allowed him to present better arguments without a lot of name-calling and zingers.

Donny D.

August 25th, 2012

Dan Savage is considered a jerk by a lot of people, including many on our side and I’m sure by many fence-straddlers. So inviting Brian Brown to his home and having a videorecorded conversation there was a good move for him.

But then, Dan Savage has always been media-savvy.

(Disclaimer: I say all this without having seen the video. I’m going by the complete lack of (believable) criticism that I’ve seen of Savage’s civility during the debate.)


August 25th, 2012

I just finished reading the Times piece and it explained the lack of push by Savage that disappointed so many. One point that he made that Brown wouldn’t address because he had no response was the fact that Dan and his spouse were the parents of DJ their 14 year old son because 3 heterosexual couples had turned down the opportunity offered by the boy’s mother.

As Regan DuCasse pointed out, Brown’s mind is closed to any and all arguments that don’t mesh with his acceptance of Vatican dogma and doctrine. Bigot is the correct term to classify him.


August 25th, 2012

I meant to add that I was disappointed that the Times had not allowed comments on the piece.

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