I watched the entire four-part PBS series Constitution USA, and I loved it. Truly. It's the kind of program that PBS does like no other, informing Americans about important topics while keeping the education at an engaging pace. I hope host Peter Sagal and his team do more shows, either on the same topic or on other civic matters.
But I do have one gripe, which ties in with the work at GLAAD's Commentator Accountability Project. My problem came in the short segment that featured Robert George talking about why he believes the Supreme Court should stay out of the marriage conversation. Here's the clip:
First let's start with Mr. George's flawed take on the court and its role. He puts all power in the hands of "the people," making it sound as if anything other than a popularity contest will be an unfair way to make headway in this national debate. While that's certainly been convenient to the goals of someone like Mr. George, who has taken much comfort in polling that, until recently, went against LGBT people and the freedom to marry, it is an idea that flies in the very face of our three-branch system. The court has every right and reason to ensure that rights in general, and minority rights in particular, are securely held under law, fulfilling the fair-minded promises of our precious U.S. Constitution. Civil rights are more important than who wins The Voice (sorry, Shakira), which is precisely why we do not allow a majority vote to hold unfettered, unchecked, and sometimes outright tyrannical reign. So that's one.
But my bigger problem with the Robby George appearance is in the way he was presented. Let me start by admitting that George plays the part of an Ivy League intellectual very well. That is, in fact, what he is: A tenured Princeton professor.
But that's not all he is. Robby George, for those who do not know, is the co-founder of and major driving force behind the National Organization For Marriage. Whereas his co-founder, Maggie Gallagher, brought the intellectual heft (as it were) through her years of commentary and advocacy on marriage issues, George used his connections and heightened access to really lay the groundwork for all that is NOM. I'm assuming you know what NOM is.
Robby George had these connections, in part, because he was also one of the key authors of that ignoble idea known as the Federal Marriage Amendment. Yes, that's right—the man in the clip above actually helped penned the text (along with Judge Robert Bork, Professor Gerard V. Bradley, and a group called the Alliance for Marriage) that, if it had passed during the more discrimination-favorable era in which it was presented, would have quite literally altered our U.S. Constitution and turned it into a direct repudiation (I would even say weapon) against same-sex couples and our families. If Robby George would have had his way, the Supreme Court would have been less inclined (or even able) to secure the freedom to marry for same-sex couples because the major source from which the justices derive their insight would have become a truly chilling arm of the anti-LGBT movement.
Yet the PBS show never mentioned these points. Instead, Robby George gets to play his buttoned-up, well-spoken, hair-combed, "look, I'm in a suit" role of respectability—which is, indeed, part of who he is. The problem is that this other major part is never addressed. They never described him as NOM's founder. They never said he tried to change our "Constitution USA" in the way that he did. Oh, and they certainly never let viewers know stuff like this, which is all part of Mr. George's record:
-- Decried the NY marriage vote by looking back to a time when being gay was “beneath the dignity of human beings as free and rational creatures.”
-- Argued that gay relationships have “no intelligible basis in them for the norms of monogamy, exclusivity, and the pledge of permanence.”
-- Suggested that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo shouldn’t be considered a Catholic because by signing marriage equality into law, "he has made it clear that he simply does not believe what Catholicism teaches about sexual morality and marriage."
-- Said marriage equality is “about sex,” not about love, commitment, and responsibility. Admitted he believes gay relations to be immoral: "The idea that is antithetical to those who are seeking to redefine marriage is that there is something uniquely good and morally upright about the chaste sexual union of husband and wife—something that is absent in sodomitical acts and in other forms sexual behavior that have been traditionally—and in my view correctly—regarded as intrinsically non-marital and, as such, immoral."
Robert George [GLAAD CAP]
I, for one, think PBS viewers (like you) would be interested in knowing this stuff. If we are trying to have the most robust debate about our shared governing document, then it is instructive know what the on-screen commentators really want to do to our U.S. Constitution, how they have gone about achieving it, and who they even believe falls within the category of "We the People."