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MSNBC Holds Perkins Accountable

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Yesterday in the Huffington Post, GLAAD President Herndon Graddick used CNN as an example of how not to use anti-gay activists as a resource to educate an audience. Last night, MSNBC gave us two examples of how to hold anti-gay activists accountable for their own words, and how to paint a more complete picture of the arguments against marriage equality.

Leading off was Chris Matthews who had Tony Perkins on as a guest, opposite Congressman Barney Frank, to discuss the general issue of marriage equality. (Matthews discussed the future of marriage equality in another segment, with Freedom To Marry’s Evan Wolfson and attorney for the Prop 8 plaintiffs, Ted Olson.)

Earlier in the week, when Perkins was on CNN with Piers Morgan, Perkins had asserted that his own kids wouldn’t likely come out as gay, because “we are teaching them the right ways that they are to interact as human beings,” and “we are not allowing them to be indoctrinated by the education system.” Matthews played that clip back for his audience.

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During the interview, Piers Morgan challenged Perkins on his assertion that the way a parent raises a child determines whether they’re gay or not. But Congressman Frank challenged Perkins’ notion by pointing out that by his logic, if a child does become gay, it means that child was taught the wrong ways to interact as human beings. He asked Perkins whether Dick Cheney had taught his daughter Mary (who is gay) the “wrong way.” Perkins didn’t answer.

Matthews challenged Perkins on his notion that marriage has always been the union of one man and one woman. He also (powerfully) asked Perkins how a Christian could deny the love of a committed couple, using the example of two older women who have been in a relationship for decades.  Perkins, rather than answer, steered the discussion over to the “purpose” of marriage, which of course he says is raising children. 

 

*** And please … just a side note here to our readers; if you, personally, ever hear someone say “studies show that children do best with a mother and a father” the way Perkins did, tell them this:

“Those studies that you are citing compared two-parent homes to single-parent homes.  No study has ever found any differences between kids raised in straight two-parent homes and kids raised in gay two-parent homes.”

I don’t care if it’s a stranger on a street corner or your own mom (Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!) we have to stop letting this lie go unchallenged. ***

 

But back to this interview. Both Frank and Matthews then challenge Perkins on the next logical leap – why then does he not oppose marriage by the elderly? Or people who are infertile? Or people who simply don’t want children?

We all know the reason. Tony Perkins does not oppose marriage equality because he believes all marriages should include procreation. He opposes marriage equality because he opposes gay people.

This is a point made even more strongly by Lawrence O’Donnell last night – who did not have Perkins on as a guest, but instead deconstructed his absurd statements about marriage having a five thousand year history of being between one man and one woman.  (Which, of course, it does not – and O’Donnell consulted a historian who told him as much.)

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O’Donnell’s piece took apart Perkins’ sham reasoning for opposing marriage equality, brick by brick. And it came pretty close to exposing what his real reasoning is, but didn’t quite make it all the way.

Tony Perkins believes advocates for marriage equality are “pawns of the enemy.”  Here he is - right here - saying as much.

It doesn’t matter how illogical his surface arguments are. It doesn’t matter how many times you break them down, or how you challenge them on video or to his face. It doesn’t matter that comparisons to ‘no-fault divorce’ are nonsense, or that there is no evidence that married gay couples harm communities in any way, shape or form. It doesn’t matter that every single study that has ever looked at the topic has found that children raised by gay couples fare just as well as children raised by straight couples.

Tony Perkins believes that marriage equality is the work of “the enemy.”  Presumably, he means the devil.

You can deconstruct the stuff he says on mainstream TV until you’re blue in the face, Tony Perkins is not going to budge if he thinks that the devil is behind the movement for LGBT equality. 

And this is something that America needs to hear. There are some people whose views are so intractable that they will never – as the President put it – “evolve” on this issue. But those folks really are few and far between.  To tell the full story on marriage equality, the media needs to talk to folks who have changed their minds on the issue and explore the changes that are happening in our culture that has led to a majority of Americans now supporting marriage equality.  It also needs to expose the true roots of the views of people like Perkins, so that Americans know who he is when he shows up in these debate segments.  Chris Matthews and Lawrence O’Donnell last night didn’t quite get at the roots, but did provide a lot of context that is usually missing from segments that feature anti-gay activists like Tony Perkins, and we thank them for that.

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