From left: Brian Brown, NOM President, New York Times reporter Mark Oppenheimer, and Dan Savage
Dan Savage Takes NOM's Brian Brown to Task at Dinner Table Debate

By Sunnivie Brydum

Originally published on Advocate.com August 22 2012 3:08 PM ET

Dan Savage, gay columnist and founder of the It Gets Better Project, made good on a promise to debate National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown — right in Savage's dining room.

The debate — sparked by comments Savage made to a high school journalism conference saying, "We can learn to ignore the bullshit in the Bible about gay people,"— is embedded, unedited, below.

Savage drew ire from Brown and other conservative pundits when he told a high school journalism conference in April, "We can learn to ignore the bullshit in the Bible about gay people, the same way we have learned to ignore the bullshit in the Bible about shellfish, about slavery…"

When some two dozen students walked out in protest, Savage called them "pansy-assed."

That was enough for Brown to challenge Savage to a debate. On NOMBlog, Brown wrote, "Let me lay down a public challenge to Dan Savage right here and now: You want to savage the Bible? Christian morality? Traditional marriage? Pope Benedict? I'm here, you name the time and the place and let's see what a big man you are in a debate with someone who can talk back. It's easy to make high-school girls cry by picking on them. Let's pick on someone our own size!"

Savage did indeed name a place — his dining room table — and invited Brown and his wife and children to join Savage; his husband, Terry Miller; and their son for dinner and an after-dinner debate.

While Brown accepted the invitation, neither his wife nor children were in attendance. The hour-long debate took place in Savage's Seattle home last Thursday — the same day that  a security guard was shot and wounded at the Washington, D.C., office of the Family Research Council, another antigay Christian organization that often partners with NOM. Floyd Lee Corkins II is accused of the crime.

Mark Oppenheimer of The New York Times sat in as moderator, and both Savage and Brown had camera crews present. The video was posted to YouTube this morning. 

Click to the next page for choice quotes from the hour-long conversation.
In his opening statement, Savage, with piles of notes in front of him, asked Brown and those like him to simply tolerate the civil equality of LGBT people.

"I think that conservative Christians can learn to tolerate legal, civil same-sex marriage," said Savage. "The same way they've learned to tolerate legal divorce, which violates Catholic teaching, interfaith marriages, and nonreligious marriages. … Imposing your interpretation of the Bible on someone else is not religious freedom, as you try to redefine it, that is religious tyranny."

Brown avoided addressing any of Savage's substantive biblical critiques, instead arguing that Christianity accepts all people.

"Christianity is, if anything, radical," said Brown, who is Catholic. "It's radical in its view … of the human dignity of each and every one of us. The reason I'm here is because I believe in your human dignity. I'm willing to come and argue with you because of my respect for you. This notion of equality before God, of us all having this dignity before God, is key to the scriptures."