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Larry King Live

Should Same-Sex Couples Get the Same Rights and Recognition as Straight Ones?

Aired May 2, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, gay marriages: Should same-sex couples get the same rights and recognition as straight ones? Joining us from Lynchburg, Virginia, the Reverend Jerry Falwell; in Boston, Father Richard Rasi, a gay Roman Catholic priest; in New York, rabbi Shmuley Boteach, author of "Kosher Sex;" in Washington, the famed radio talk show host Janet Parshall, chief spokesperson for the Family Research Council; in Cleveland, the Reverend Jimmy Creech -- the United Methodist Church took his credentials as a minister away for performing same-sex commitment services. Plus, we begin with Vermont's Howard Dean, the first and only governor to sign a gay civil union law. They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

We'll begin with Governor Howard Dean. He's in our studios in Burlington, Vermont. He signed a civil union law last week, and it goes into effect July 1. Basically, Governor Dean, what does it say?

GOV. HOWARD DEAN (D), VERMONT: Well, it basically says that marriage is reserved only for a man or woman, but that the rights that go along with marriage and the benefits, mostly the financial benefits -- the insurance, the ability to leave your home to the person you're living with and so forth and so on -- those rights will be granted to gay and lesbian couples who make commitments.

KING: An actual civil union will be performed either by a justice of the peace or some state official, or a rabbi, or minister or a priest, right?

DEAN: Right. What happens is the couple will go to the town clerk as a heterosexual couple would go. They will get a form. It's not a license for a marriage, but it's a civil union license, and they'll take that to someone who's willing to perform that. If it's a clergy person, that's fine, but no clergyman has to perform it if it's against their religion, or it can be a justice of the peace.

KING: And to solve it, you go to family court, as others would?

DEAN: That's right, if the union is dissolved, it will be dissolved in court with the division of the assets. It's a pretty serious commitment. We don't think that there's going to be a lot of people who will take advantage of this. There will be initial rush of people, of course, mostly couples who live in Vermont, because this is not transportable to other parts of the country as far as we know. But after that, I think you won't see a whole lot of these commitments because they are pretty serious, and you really have to be committed partners in order to enter into something like this.

KING: And it's only for same-sex couple, right? In other words, a heterosexual couple cannot get a civil union license?

DEAN: Well, they wouldn't need, they could get married.

KING: But I mean, they couldn't get one in lieu of marriage? Say a couple living together wanted to get one?

DEAN: That's correct. You have to make a really serious commitment in order to get the benefits and rights of marriage. If you're a heterosexual couple, you can get married; if you're a gay couple or a lesbian couple, you have to have a civil union.

KING: Why do you think the government of Vermont is the first and only state with this?

DEAN: I thought about that a lot, Larry, and I think it's because we're a small state and people get to know each other. The Supreme Court told us we had to do something about this, because gay couples were denied certain right. When the legislature figured out what do, it went to the House Judiciary Committee first. Five Republicans, five Democrats, one independent, two former state troopers. They eventually voted unanimously for this bill. What happened was people came in to testify before this committee, and the committee realized that gay and lesbian people are human beings just like everybody else, and that the similarities between people are much greater than the differences between people, and I think they understood that these are not -- quote, unquote -- homosexuals or gay people, these are human beings, and they are a lot like the members of the Judiciary Committee, and every single one of them, Republican and Democrat, including, as I said, two former state troopers voted for the bill, and that really set it on its way.

KING: A poll in one of your principal newspapers says 52 percent of the public doesn't like the law, and 43 percent support it. Is that what you hear?

DEAN: Yes, I think that's right. That's about what I heard. The number who oppose it is anywhere from 46 to 52, and in favor is anywhere from 37-43. I think that's right.

KING: Did you have any difficulty signing it?

DEAN: No. It's one of those things it was a vote of conscience. Of course, I got a ton of mail saying don't sign it. and some of them weren't very nice letters, but this is one you've got to look into your heart and figure out what's the right thing to do? And I think it's -- you know, we have a long tradition in Vermont of treating everybody the same. In our constitution, which predates our joining the union by 14 years, in 1777, we outlawed slavery, the first and only state ever to do that in their first constitution. We have just a long history of saying, look, no one group of people gets more benefits or less benefits than anybody else, and that was actually in our constitution, and that's the part of the Constitution that the Supreme Court relied on when they made the finding that our marriage laws weren't unconstitutional.

KING: So under the Civil Union Act, they get all the benefits of marriage? They can visit someone in intensive care unit in a Vermont hospital? They get pensioned rights? They get widows or widower's benefits?

DEAN: Larry, they don't get pension rights necessarily, because the federal government doesn't recognize these unions, at least that hasn't been litigated, so there are some things they don't get. They don't automatically get health insurance if the company that one partner works for is under ARISA, because that's a federal pension law. The other thing is they also get the not-so-great things about marriage. People under civil unions will, at least under the Vermont tax code, have to pay the marriage penalty.

KING: The state marriage penalty. And by the way, nonresidents can come into the state and get this, right?

DEAN: Yes, they can. And actually, a lot of people have been interviewed about that. We don't expect a big influx of people who come in and live here, although there will be some, but we do think there will be a lot of people who want to come and make the symbolic commitment, even though it may not transferable back to their other states. About 25 percent of all the marriages performed in this state that are heterosexual couples are when neither partner lives in Vermont, this is a great state, it's a beautiful state, a lot of people like to come up here, so there will be some gay couples that come up and do that, too.

KING: You have one member of state legislature who is openly gay, Representative Bill Lippert. He introduced this, right?

DEAN: Actually i don't know who introduced it. I think it was introduced by the committee, by all 11 members of the committee.

KING: I see.

Has anyone challenged it yet legally?

DEAN: No, I'm sure it will be. There are a lot of people who are very upset about this and very, I think, disappointed, people who have religious objections, people who are fearful of what may happen to their children, but most of the evidence is that homosexuals are not -- that's not an environmental problem or a lifestyle choice, it's really people are born heterosexual or they're homosexual for the most part, and so many of the people in the legislature who supported this saw this as civil rights issue -- you are who you are, and everybody ought to be treated the same -- and that's pretty much why they voted for it.

KING: Thank you, Governor Dean, for getting us right up to date.

DEAN: Thank you.

KING: Governor Howard Dean, the governor of the State of Vermont. And when we come back, our panel of Jerry Falwell, and Father Rasi, and Rabbi Boteach, and Janet Parshall and Reverend Creech will assemble, go at it. We'll take your calls, too.

Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, APRIL 13)

QUESTION: Governor, you're against gay marriage; you've come out against guy marriage. Will you support any kind of legal recognition of gay partners, such as they have in city and states and some companies, legal benefits, for instance?

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think in the private sector that's perfectly fine.

QUESTION: What about state to state?

BUSH: Those are going to be up for cities and states to make those decisions. I just don't believe in gay marriage. I don't believe in gay marriage, John.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Our panel is assembled. We'll start with Father Richard Rasi, a gay Roman Catholic priest. He is also a licensed psychologist, and he performs gay commitment ceremonies. You have not been defrocked of your priesthood Father Rasi?

FATHER RICHARD RASI, GAY ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST: I have not been defrocked, no.

KING: Do you expect to be?

RASI: There's many ways of looking at this actually, Larry. It depends on kind of what your definition of "defrocked" is.

KING: I mean, can they remove your priesthood from you, the church?

RASI: No, they can never remove the priesthood from me. Once you're a priest, you are always a priest, according to the order of Malkesedic (ph), period.

KING: They could take you out of the church, though?

RASI: They could take away my church. They could take me out of the parish. Yes, they could do that. They could take away, like they have done with Reverend Creech, the license to practice, so to speak.

KING: All right, that's what happened to him.

RASI: Correct.

KING: And he is not gay, and you are, right?

RASI: That's right, I am gay.

KING: OK, Janet what is wrong with what Governor Dean just said?

JANET PARSHALL, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Well, he said a couple of things, Larry, that were really Not completely truthful. For example, there were no less than 50 straw polls done in the state of Vermont, and every single one of them, every one of them, said in a majority position, we don't like this. So if the will of the people is the law of the land, there was a kind of thumbing the nose at the Vermont citizens.

KING: But legislatures and Congress do that a lot. They're elected to represents the best interest as they see them, and then you can vote against them?

PARSHALL: Exactly, and I think that's what's going to happen in this case, that a lot of folks are going to say, you trampled on my family values.

KING: What do you think is wrong with the law?

PARSHALL: Well, first of all, the governor said something that is absolutely scientifically wrong, and that is we don't have evidence that says somebody is born that way. In fact, of all the pseudoscience that's been out there, none of it has ever been replicated by any substantial scientists, so it's false.

KING: Do you know why you're a heterosexual? Did you make that choice?

PARSHALL: No, I didn't -- God did.

KING: So then God must've made a homosexual.

PARSHALL: God doesn't makes homosexuals.

KING: He only makes heterosexual?

PARSHALL: God only makes heterosexual.

KING: So who made the homosexuals?

PARSHALL: That's a chosen behavior.

KING: You think someone would deliberately choose this? Why?

PARSHALL: I think there a lot of reasons. One of them is environmental. I think that there is sometimes a disconnect between dads and sons. Sometimes there is abuse that a daughter sees in mother, so she pulls away from the male population, and I think it's a very difficult behavior choice, but I think that there is a way of escape out of that, and I think that's the best kept secret out there.

KING: Reverend Creech, what do you think of the Civil Union Law? Is this fine with you? If every state had you, would that meet what you think is correct?

REV. JIMMY CREECH, PERFORMED GAY UNION CEREMONIES: Well, I think that's a step in the right direction. I think it doesn't go far enough. I think it should be called marriage. It should have equal standing with heterosexual marriage, marriage between a man and a woman.

KING: So you favor that actually there is a marriage license issued for gay couples?

CREECH: Well, yes I do. I believe marriage to be essentially based on love, not gender. And I believe that when two people who love and care for each other and want to live together care for one another for live, should have the right to be recognized by society, by the government, as married. If a man and a woman are going to have that recognition, with the civil rights that go with it, so should two men and two women who marry.

KING: Reverend Falwell, what do you make of what the governor had to say?

REV. JERRY FALWELL, CHANCELLOR, LIBERTY UNIVERSITY: Well, I, of course, totally disagree that one genetically is born gay. I think that we make choices. I don't think homosexuality is any more sinful than promiscuous heterosexual activity, but I believe biblically, it's very clear that all sexual activity outside a marriage bond between a man and woman legally married is forbidden by God. I also believe that if one is a minister, such as the father here, and Reverend Creech who was at our church last October with a group of 200 gays, lesbian, transgendered, bisexuals and a conference here on Violence, if one is ordained to be a minister of the gospel, that person should be committed to the teachings of scripture. Excuse, I'm not going to take the time, Larry, to read all the verses, but I have a sheet of them here, just pulled out together today, that commend...

KING: But verses aren't in the Constitution.

FALWELL: Pardon?

KING: Let's ask it this way, I mean, we have a separation of church and state. So a state can pass any law it wishes to pass?

FALWELL: Oh, it can. And I -- when a majority of the citizens of Vermont oppose that kind of law, it brings back what happened in Hawaii, Alaska, California, when similar attempts were made and the people by about 70 percent said no, that's where America is today.

KING: Just so we understand where you are, do you favor, though, in every area equal rights for gays -- housing?

FALWELL: I favor equal rights for all citizens who obey the laws, and for that reason, I love the gay as well as I love the adulterous heterosexual.

KING: Even though the gay made this choice? FALWELL: I think he made the choice, she made the choice, but I believe that through Jesus Christ, like thousands of former gays who've been delivered thorough believing the gospel of Jesus Christ, they can choose out by receiving Jesus as savior.

KING: Now, rabbi, where do you come into this picture? As I understand it, you support equal rights for all gays in every area except union, is that correct?

RABBI SHMULEY BOTEACH, AUTHOR, "KOSHER SEX": Yes, I believe that the whole issue has been confused by extremist positions on both sides. Firstly, religion is so often saying this is an abomination, every religious person is being somewhat dishonest, because the Old Testament uses the word "abomination" 122 times. Leviticus 11 says that eating shellfish is an abomination, and we don't treat lobster eaters the way we treat gay and women. Secondly, divorce is 67 percent in this country, and infidelity is 50 percent. And religions made homosexuality a cause celeb, which is -- it's an important issue but not the end of the world.

Having said that, I think the opposite is also true, the gay lobbyists politicize the issue, they want to raise homosexual unions to the same standard as heterosexual unions, and I can't agree to that.

I am opposed to homosexual marriage and union, because marriage means three things: primacy -- you're the first in my life, exclusivity. You're the only one in my life. And symbiosis, a harmonious orchestration of opposites. I mean, the fact that gay marriage is old hat. Of the first 15 Roman emperors, only Claudius was heterosexual exclusively. What religions say is that men and women have little in common, but they can love each other, they can come together, and this is a lesson to all of us, that there's an underlying unity in creation, that one day Jews and Arabs can live together, that Protestants and Jews, et cetera, that there is some underlying unity.

So the essence of marriage, the focal point of the opposites is central to everyone to understand that there shouldn't be fragmentation in society. We can not undermine the nuclear family.

KING: What's wrong with civil union instead of marriage?

BOTEACH: Because it's just semantics, Larry. It's basically calling it one thing, and Governor Dean basically said that. He said that heterosexuals can get marriage, the others have this civil union. There is no question that these laws discriminate against gay men. I'm not denying that, and it's unfair, and yet love is not the only value. It's a very important value, but There are values that transcend love. For example, the idea of society and civilization.

KING: We know where everyone stands. We'll go at it right after these words.

Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm for domestic partnerships, having legal protections, but not the same sacrament, not the same name, because I favor protecting the institution of marriage as it has been understood, between a man and a woman. But I think that a partner should have legal protection and contractual rights, and health care and duress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: I realize we're in different cities, so if someone wants to say something, you want to jump in, just let them finish, and then we'll let them jump in.

Father Rasi, if your religion says it's wrong, why say a priest?

RASI: If my religion says what's wrong.

KING: The act of homosexuality is a sin?

RASI: Well, let's get something very clear off the bat, that the church, the Catholic Church does not say that homosexuality is wrong. What the church says, and it's the same thing about heterosexual sex, is that the act of sex outside of marriage is sinful, so whether you're heterosexual or homosexual, it makes no difference.

The Catholic Church has never said, and it's not written anywhere, that they condemn or consider homosexuality itself a sin.

KING: What does -- Reverend Creech, what does the Methodist Church say? They did though you out, right?

CREECH: Yes, they did. The United Methodist Church in 1972 passed a statement that says the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. That sounds a little bit benign, but it's just as bad as Fred Phelps saying God hates fags. It's a very clear condemnation of gay, lesbian and bisexual, same-sex relationships. It has a very strong and clear standing. It and has since 1972.

KING: Janet -- hold on one second.

Janet, In the area of, let's say, a simple thing, two men are in love. And one's in the intensive care unit. They don't let the other one in because he's not family. Isn't that ridiculous?

PARSHALL: I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt. My mother was a hospice nurse. If that person wanted to see the other person in the intensive care unit, and said I'm very close to this person, could I go in. I don't know of a nurse out there that wouldn't say yes. There's only three minutes on the hour when we can let you in, and we'll let you in on the next hour. To have to legislate that I think was overkill. And marriage is so much more than just feelings, Larry. If we predicated marriage just on feelings, then you could feel for having more than one wife at one time, or you could feel for marrying somebody that was, oh, a child. We can't predicate it on feelings. Marriage is the cornerstone institution of any culture. Any culture can continue with heterosexual marriage. No culture could continue only with homosexual marriage.

CREECH: I'd like to add that marriage is really not an -- a religious institution; it's a cultural construct. It's something that's been a part of all cultures throughout time, and it has evolved, and has changed in its forms and expressions in many ways over the millennia. It is not -- it should not be dominated by religious perspectives. It certainly has within various religions implications, and should be interpreted in various ways. But when we talk about public policy, and the human right to love the person you love and the civil right to be protected and to have the rights that you should have and share together, we should not allow religion to be imposed upon marriage.

KING: Jerry Falwell, do you see it as an interference between church and state? You don't see it as church and state?

FALWELL: I do not. I do not. I disagree with Jimmy on that. Adam and Eve, the first couple, the federal head of the human race, man and woman, male and female, God brought together, and there's never been in history, in a civilized society, a sanctioned union by God other than the male-female relationship. And the fact that we are looking for diverse family forms, where do we take it? How far down do we take it?

RASI: Reverend Falwell, this is Father Rasi. One of the things I've always been confused about, in terms of that particular reference, is that Adam and Eve had two sons, Cain and Able, and if you're going to follow the Bible, like to the letter of the law, and I'm not hear to argue the Bible -- I really would like to talk about the work I do with gay and lesbian couple -- that Cain killed Able, so where do the rest of us come from? What are the implications of that biblical passage?

FALWELL: Adam and Eve had other children, Reverend. I'm sure you learned the Bible.

RASI: Well, it's not in the Bible.

FALWELL: Oh yes, it is in the Bible. Where did sinning come from? Where did their brothers and sisters come from?

RASI: What I'd like to talk more about is I think...

FALWELL: Father, don't talk about the Bible if you don't know anything about it.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: I think we're talking about the state, not the Bible. RASI: That's right, and I think Reverend Creech is absolutely correct about this. When any heterosexual couple approaches a rabbi, a priest or a minister, they must come with a license in hand from the state. In the Catholic Church, it is very clear theologically that it is the couple that performs the wedding, not the priest. And if the couple themselves is coming together in love and expresses their vows, that is the sacrament of marriage.

KING: You will all agree that the society basic -- the majority of this society doesn't like the idea. We'll pick up on that in a minute, right after these words.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNE HECHE, ACTRESS: Now, our relationship in union is about joy and love. And why so many people -- and this is where I have an issue with religion, and certainly it's not every religious person -- they're saying your love doesn't count, and we're going to try to make it very clear to you by continuing to forward these laws, to say that your love doesn't matter. Why is any group or any individual trying to do that to anybody? It is confusing to me.

ELLEN DEGENERES, ACTRESS: Well, and the fact that they say in the Bible that tit's between a man and the woman. Well, in the Bible, it was used to justify slavery. We've learned that we let go of certain things.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Rabbi, is there an eventual answer to all of this, since you're down the middle on it? Where is society going to go with this? Or is this conflict going to remain that there are people like you who want to see them have their equal rights, but on the other hand, don't want them to get married. Vermont seems to take another step. Where do you think it's going?

BOTEACH: Well, the first thing is religion has to have some humility, and basically accept that there's a whole spectrum of sexuality, and while maybe the majority of men and women have tendency toward heterosexuality, there are people on the extreme ends of that spectrum, who really, I think, are born gay.

I have an orthodox gay Jewish brother, and he'll tell me that from the earliest moment, he never had an attraction to women. And I therefore -- I say that God has a lot of explaining to do, and I still bow my head in submission to God's law. I don't understand everything. Today's Holocaust Day around the world. A lot of Jews died, and still, I keep my religion.

I say this to gay men all the time: There are things where we have to put the higher good around ourselves. Society is based on the idea of the nuclear family. I totally disagree that marriage is not a religious institution. Of course it is. Prior to the Judeo-Christian ethic, homosexuality was rampant in the ancient world, and same-sex marriages are predictable. It's far more common for two guys, two men who have a lot in common to love each other and two women who have lot in common than the husband watching Monday night football and the wife going shopping. Heterosexuality is unpredictable, and God commanded it to show us that there is this unity in the world and it's ultimate example of how we can bring together an end to racism and everything else. This is the pinnacle of human achievement, that opposites can come together.

KING: Janet, what would you say on that? What would you say to him on that?

PARSHALL: I listen with great interest to the rabbi, because I'm not quite sure when he said "prior to the Judeo-Christian ethic." What would be prior to the Judeo arc of the Judeo-Christian ethic.

KING: We were the first.

BOTEACH: The dissemination of Christianity happened just 2000 years ago, and there was the Greek culture before, there was the Roman culture before that, and in Greek culture, Plato even says that it was acceptable, even honorable, for men to seduce adolescent boys. I mean, there were different values.

RASI: There's a difference...

KING: People react to each other.

FALWELL: Rabbi, you can't blame God, rabbi. You can't blame God for homosexuality. You can't blame him for the Holocaust. You can't blame God for sin. Man made those decisions, as Janet Parshall said earlier. We all choose to do wrong; that's why Jesus Christ came to the Earth, to die on the cross, because the first Adam chose the wrong path. The final and last Adam, Christ came and provided a way through his death, burial and resurrection.

And there are thousands of former gays -- and I'll be glad to give names and addresses -- so that anyone who doubts that, can talk with them, meet them, couples now married, raising children, but who both were involved in the gay lifestyle. God can deliver from it. It's a chosen lifestyle.

KING: I want to get a break, and I want to hear more from the priest as well and the reverend and all of us. Sometimes it's wild when we've got guests in different cities.

But we'll be right back, include your phone calls, too. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Is Julie the love of your life?

MELISSA ETHERIDGE: Yes.

KING: No doubt about it.

ETHERIDGE: No doubt about it.

KING: And you've been together how long now?

ETHERIDGE: Eleven, going on twelve years.

KING: Do you feel, Julie, married?

JULIE CYPHER: I do, very much so.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE.

We heard earlier from Governor Howard Dean. Let's reintroduce our panel. In Lynchburg, Virginia is Reverend Jerry Falwell, the founder and chancellor of Liberty University; in Boston, is father Richard Rasi, a gay Roman Catholic priest who's performed gay commitment ceremonies -- he also has a Phd in psychology; in New York, is Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. the author of "Kosher Sex;" in Washington, Janet Parshall, radio host of "Janet Parshall's America" and chief spokesperson for the Family Research Council; and in Cleveland, the Reverend Jimmy Creech, who was a pastor at the United Methodist Church, performed covenant commitment ceremonies for same-sex couple, was tried and found guilty of disobedience and had ministerial credentials taken away.

We are going to go to your phone calls.

But, Father Rasi, you wanted to raise something -- I'll ask about it. How do you deal with couples who can't get married and want counseling?

RASI: Who can't get married...

KING: You said you minister to them. What do you say?

RASI: Yes. One of the things I want to say is that I'm assuming that I'm the only gay person on the panel this evening, and other than Reverend Creech, I'm going to assume also, although maybe inappropriately so, that we are the only ones who have ever performed gay commitment ceremonies.

FALWELL: You're right.

RASI: And I also want to say, that when I look into the eyes of these men and women who come to me, and who have been hurt and who have been battered by society and by their churches, to tell them that God loves them, and God supports them and God did not make a mistake when he made them, and God has not made a mistake in the love that's brought them together and that their love is just as real, and just as committed and just as honored than any heterosexual couple that comes to me or has come to me. KING: Does that help them when they go back out into the world?

RASI: Absolutely. A lot of times it's the first time people heard words of acceptance and love, that you are loved, that God does love you, that God did not make a mistake.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: What was wrong with what he just said? And then Reverend Falwell. What was wrong with that?

PARSHALL: Larry, it was a wonderful mixture of a little bit of truth and a lot of bit of confusion. You see, I know that God loves them, God loves the world so much.

KING: He loves them as much as he loves you.

PARSHALL: Absolutely.

KING: So why is he separating them and not allowing them?

PARSHALL: Because the same God who loves us unconditionally is the same God who's not the cosmic bully, but gave us parameters for our behavior choices, because he said I love you so much, that if you step outside the parameter of the line that I've drawn for you, you'll get sick, you'll die, it's a wrong relationship, I've created that relationship between man and woman so that you would know intimacy, so that you would begin to understand intimacy with me. That's why he created marriage.

KING: Well, I understand the dilemma a state deals with?

PARSHALL: Yes, absolutely, and that's the problem, because it is not strictly a legal contract, it is so much more than that, and that's why so many Americans, 71 percent, have said, no, we're not in favor of that, in passing the kind of legislation they did in Vermont, but they're basically saying to those of us who understand, the primacy of marriage, your marriage, will now take a back seat.

KING: One at a time.

FALWELL: Larry, may I respond to Father Rasi. I don't doubt for a moment his sincerity, his love for gays who come to him for counseling.

RASI: And my love for you, reverend.

FALWELL: I've been a pastor for 44 years, the same church. And with 22,000 members, many gays and lesbians have come to me for counseling, and I tell them God loves them, and then I explain to them how that love was manifested through the shed blood of Christ at Cavalry, which the Catholic Church also teaches, then I lead them to the Lord and help them to find deliverance out of the lifestyle, rather than condoning them in a perverted lifestyle, as I would with any adulterer or any -- that's what pastors do. Love doesn't mean you condone this behavior. KING: What would you say, Reverend Creech, to what Reverend Falwell just said?

CREECH: Well, Reverend Falwell has a particular interpretation of scripture, and particularly the Christian story, that I think is very tight and very complete. But it's not the only interpretation of scripture and the Christian story. My understanding of the work of God and Christ was that God through Christ was welcoming all to be in fellowship together.

And I would say that God not only blesses same-sex marriages, but it is the very presence of God in the individuals that brings them together. Their love for one another is their experience of God's presence in their very being.

KING: Where did that come from?

And what does the Jewish faith say, rabbi?

BOTEACH: Well, the mistake being made here I think is that Judaism has never said that love is the highest value. It is a very high value. But there are other values -- society, family, the nuclear family, and I think when we promote...

KING: They all relate to love, though, don't they?

BOTEACH: Yes, that's true, Larry. But what if a guy comes and says, I love my secretary. I have husbands coming to me all the time I'm not attracted to my wife anymore, she's 30 pounds heavier, she's had three kids now, and I want to run off with someone. I mean, if we're going to redefine what marriage is, maybe we can allow bigamy -- you know, a guy loves two women at a time. But we all think that marriage has a specific definition: male and female.

My problem is that I hear no humility from the religious side here. The fact is that millions of gay men and women wrestle and struggle with their sexuality. And to simply say this is a choice and you're just doing it wrong, for goodness sake, all of us do have genetic dispositions. And the purpose of religion is to show compassion, but to still insist on its norms. We can speak about with marriage with conviction without saying that -- homosexuals are not perverted, for goodness sake. Perversion is adultery.

FALWELL: Rabbi, perversion doesn't vow that we violate scripture, which is clear in its teaching. I've written a booklet on why same-sex marriage is wrong. I'll give a free copy to anybody who wants one. It's at Falwell.com on my Web site, free, "Why Same-Sex Marriage is Wrong." And it's all based on scripture, biblical truth. And I don't how you can consider it incompassionate to violate scripture when you are supposed to be a minister of scripture.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Hold on, let me get a break, and then I want to include some callers. We'll try to cover -- it's hard, but we're putting up with it. We'll do our best. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING: What prompted your coming out. Was there an event?

CHASTITY BONO: I think there was a few things. I got out of the tabloids, and I lived in the closet for so many years, in fear for so long, and I just got sick of it, and the climate started to change, and we started seeing people like K.D. Lang and Melissa Etheridge come out and nothing happened. In fact, their careers bloomed afterwards. I also lost my lover at the time to cancer, and it was just a realization that life is so short and anything can happen at any moment.

But ultimately, I just didn't want to live feeling ashamed or afraid anymore. And once I did it, you know, I thought it would be liberating; I had no idea though how liberating.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Let's involve the public a little. Meadville, Pennsylvania, hello?

CALLER: Yes, hello. I have a question for Reverend Falwell.

KING: Sure.

CALLER: Yes. Reverend Falwell, do you think there will be splits throughout Christian churches due to the controversy over same- sex marriages and known homosexuals being ordained within the Christian church? I'm a believing and practicing Christian, and I find this abominable.

FALWELL: Well, first of all, I don't know of any Baptist church that has been able to keep membership in any legitimate group that ordains gays and lesbians, and that is generally true in evangelicalism. It is unfortunately not true in some areas. Reverend Creech, for example, would I think ordain a gay minister. The Metropolitan Church does.

But it would obviously -- it would split our church right down the middle, and I would hope they would hang me if I did it.

BOTEACH: Ma'am, are you aware that Proverb 16:5 says that arrogance is abominable? I mean, I'm all for gay men trying to live a heterosexual life and having children. But that kind of bombastic tone...

FALWELL: Having children? Explain to me how they'll have children.

BOTEACH: Just one second. Reverend Falwell -- well, by marriage. I encourage people to marry. (LAUGHTER)

But Reverend Falwell, to call homosexuality a perversion -- perversion is when you cheat on your wife. Perversion is where you, god forbid, do something with children.

But these are two consenting adult. You have to distinguish between religious law and moral law. I am opposed to homosexuality it transgresses God's law. But it's not moral law. No one is being hurt. And this bombastic tone and perversion is what muddies the waters and makes us religious people look unreasonable.

FALWELL: You just said -- you just said homosexuality transgresses God's law. What's charitable about that?

BOTEACH: But what makes it...

FALWELL: You're stating biblical truth.

BOTEACH: Reverend Falwell -- Reverend Falwell...

KING: But he...

(CROSSTALK)

BOTEACH: Reverend Falwell, if somebody drives on the Sabbath, if someone -- if someone transgresses the Sabbath, are they perverted or are they just transgressing God's law? Which one?

FALWELL: No, I believe, because Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week, that the Sabbath is no longer Saturday. I believe Sunday is the Lord's day...

BOTEACH: OK...

FALWELL: ... and I believe all -- every day is like Sunday.

KING: But what he's saying is...

(CROSSTALK)

BOTEACH: If they transgress Sunday, are they perverted? Are they perverted if they don't go to church?

RASI: Gentlemen...

FALWELL: No. No, I many Christians who play baseball on Sunday. As long as you put the Lord first in your life, every day is Sunday to the believer.

RASI: Gentlemen, we have -- we have many gay and lesbian people watching this show who need to hear that God loves them. At Dignity USA, the organization that I represent here, our Web site being DignityUSA.org,, we welcome these people. And these are people who do not have any practicing faith, who do not have God in their life who want to be welcomed in and hear the words of love. Our talk here and our arguing scripture is not doing them any good.

FALWELL: You're right.

RASI: It's not brining...

KING: Janet...

RASI: It's not bringing God into this.

FALWELL: Father Rasi, I would like to say the gays and lesbians...

KING: Janet, do you agree -- hold it. Janet, do you agree -- do you agree, Janet, that there is biblical law and moral law, and they can be different? For example, in the Jewish faith, if you drive a car on Saturday, you have broken a biblical law. But you haven't harmed anyone so you haven't broken any moral law.

You're not perverted, are you?

PARSHALL: Well, you know, the interesting...

KING: If you eat non-kosher food, are you perverted? Who are you harming?

RASI: If you don't go to church, you're not...

KING: Let her answer.

PARSHALL: The wonderful thing about a holy god is that the best I can do, the Bible says, is as good as filthy rags, which basically means it's not good at all. God doesn't see sin in degree. Anything that breaks his law from God's perspective is wrong.

RASI: Janet, I am not...

KING: So don't allow people to marry who don't go to church?

PARSHALL: I beg your pardon.

RASI: I am not a filthy rag. Janet, my goodness. I am not a filthy rag and I am not an abomination. Being the only gay person here, that's very insulting to hear these words.

PARSHALL: Wait a minute, father, I didn't...

RASI: And it's very -- it's very hurtful to me.

PARSHALL: Father, wait a minute. Fact check, fact check, father. I didn't say that at all. I said the best that any of us can do is as good as filthy rags. That's the Bible that you teach from and that's what it says.

RASI: Well, you know, all right, OK, fine. PARSHALL: Let me go on...

RASI: All right, fine.

PARSHALL: Wait a minute. The first part of your name is father. Why don't you take that away if you don't want to teach what His book has to say?

RASI: Well, if I wanted to be biblical, Jesus said don't call anybody father. So thank you, maybe I should and maybe everybody else...

(CROSSTALK)

FALWELL: John Paul II, Bernard Law, John O'Connor, and millions of other Roman Catholics take exception to what you are saying, father. And if gays and lesbians are watching there, I want to say to you God loves you.

RASI: But these are -- these are...

FALWELL: Go to Falwell.com and get the plan of salvation.

RASI: These are people...

FALWELL: Go to Billy Graham. Hear about Christ...

RASI: These are people who are not going to church. They're not listening to you.

FALWELL: Well, let's get them to church. Let's bring them to the gospel, father.

RASI: They're hearing you say that you're an abomination, and when you reduce me...

FALWELL: No, no, I'm saying the act.

PARSHALL: No...

RASI: ... when you reduce me...

FALWELL: I'm saying the sexual...

RASI: ... when you reduce me...

FALWELL: You did not hear me say that, father.

RASI: Right, I do.

FALWELL: You did not hear me say that, father.

RASI: I hear you say that I am a sexual act...

FALWELL: I said the act is abomination...

RASI: ... and I am not.

FALWELL: ... as adultery is abomination. But gays and lesbians and straights are all sinners in need of a savior.

KING: We'll get our break...

RASI: When anybody reduces me...

KING: Hold it, father. We'll get a break and we'll be back with more after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: This was the Millennium March for gay, lesbian, bisexuals that was held this past weekend, a beautiful Sunday in Washington, D.C.

Let's take another call for our panel. Athens, Ohio, hello.

CALLER: Hi. This question is directed to the priests and pastors who are against homosexuality.

KING: Father Rasi and Reverend Creech...

CALLER: I was wondering how you can...

KING: Hold on. Against it or for it.

CALLER: That are against it.

KING: OK, there's only one. There's Reverend Falwell. Go ahead.

CALLER: OK. Reverend Falwell, I was wondering how you could say that two people who are in a loving relationship are wrong because the whole message of God is love. I just don't see God as condoning two people in love because he commands us to walk in love in Second John.

FALWELL: Absolutely, he does. But suppose it were a 24-year-old adult and a 6-year-old boy. Would you feel because it's a loving relationship it's all right? The scripture gives parameters.

CREECH: Jerry -- Jerry, I'm going to interrupt here. I want to say...

FALWELL: The parameter...

(CROSSTALK)

... adult woman, and when they make a decision to marry, to be merged in the likeness of Christ and his church, it is a spiritual union for a lifetime.

RASI: You just implied that an older man and a younger man and that love kind of relationship are having sex. It always boils down to people reducing me to a sexual act. And I am not just a sexual act.

As a gay person...

CREECH: It's also important -- it's also important that we not confuse things. We are talking about a mature, mutual, equal relationship that is adult that goes beyond the feelings of love, that includes fidelity, it includes the willingness to care for in the good and bad times, the rich and poor times. It includes everything that a man and a woman pledge to one another when they marry.

FALWELL: That it includes moral decency, Jimmy, and homosexuality is not that.

CREECH: I'm sorry. Homosexuality, being gay or lesbian or bisexual is a normal part of the human family.

KING: All right. Let's put it...

(CROSSTALK)

Why don't we put it simply. Let me try to ask the...

(CROSSTALK)

Thank you. Let me try to ask the question. What's it your business if two adults love each other and the way they love each other? How does that affect you?

KING: You alluded to something that I think is the linchpin in this whole debate, and that is we're talking about private acts between people, and the flip side becomes here in Washington, D.C. when people attempt to concratize that act into public policy.

I can't sit quietly and allow that to happen.

KING: But you're judging their act?

PARSHALL: Yes, I am.

KING: You don't allow them to marry. You're making a judgment.

FALWELL: Absolutely.

KING: So they naturally get together (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to redress a grievance.

CREECH: You're actually imposing your own values on other people.

PARSHALL: Well, that's what -- but you have to understand -- you have to understand that what you're doing by trying to pass gay marriages in Vermont is imposing your value on me.

CREECH: No, you're...

PARSHALL: Welcome to the... (CROSSTALK)

CREECH: You're giving people who love one another, and want to have life together, want to commit to each other in fidelity and love the opportunity to do that. And...

PARSHALL: Jimmy, it's a pretend marriage.

CREECH: And it's -- it is not a threat to you.

PARSHALL: Jimmy, it's a pretend marriage.

CREECH: It is not a threat to Jerry Falwell or to anyone else.

PARSHALL: Absolutely.

CREECH: It is an opportunity...

PARSHALL: You know...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jimmy, Jimmy...

CREECH: ... for people to embody their love and to live together in a loving relationship. That's what...

PARSHALL: Jimmy, I don't see it -- I don't see it...

KING: One at a time.

(CROSSTALK)

CREECH: Public policy needs to be neutral. It should not be dominated by one religious perspective.

PARSHALL: Oh, good! Wait, it needs to be neutral.

Excuse me. Would you like to call Howard Dean, the governor of Vermont, because I think he needs to hear from you that it needs to be neutral? Because he didn't just make it neutral when nobody was looking without any pomp and circumstance. He signed it into law. That's not neutrality.

KING: Passed by the legislature.

PARSHALL: Absolutely.

CREECH: Oh, yes, that is neutrality.

PARSHALL: But he's talking about making it neutral.

CREECH: It makes it possible for those gay, lesbian and bisexual same-sex couples to have the same rights and the same recognition and the same respect that heterosexual couples have when they marry. That is neutral. That is equal. BOTEACH: Jimmy, can I ask the question...

PARSHALL: Jimmy, I have to tell you, I think Charles and John Wesley would turn over...

KING: OK, hold it.

PARSHALL: ... in their grave as a Methodist.

FALWELL: Amen.

KING: All right. Who is it? Who wants to speak? The rabbi?

BOTEACH: Jimmy, would you be in favor of bigamy, let's say where three people want to live together in a commune and they all love each other?

CREECH: Well, I don't think that really helps to raise that question.

BOTEACH: Just one second.

RASI: This is about gay and lesbian relationships, not about bigamy.

BOTEACH: But you're making the...

RASI: This is about...

BOTEACH: But you're making the mistake of elevating love as the highest value. The fact is that the human race, love for all of us is the highest value. And that means when a man and woman love each other, they produce children. It's not an inclusive love. It's not exclusive to them. It actually is...

CREECH: Not every heterosexual couple produces children.

BOTEACH: It benefits -- I understand, but that is the norm. That is the norm.

CREECH: Marriage -- the purpose of marriage is not to produce children. The...

BOTEACH: The norm is that.

KING: All right. I've got to get a break. We'll be right back with our remaining moments of this discussion, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back. Let's hear one more quick call. Orlando, Florida, hello.

CALLER: Hi. I just wanted to ask why so many fundamentalists seem to downplay the very real concerns that gay couples have? That if one's incapacitated, the family member will throw the other partner out of the hospital room, because my partner of eight years and I, we just had to spend almost $1,000 to get durable power of attorney, because we know his father would kick me out in a second if he could.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, no...

(CROSSTALK)

KING: ... about that, Janet?

PARSHALL: And that is one of the arguments used by the people who wanted to pass the legislation that just got passed in Vermont. But the bottom line is you cannot call that which is a marriage anything other than the way God defined it, between a man and a woman. And it is a threat.

And I'm not saying that I'm fearful at all, because I know that truth transcends whatever cultural dilemma we happen to find ourselves in.

But marriage was defined for the preservation of a society. Marriage does produces children if a couple chooses. If they don't produce them themselves they can adopt them.

Anything outside of that -- and in fact, as we watched this Elian business, how many times did we hear the phrase "the best interests of the child"?

When a gay couple decides that they want to -- quote, unquote -- adopt a child, how is that in the best interest, by purposely removing one of the sexes necessary to make a child whole and healthy? It's just -- it's a quagmire of problems.

FALWELL: Absolutely.

KING: Father Rasi, do you think in the long range your side is going to win if winning is the correct term?

RASI: I believe that whenever there is love there is already something that has been won, Larry. And I want to say to the gay and lesbian couples out there, you know, don't listen to the rhetoric. Your love is sacred and your love is sacramented.

At Dignity USA, in any Dignity chapter, as Catholics, as people who are not Catholic, if you are Christian, if you are anything else and you need a place to have that love honored and celebrated, come to us. We're a community that will welcome you in. We will not tell you an abomination, we will not reduce you to a sexual act.

KING: And Jerry, what is wrong with that love as just expressed by Father Rasi, in which he called for people to come and be accepted in love?

FALWELL: Accepting persons in love is exactly what God does, but we don't accept illicit behavior. And all sex outside marriage between a man and women in the scripture -- Old Testament, New Testament -- is forbidden by God. Father Rasi, I would say I love him, but he's a disgrace to the Roman Catholic Church...

RASI: I love you too, reverend.

FALWELL: ... because he represents the very antithesis of what John Paul II and the Roman Catholic Church believe and what all Christianity believes. Marriage is sacred.

RASI: Then I'm walking in the footsteps -- I'm walking in the footsteps of Jesus and I say hallelujah if that's what you think.

FALWELL: Well, are you saying Jesus was gay? That's ridiculous.

RASI: No, I'm saying Jesus...

FALWELL: Of course not.

RASI: ... I'm saying Jesus was out there challenging.

FALWELL: And I'm saying...

RASI: Jesus was out there challenging.

FALWELL: And I'm saying God loves you enough, father. If you'll give your life wholly to the Lord, he can deliver you from amoral perversion.

RASI: Oh, I have, and I know God is in my life. God is in my life.

BOTEACH: Reverend Falwell...

KING: Reverend Creech, go ahead.

Go ahead, rabbi, I'm sorry. Go ahead, rabbi.

BOTEACH: Reverend Falwell, I mean, again, I'm on the same side as you. I believe in heterosexual marriage. But I don't believe that gay men are perverts. In most cases, gay men can...

FALWELL: No, no, I didn't say. I said that...

BOTEACH: One second. One second.

FALWELL: ... the lifestyle is perverted.

BOTEACH: But you just said -- you just called -- you just called someone else a disgrace to his church. There's no need for language like that.

FALWELL: He is a disgrace to his church.

BOTEACH: It just confuses the issues.

FALWELL: There are few Catholics looking on who wouldn't believe that.

BOTEACH: In most cases -- in most cases, I encourage gay men to marry, because they are usually more caring, more nurturing, more mothering to children than...

FALWELL: Then you're violating Judaism by doing that rabbi.

BOTEACH: No, no, no. I encourage them to marry women. You're misunderstanding.

FALWELL: OK, all right.

BOTEACH: But that's the reason -- the reason is that they make phenomenal parents. And that's why so many heterosexual women love gay men, because they are more understanding, they listen better, et cetera.

But calling people a disgrace and calling this a perversion, it is a perversion when you hurt someone...

FALWELL: The lifestyle is moral perversion. There is no way to explain it. Nature -- it's a violation of nature, violation of scripture. Wrong, wrong, and you know it.

BOTEACH: Well -- well, not all heterosexuals...

CREECH: Jerry, that's your interpretation.

FALWELL: I'm saying amen to that.

BOTEACH: Not all...

CREECH: Jerry, that's your interpretation.

BOTEACH: Not all...

CREECH: And that is very abusive, very abusive.

KING: All right. We only have 30 seconds left.

Janet, I'll close with you.

PARSHALL: Thank you.

KING: Do you think this is -- from your standpoint, it's going to get worse before it gets better. More states are going to do Vermont.

PARSHALL: I think it's going to be a wonderful challenge. It's going to make us dig down into our hearts and ask us what we believe and why we believe it. And all of this conversation boils down to a very simple picture.

God has some very clear rules. He said no sex out of marriage, not premarital sex, not extramarital sex, not homosexual sex, nothing. I designed it for your protection. And I think of the story where Jesus met the woman at the well, who had multiple husbands and who was sexually promiscuous, and He cupped her face in her (sic) hands and He told her that He loved her, and then He said, don't do it again. He spoke the truth and love. That's the challenge that we have.

KING: Thank you all very much. Tomorrow night, maybe appropriately, Dr. Laura Schlessinger, is the guest.

Thanks for joining us. Stay tuned for CNN "NEWSSTAND," and good night.

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