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Profile of Brian Brown, Executive Director of the National Organization for Marriage
Is it possible, in 2009, to avoid the title of "gay basher" while dedicating your life to preventing a portion of the population from participating in a legal process allowed to other people? Does bashing require blows and slurs? Will those who oppose same-sex marriage eventually be put by their opponents into the same pile as people who think interracial marriage should be banned?
Brown worries about that, about being squeezed out of the debate.
"The racial bigot comparison is the most troubling part of the argument," Brown says. It's horrible, offensive, deliberately incendiary. He thinks it is "irrational," a word he uses often.
It is irrational when the opposition points to polls suggesting that most young people support gay marriage. "People mature," he says. Their views change.
It is irrational when people believe that the legalization of same-sex marriage is an inevitability: "We have the people. We have not had such an organized force" before, Brown says.
Brown is Catholic. He converted at Oxford, where he studied after a BA at Whittier College (he grew up surfing in California). He liked Catholicism's traditions of social justice and work for the poor. Along the way, he met Sue, also a devout Catholic. After UCLA he accepted a position with the Family Institute of Connecticut, and worked to prevent the distribution of condoms in schools. "People would ask, 'What does your husband do?' " Sue says. "It was embarrassing to say he worked on condoms. But it was nothing compared to this."
His faith is important to him, but in his arguments he is ever the PhD candidate, addressing questions and dismissing counterarguments with fascination.
"I have gay people who are friends and family," he says. "We can disagree on all sorts of things and still care about each other." And later, "Of course, I have to take their arguments seriously. This issue is important. Ideas have consequences."
He takes nothing personally. He means nothing personal. He is never accusatory or belittling. His arguments are based on his understandings of history, not on messages from God that gays caused Hurricane Katrina.
In short: The institution of marriage has always been between a man and a woman. Yes, there have been homosexual relationships. But no society that he knows of, in the history of the world, has ever condoned same-sex marriage. "Do they always agree on the number of partners? Do they always agree on the form of monogamy? No," Brown says, but they've all agreed on the gender issue. It's what's best for families, he says. It's the union that can biologically produce children, he says. It's all about the way things have always been done. He chose his new church, St. Catherine of Siena, because it still offers a Latin Mass. Other noted conservatives have been parishioners there; Antonin Scalia has worshiped at St. Catherine's.
"I think it's irrational that up until 10 years ago, all of these societies agreed with my position" on same-sex marriage, he says, and now suddenly that position is bigotry. "The opposition is trying to marginalize and suppress us," he says. "Usually, that happens with positions that are actually minorities. But we're the majority."
Does he ever think that what he sees as an abrupt historical shift is, perhaps, progress? Does it hurt his feelings when people accuse him of prejudice?