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Michelangelo Signorile debates Prop 8 with Tony Perkins on AC360

Anderson Cooper interviewed Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins and Mike Signorile last night and they shared their Grand Canyon-sized differences on the legality of Prop. 8 and marriage equality.

Mike Signorile did well going toe-to-toe against the professional “Christian” homophobe. Before the jousting, there’s a summary of what happened during the hearing. Here’s the video.

The transcript is below the fold.I corrected the misspelling of Shannon Minter’s name in the transcript. First the lead-in segment.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Leading off for same-sex marriage, Shannon Minter, who lived his first 35 years as a female…

SHANNON MINTER, ACTIVIST: Our government is based on the principle, not just on majority rule, but equally so on the limit that majorities must always respect minority rights.

SIMON: Minter told the justices that Prop 8 which voters approved last fall banning same-sex marriage turns gays and lesbians into second class citizens and the court should strike it down.

MINTER: To have an official recognition of one’s family relationship that is of equal stature and dignity to the recognition given to opposite sex couples.

SIMON: Attorney Michael Maroko argued that Prop 8 didn’t just amend the Constitution, it drastically and illegally changed it by undermining the inalienable rights it guarantees.

MICHAEL MAROKO, ATTORNEY: If you’re in the marriage business, do it equally. If the state obviously stuck its finger in the marriage business, it should stick it there equally. And if they’re not going to be equal, then get out of the marriage business. That’s our position on that.

SIMON: Later for the pro prop 8, Kenneth Starr, famous for leading an inquiry into President Clinton’s relationship with Monica Lewinsky. He’s now the dean of Pepperdine University’s law school and an advocate for conservative causes.

KENNETH STARR, PRO PROP 8: We want to restore the traditional definition that has been in place since this state was founded. And almost every other court in the country has agreed with the rationality of that. You may think it’s bad policy, you may think it’s unenlightened.

SIMON: Starr argues that rights in this country and here in California are ultimately decided by the people which prompted this hypothetical question from the chief justice.

RONALD GEORGE, CHIEF JUSTICE OF CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURT: Right to marriage, right to free speech, whatever that can be removed by the simple amendment process.

STARR: We may govern ourselves very unwisely, but happily because we are a federal republic, there are fail-safe mechanisms under the federal Constitution.

SIMON: So the fundamental question confronting the California Supreme Court is can the will of the majority take away rights from a minority? A ruling is expected within 90 days.

Dan Simon, CNN, San Francisco.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

On to the actual debate…

COOPER: Let’s talk strategy, with two people on opposite sides of the issue. Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council is here and radio talk show host from Sirius XM, Michelangelo Signorile.

Michael thanks for being with us as well and Tony thanks for being with us.

Michael, I want to play something that one of the justices said today. Let’s play that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUSTICE JOYCE KENNARD, CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURT: The people are those that have created the Constitution. And I think what you’re overlooking is the very broad powers of the people to amend by initiative the Constitution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: She was saying that to supporters of same-sex marriage. Why should the court overturn the will of the people of California?

MICHELANGELO SIGNORILE, SIRIUS XM HOST: Well, you know, this is a very unique situation in California where they have such a broad ballot initiative process here where basically anything can come to the ballot. In most other states, even states with ballot measures don’t have it as broad based as this. This ballot measure process began back in the beginning of the 1900s, as a way to take on corruption in the government. It was never meant…

COOPER: So you’re saying the process the flawed?

SIGNORILE: The process is very flawed. It was never meant to take away the rights of a minority. The minority is to be protected by courts; that’s the basis of our democracy.

COOPER: Tony, what about that? Is it the court’s job to protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority?

TONY PERKINS, PRESIDENT, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Anderson, in the oral arguments today and in the questioning by the judges, the justices, it made it clear that there is checks and balances, that the court can check the legislature and the people through the ballot initiative can check the courts.

And there seemed to be in the line of questioning some deference given to the people after the court overturned Prop 22 and created a right that they now are yielding to the people, it would appear. Now we’re still a ways away from the final decision. But the questioning did appear that they may listen to the people this time.

COOPER: You would agree, Mike, that it seemed that the judges were going to uphold Proposition 8?

SIGNORILE: Yes, it didn’t look good certainly for gay activists, it certainly didn’t look good for marriage equality. It looked like they were going to uphold Prop 8.

COOPER: What would be the next step?

SIGNORILE: The next step would be to take this back to a ballot. As far as a lot of activists are concerned, this really is an unfortunate situation with California, but in the larger battle, we are winning. Connecticut just passed marriage after California. Massachusetts has marriage, Iowa may soon, the Supreme Court there may make marriage legal. This was unfortunate what happened today, and we don’t know what the outcome will be. But it was unfortunate the way it looked. And the next thing would be to take it to a ballot.

In 2000, California voted by 20 points to ban marriage. Proposition 8 was only four points. We are moving in the direction, even with the people of California of legalizing marriage.

COOPER: Tony, do you agree with that? Sort of the tide of history is moving this direction?

PERKINS: No, not necessarily. If you look at what happened, everything was stacked against the proponents of Prop 8. Jerry Brown who argued, his office argued against prop 8 today in the courtroom, they wrote the ballot language so that it was confusing. Millions of dollars spent to confuse the issue. So I wouldn’t read too much into that.

I would say every time the people have an opportunity to vote on this, they vote in favor of traditional marriage, it’s happened in over 29 states now and so I don’t think that it’s going to change overnight.

COOPER: What happens to the 18,000 people who have gotten married already in California, the court is going to decide on that as well.

SIGNORILE: Right and we don’t know what will happen there. It did seem from some of the questioning by the justices that they will uphold those marriages. Again, we don’t know what will happen.

I do want to address something that Mr. Perkins said about the fact that the people always have upheld marriage. Again we have seen California shift dramatically since 2000. But I also want to point out that courts are a part in this democracy of really creating change.

Back in 1967, Loving versus Virginia, a Supreme Court case that ruled that states cannot ban interracial marriage. That case helped change this country; 70 percent of the country was opposed to interracial marriage.

But once the court ruled people and of course the civil rights movement and all of the other change that happened, understood that there was nothing, the world wasn’t going to change. People were re- elected and people needed to respect that.

COOPER: Tony, very quickly, I just want to give you the chance to respond and then we have to go.

PERKINS: Well, much different scenario; you had people who had all the characteristics for marriage, male and female being arbitrarily prevented from marrying because of color. That’s not the same thing here. People who do not have immutable characteristics and that’s not what the court is dealing with. The court is dealing with the traditional definition of marriage and what the people of the state of California said.

COOPER: Tony, do you want the 18,000 folks who have gotten married in California — do you want those marriages to be annulled?

PERKINS: I think Michael’s right, I think what’s going to happen, the court in their line of questioning on that today, seems to me they’re going to split the baby on this and allow those 18,000 marriages to remain. Many of them are outside the state of California.

I think in essence, the court will be planning (ph) on the issue because I believe if those marriages remain, those same-sex marriages remain, same-sex marriage remain, you will have another court challenge, probably in a federal court at some point in time. So just really passing it later.

COOPER: We have to leave it there. We’ll continue following it. Tony Perkins, thanks very much. Michelangelo Signorile, thanks very much, as well.

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Pam Spaulding

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