Skip to main content

Return of Phil Robertson a win-win

By Dean Obeidallah
updated 3:28 PM EST, Sat December 28, 2013
Jase, Si, Willie and Phil Robertson star in the A&E television series "Duck Dynasty." The popular reality show follows a Louisiana family that became rich through Duck Commander, a business making products for duck hunters. Jase, Si, Willie and Phil Robertson star in the A&E television series "Duck Dynasty." The popular reality show follows a Louisiana family that became rich through Duck Commander, a business making products for duck hunters.
HIDE CAPTION
The stars of 'Duck Dynasty'
The stars of 'Duck Dynasty'
The stars of 'Duck Dynasty'
The stars of 'Duck Dynasty'
The stars of 'Duck Dynasty'
The stars of 'Duck Dynasty'
The stars of 'Duck Dynasty'
The stars of 'Duck Dynasty'
The stars of 'Duck Dynasty'
The stars of 'Duck Dynasty'
The stars of 'Duck Dynasty'
The stars of 'Duck Dynasty'
The stars of 'Duck Dynasty'
The stars of 'Duck Dynasty'
The stars of 'Duck Dynasty'
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Right wins "Duck Dynasty" battle but losing war, Dean Obeidallah says
  • Marriage equality will be the law of the land in the future, he says
  • Vibrant, healthy debate is one reason our nation is exceptional, he says

Editor's note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is a political comedian and frequent commentator on various TV networks including CNN. He is the co-director of the new comedy documentary "The Muslims Are Coming!" Follow him on Twitter @deanofcomedy.

(CNN) -- "Duck Dynasty" star Phil Robertson is back on A&E after a short suspension over controversial remarks he made about gays and black people. While the right is congratulating itself on winning this battle, it's actually losing its war on marriage equality. But both developments are good for America.

What do I mean? Simple: While I completely disagree with Robertson's view on gays, he has the right -- which I defend -- to practice his faith and advocate his political and religious beliefs. The debate that erupted after his comments is healthy for our nation. If a person espouses views that others find offensive, they should be countered -- not silenced.

And the right losing its war on marriage equality is also good for our nation because we must eradicate discrimination in all forms. To those who don't understand (or refuse to understand) how opposing marriage equality is discrimination, all you need to do is check out three court decisions announced, coincidentally enough, during the same time period that the Robertson controversy raged.

First, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled on December 19 that marriage equality would be the law of that state. The court declared that "barring individuals from marrying and depriving them of the rights, protections, and responsibilities of civil marriage solely because of their sexual orientation violates the Equal Protection Clause."

A&E lifts suspension on 'Duck Dynasty' star
Did A&E go too far with suspension?
Activist backs 'Duck Dynasty' reversal
Phil Robertson returns to 'Duck Dynasty'

Then on December 20, Federal District Judge Robert Shelby struck down both Utah's statutes and an amendment to the Utah Constitution that had been approved by voters in 2004 banning same-sex marriage. Shelby found that the state's "prohibition on same-sex marriage conflicts with the United States Constitution's guarantees of equal protection and due process under the law."

Shelby also interestingly noted that the lawyers opposing same-sex marriage were making arguments that were "almost identical" to those offered by opponents of interracial marriage in the 1960s -- including that each was a "threat to society." While the decision is on appeal, currently gay couples are free to marry in Utah.

And then on December 23, federal Judge Timothy Black ruled that Ohio public officials must recognize same-sex marriages when issuing death certificates. Consequently, gay couples married legally in other states would have the same rights as straight couples under Ohio law. As Black instructively noted, "The question is presented whether a state can do what the federal government cannot -- i.e., discriminate against same-sex couples ... simply because the majority of the voters don't like homosexuality (or at least didn't in 2004.) Under the Constitution of the United States, the answer is no."

Let's be honest: These court decisions are vastly more important than whether multimillionaire Phil Robertson returns to his reality TV show. And keep in mind, while A&E lifted Robertson's suspension, it also announced it would "use this moment" to air public service announcements "promoting unity, tolerance and acceptance among all people."

A&E: Star of 'Duck Dynasty' is back

Putting partisan fighting aside, marriage equality will be the law of the land in the future -- it's just a question of when. The U.S. Supreme Court in June struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. Currently, 18 states and the District of Columbia recognize marriage equality. That's up from 12 just six months ago.

And despite what some on the right will tell you, opinion polls are clear that a majority of Americans now support marriage equality. Astoundingly, adults younger than 30 support marriage equality by a whopping 81%. Indeed, the generational divide on this issue couldn't be more apparent than when you compare the views of two self-described rednecks on gays: Phil Robertson versus Honey Boo Boo. While Robertson likened gays to those who commit bestiality, the much younger Honey Boo Boo stated last year: "Ain't nothin' wrong with bein' a little gay. Everybody's a little gay."

The fact that our nation is moving to embrace marriage equality cannot come as a surprise to anyone with a sense of our country's history. We are by our nature a progressive nation -- it's one of the reasons we are an exceptional country. True, It may take a great deal of blood, sweat and tears, but we move forward. We have seen this from the fight for women's right to vote, to ending segregation, to striking down laws that banned interracial marriage.

Until the day marriage equality is recognized, we can expect to see a vibrant, healthy -- and hopefully respectful -- debate on this issue. And that is something we should treasure, because that, too, is one of the reasons our nation is exceptional.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dean Obeidallah.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 1:50 PM EDT, Sun September 21, 2014
John Sutter boarded a leaky oyster boat in Connecticut with a captain who can't swim as he set off to get world leaders to act on climate change
updated 7:22 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Is ballet dying? CNN spoke with Isabella Boylston, a principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, about the future of the art form.
updated 5:47 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Sally Kohn says it's time we take climate change as seriously as we do warfare in the Middle East
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Dean Obeidallah says an Oklahoma state representative's hateful remarks were rightfully condemned by religious leaders..
updated 3:22 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
No matter how much planning has gone into U.S. military plans to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Arab public isn't convinced that anything will change, says Geneive Abdo
updated 11:44 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
President Obama's strategy for destroying ISIS seems to depend on a volley of air strikes. That won't be enough, says Haider Mullick.
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Paul Begala says Hillary Clinton has plenty of good reasons not to jump into the 2016 race now
updated 11:01 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Scotland decided to trust its 16-year-olds to vote in the biggest question in its history. Americans, in contrast, don't even trust theirs to help pick the county sheriff. Who's right?
updated 9:57 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says spanking is an acceptable form of disciplining a child, as long as you follow the rules.
updated 11:47 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Frida Ghitis says the foiled Australian plot shows ISIS is working diligently to taunt the U.S. and its allies.
updated 3:58 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Young U.S. voters by and large just do not see the midterm elections offering legitimate choices because, in their eyes, Congress has proven to be largely ineffectual, and worse uncaring, argues John Della Volpe
updated 9:58 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Steven Holmes says spanking, a practice that is ingrained in our culture, accomplishes nothing positive and causes harm.
updated 2:31 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Sally Kohn says America tried "Cowboy Adventurism" as a foreign policy strategy; it failed. So why try it again?
updated 10:27 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Van Jones says the video of John Crawford III, who was shot by a police officer in Walmart, should be released.
updated 10:48 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
NASA will need to embrace new entrants and promote a lot more competition in future, argues Newt Gingrich.
updated 7:15 PM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
If U.S. wants to see real change in Iraq and Syria, it will have to empower moderate forces, says Fouad Siniora.
updated 8:34 PM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
Mark O'Mara says there are basic rules to follow when interacting with law enforcement: respect their authority.
updated 9:05 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
updated 7:49 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
updated 1:23 PM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT