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 8:21 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Carlos Moreno says atheists, a sizable fraction of Americans, deserve representation in Congress.
updated 12:25 PM EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Democrats and unions have a long history of mutual support that's on the decline. But in a time of income inequality they need each other more than ever
updated 12:23 AM EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
William McRaven
Peter Bergen says Admiral William McRaven leaves the military with a legacy of strategic thinking about special operations
updated 12:11 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
updated 1:24 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
updated 9:06 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
updated 11:54 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
updated 10:34 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
updated 10:32 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
updated 10:43 PM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat August 30, 2014
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
updated 9:30 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
updated 6:42 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
updated 9:21 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
updated 9:19 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
updated 7:35 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
updated 4:53 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
updated 3:19 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
updated 11:58 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
updated 3:50 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
updated 4:52 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
updated 5:04 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
updated 5:45 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT