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Who Can Say, 'I Do'?

Aired November 18, 2003 - 16:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left, James Carville and Paul Begala; on the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson.

In the CROSSFIRE: Here come the brides and the grooms and the controversy. What will a Massachusetts court ruling on same-sex marriage mean for the campaign and the country? -- today on CROSSFIRE.



ANNOUNCER: Live, from the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Robert Novak.


ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE on a day the state Supreme Court in Massachusetts -- where else? -- shamelessly pandered to the left by throwing out a ban on homosexual marriage.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Well, actually, the court ruled that the state, in the words of majority opinion -- quote -- "failed to identify any constitutionally adequate reason" to deny gay adults the same rights as every other citizen.

We'll debate gay rights right after the best political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

President Bush flew to London today at the invitation of another unelected leader, Queen Elizabeth II.


BEGALA: Great Britain, of course, is America's strongest ally and our best friend. I remember when I was a White House aide for President Clinton. I accompanied him on a trip to London. And the crowds then were cheering. The public was adoring.

Today, well, Mr. Bush may be our president, but he's plainly not leading free world...


BEGALA: ... because thousands of police are going to have to be on hand to restrain the enormous crowds of anti-Bush protesters, again, this in the most pro-American country in the world.

A planned speech by Mr. Bush to the British Parliament was canceled, although President Clinton was greeted as a hero when he addressed Parliament just a few years ago.


BEGALA: Now, perhaps, in fairness to the president, the concern was that England is, after all, a foreign country and Mr. Bush doesn't speak the language. So...



NOVAK: You know, you know...


NOVAK: You know, Paul, I always have to correct you. There was no -- it never scheduled. So you can't cancel a speech. He decided he did not want to address Parliament. There was never one canceled.

But I will say this. You know, they say, in England, when Clinton went there, well, he didn't do anything. In fact, President Clinton never did anything and that's why he never ran into trouble.


BEGALA: What are you talking about? He -- he led us to victory in Kosovo...


BEGALA: ... instead of leading us to an endless occupation in Iraq, like Mr. Bush has done.


BEGALA: I'll take Clinton's record over Mr. Bush's any day.


NOVAK: According to polls, Howard Dean has fallen behind Dick Gephardt in Iowa. So he started running this TV ad.


NARRATOR: October, 2002: Dick Gephardt agrees to co-author the Iraq war resolution, giving George Bush the authority to go to war. Then, last month, Dick Gephardt votes to spend $87 billion more on Iraq.

HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I opposed the war in Iraq and I'm against spending another $87 billion there. I'm Howard Dean. (END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: Yes, you are Howard Dean. And you are ridiculing Dick Gephardt for authorizing the commander in chief to fight terrorism and then voting to support our troops in the field. Does Congressman Gephardt deserve praise as a patriot or abuse from the little doctor from Vermont?


BEGALA: Well, in truth, this is an important distinction. People of goodwill were on both sides of that debate. I happen to know many principled conservatives who opposed that war. I happen to think that they were right. I disagree with Congressman Gephardt, but I think he was following his heart, just as Howard Dean stood with the Republicans when they tried to cut Medicare.

So there's going to be a big debate on both sides of the issue in


NOVAK: I think you would take umbrage that he was ridiculing your old boss Dick Gephardt for sticking with his position, not like John Kerry, who voted for the war. Then he voted not to give them money...


NOVAK: ... to finance it.

BEGALA: Well, it is going to be an interesting race. We'll see how it plays out now in Iowa.

Well, the Republican energy bill gives away $72 billion of your money in new spending, as well as billions more in tax breaks, especially for big oil companies. It also raises taxes. That's right. Republicans want to raise your taxes. They want to raise the gas tax by 5 cents a gallon, a tax that hurts working people far more than millionaires.

Now, some of your tax dollars will even go to subsidize the construction of a Hooters restaurant in Shreveport, Louisiana, reportedly the handiwork of Louisiana Republican Congressman Billy Tauzin. Now, there's Republican values for you, raise taxes on working people, subsidize oil companies, cut funding for cops and kids in AmeriCorps, and have taxpayer-financed Hooters.



NOVAK: I heard a little -- a pause from the audience when you mentioned subsidizing Hooters. There's no 5 cent tax that's going to ever get through in the final version, I believe.

BEGALA: You may be right and you may be wrong, but it's interesting. Republicans want to raise your taxes, America...

NOVAK: I don't believe that's true.

BEGALA: ... to give your money to Hooters.

NOVAK: I don't believe that's...

BEGALA: It's reported today in "The Denver Post."

NOVAK: Well, I read the "Denver Post" story and there wasn't anything about the 5 cent a gallon. It was only about Hooters.

BEGALA: We'll go to


BEGALA: There's a 5-cent-per-gallon gas tax in there. Some of that money is going to Hooters.

NOVAK: This is the funny season on Medicare.

The left-wing AARP -- just the initials -- they don't like to be called the American Association of Retired Persons anymore -- has just endorsed the latest Republican Medicare bill. Democrats, such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, are throwing a fit. They thought they owned the AARP. Conservatives are amazed. How could this welfare-state pressure group back a Republican plan?

But what if the so-called Republican plan throws out private sector options for buying prescription drugs and raises Medicare fees for upper-bracket taxpayers? Maybe Nancy Pelosi hasn't read the Republican bill. I think the AARP bosses have, and came to the conclusion it actually furthers their dream for a socialist America.

BEGALA: No, in fact...


BEGALA: ... I think AARP has sold out its members. And senior citizens should know that the AARP is supporting what Nancy Pelosi calls a Trojan horse to get in and gut Medicare. There's no cost controls. It doesn't take on pharmaceutical companies, doesn't take on big insurance companies. It sells senior citizens down the river. Shame on the AARP.

NOVAK: Well, you know...


BEGALA: Shame on them.

NOVAK: You know, I don't know if -- I don't know if you have read it, Paul. But, as a matter of fact, do you realize that...


NOVAK: ... it has an increase on taxation for upper-bracket taxpayers?

BEGALA: Maybe there's something good in there, Bob.


NOVAK: Well, you ought to read it sometime.


NOVAK: A Massachusetts court has opened the door to gay and lesbian marriages in that state. Does this start a nationwide trend? Or will state lawmakers rewrite the law to preserve marriage for couples made up of a man and a woman? That's unique, isn't it? Representative Barney Frank and the Reverend Jerry Falwell join us next.

And later, more proof that Al Gore's career is headed down the drain.




BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court today threw out that state's ban on same-sex marriages. The 4-3 ruling says there's nothing in the state constitution to prevent gay marriage. And the court gave the legislature 180 days to address the issue. Massachusetts Republican Governor Mitt Romney immediately denounced the ruling and promised to work for a constitutional amendment to overturn it.

In the CROSSFIRE, from Capitol Hill, Massachusetts Democratic Congressman Barney Frank. He's, of course, a veteran lawmaker and was the first member of Congress ever to announce that he is gay. And in Lynchburg, Virginia, is the founder and chancellor of Liberty University, the Reverend Jerry Falwell. He is straight.


BEGALA: Gentlemen, thank you both for joining us.

NOVAK: Congressman Frank, your fellow Massachusetts Democrat Ray Flynn, the former mayor of Boston, the former ambassador to the Vatican, said in reaction to the court ruling -- -- quote -- "This has been a ticking time bomb in America for the last several months that has exploded in Massachusetts. The voice of the American people is about to be heard."

And, indeed, the CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll shows that -- the question, should gay marriages be recognized as valid by law? Only 35 percent say yes; 61 percent say no.

Ray Flynn is right, isn't he?

REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: No, I don't think there's an explosion.

I think what you're going to find -- and people can have fears -- but I think the fact that two women are in love with each other and want to be financially, as well as morally, committed to each other is really not going to be so explosive as you think. I'm not sure what shrapnel you think is generated by recognizing the fact that two people are in love.

As far as the numbers are concerned, the national numbers aren't really relevant, because this is a state-by-state issue. I thought Dick Cheney had it right in 2000 in his debate with Joe Lieberman, when he said that the matter of recognizing relationships has always been a state-by-state issue in America. He said the states will come to different conclusions on this. He was kind of predicting this. And he said that's a good thing that the states should do that.

What we will have is a referendum probably on this in Massachusetts, but not until 2006. And I think that's relevant for the following reason. Yes, if you talk about something new like this -- and people have talked a lot bit and a lot of fears have been stirred up -- I think what you'll find, after it's been in effect for a couple of years, as the Supreme Court opinion will be -- and it's not until 2006, under our constitution, that a referendum could be staged -- I think it will be very different.

I think people will see what they learned in Vermont. When Vermont did civil unions, there were all kinds of predictions of chaos and marriages dissolving. None of those have proven to be the case. If you're a heterosexual living in Vermont today, civil unions have no effect on you whatsoever. And I think, by 2006...


FRANK: People will see that in Massachusetts as well.

BEGALA: I'm sorry, Congressman. Let me bring Reverend Falwell into this.

In fact, let me show you exactly what Vice President Cheney said in the debate that Congressman Frank was referring to. Here is now Vice President Dick Cheney.


DICK CHENEY (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that means that people should be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to enter into. It's really no one else's business in terms of trying to regulate or prohibit behavior in that regard.


BEGALA: Now, Mr. Cheney went on to say it should be a state-by- state issue. I think Dick Cheney is right. Reverend, do you think he's wrong?


I thank that no law is going to stop adultery or no law, legislation, is going to prevent moral perversion or men living with men or women with women, that, in this country, nobody wants to put anybody in jail doing that.

But when the government, whether it's a state or a federal government, recognizes something of this order and blesses it with all the benefits of marriage, this diversity is not marriage, nor is polygamy, nor can a man marry a little girl or that kind of thing. And when two men marry, two women marry, it -- with the blessing of a state, I think we've done something that a vast majority of Americans disagree with.

For example, California, Hawaii, Alaska, have had referenda. And about 70 percent have said, we don't want that, and they have turned it down. Massachusetts, whether it's 2006 or today, the citizens will vote down those four justices who just made a bad ruling today.

NOVAK: Congressman Frank, I wonder if we could talk about the subject that's at hand? We're not talking about love. We're not talking about denying the ability


FRANK: You think that marriage is based on -- do you think that marriage is a corporate merger? What do you mean we're not talking about love? Marriage is what?


NOVAK: Barney, if you could let -- if you could let -- if you could let me ask the question, then I'll let you answer it, OK? We're not talking about love. We're not talking about civil unions. We're talking about marriage, with a capital M. And can't we say that the American people are really opposed to legalizing gay marriages?

FRANK: First of all...

NOVAK: Marriages, not civil unions?

FRANK: First of all, I'm surprised, Mr. Novak, that you seem to think popular opinion of the day is the answer to important fundamental rights questions. I don't know what the American people are going



FRANK: ... they would vote against it being marriage. But, secondly, I'm really struck by your insisting -- it wasn't apparently a misstatement -- that we should separate love and marriage. If I could sing, I would sing the song about horse and carriage, but I got a lousy voice. The fact is that, in the first place, we're not talking about a national policy. We're talking about a state-by-state policy. We're talking about the voters of Massachusetts deciding.

My guess is that, if they voted today, they'd probably vote it down. But I give you, again, the example of Vermont. And I urge you -- you're a good reporter -- go back to Vermont


NOVAK: There's no civil -- there's no civil marriage -- there's marriage legalized in Vermont.

FRANK: Excuse me. I thought you said you were going to let me answer. Was that only temporary

NOVAK: Well, I didn't -- I didn't say you were going to make a filibuster.


FRANK: First place -- in the first place, all of the arguments that we're hearing against marriage today from Mr. Falwell and yourself and others, we heard against civil unions. This notion, civil unions only look good to you people by comparison to marriage, using that as a stick to beat marriage with.

But people made the same arguments against civil unions. The fact is, we are talking about love. We're talking about two people who are in love. And I do not understand why you and Mr. Falwell -- and I will say, I'm glad Mr. Falwell has now apparently changed his position. He said we're not trying to put people in jail for what they do privately. He opposed the Supreme...

FALWELL: I have never believed they should.

FRANK: He opposed the Supreme Court decision that said that. The Supreme Court...

BEGALA: All right, Congressman, let me let -- you mentioned the reverend's position. Let me let him make it clear.


FRANK: Well, the Supreme Court said...

FALWELL: I was on this show with you, Paul.

FRANK: He opposed that Supreme Court decision.

FALWELL: Paul, I was on this show with you on that very subject in the case vs. -- Texas vs. Lawrence. I believe that legalizing or giving constitutional protection to sodomy, while it was morally wrong, I said I don't think any law is going to stop moral perversion from occurring. And it is moral perversion.

But I do not believe that we need to put people in jail for what they do in their bedroom. But neither should we reward them with the privileges and benefits of marriage, which has been, for 6,000 years of recorded history, the only unit, man legally married to a woman. And it's going to be that way 1,000 years from now.

FRANK: Two responses.

FALWELL: And this is a aberration.

FRANK: May I make two responses to that?

BEGALA: Yes, sir. Go ahead.

FRANK: First, Reverend Falwell is wrong, if I read the Old Testament right, that marriage is always between a man a woman. It was, in many places in the Old Testament, as with Abraham, between a man and at least one woman. But there were polygamist marriages.


FALWELL: And God never ordained polygamy, Barney.

FRANK: Please don't interrupt me, Reverend Falwell.


FALWELL: Well, when you're quoting the Bible incorrectly, I'm a preacher who shouldn't let you get by with that.

FRANK: Do we have any rules on this show or not? I'm quoting from the Old Testament.

FALWELL: Quote it, then, chapter and verse.

FRANK: I am -- I want to know what the rules are. Does he continue to interrupt whenever he doesn't like what's being said?



BEGALA: Let Congressman Frank finish.

Go ahead, Congressman Frank.

FRANK: Thank you.

The fact is that he said marriage has always been this. I'm talking about historical facts. Marriage has not always been one man and one woman.

Secondly, the Reverend Falwell was opposed to the Lawrence decision. He says he didn't want people to go to jail for sodomy. But that's what the Lawrence decision was about. If they didn't make that decision, those people's criminal conviction would have stood.

But I do want to go back. I want to ask Mr. Novak, what is it that troubles you? Two women love each other and they want to be legally, as well as morally attached to each other. How does that hurt you? What's the problem?

NOVAK: I tell you what the problem is.

FRANK: What's your problem?

NOVAK: Just a minute. You asked me a question. I usually don't answer them, but I'll answer this.

Howard -- Howard Dean, who may be your presidential candidate, said, I've always taken -- the position that I've always taken is that it's the church's business to decide who they can marry and who they can't. That's what we're talking about.

FRANK: The church's business?

Oh, you're dead wrong. In America, we have church marriages. And, by the way, the Massachusetts Supreme Court decision says churches can do whatever they want. They're not compelled by this. But the state also has marriage. Your argument that marriage is a church business is flatly wrong. In America, we have the right to have civil marriage.


FRANK: And I want to repeat the question. You say you don't like to answer questions. I can understand why. What's your problem? How is this hurting you? What's your grief that two women are in love with each other and want to be married? How does that detract from your life?

BEGALA: Let me put that to Reverend Falwell. Since I am straight and I'm married to a woman, how does it threaten me if two men or two women want to go be in love? How is that a threat to any straight person?

FALWELL: I've never said that it threatens me or anyone. I've said that it's wrong.

And for the culture, for the nation, for the state to endorse moral perversion -- I happen to be a Christian who takes the Bible seriously. A few moments ago, Reverend Frank was misquoting the Old Testament. The fact is that marriages have existed, relationships have existed between polygamists, and immoral, and same sex, as they do today. But nowhere has God ever sanctioned or ordained that. God has always said, beginning with Adam and Eve, one man, one woman, one lifetime.

And whenever we violate that...

BEGALA: And one moment.


FALWELL: ... we bring the judgment of God upon the culture.

BEGALA: We're going to come back to Reverend Jerry Falwell, come back to Congressman Barney Frank in just a minute.

Guys, keep your seats. I'm sorry to cut you off like that. We've got to take a break.

And when our guests return in "Rapid Fire," I'm going to ask Reverend Falwell if he has any plans to fix straight marriages.

And we want to know where from our audience, what was the first country to legalize gay marriage? Was it Belgium? Was it Canada? Or was it the Netherlands? We'll have the answer for you after the break.

And also after the break, Judy Woodruff has the latest on today's police search at Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch.

Stay with us.



NOVAK: We asked the audience, what was the first country to legalize gay marriage? Smart audience. Said Netherlands, 76 percent. Exactly right.

BEGALA: There you go.

NOVAK: Now it's time for "Rapid Fire," where the questions and answers are so quick, the courts can't catch up in time to declare them unconstitutional.

In the CROSSFIRE, from Capitol Hill, Massachusetts Democratic Congressman Barney Frank; from Lynchburg, Virginia, Liberty University's founder and chancellor, the Reverend Jerry Falwell.

BEGALA: Reverend Falwell, why should Newt Gingrich have a right to get married three times, but a gay man doesn't get to get married once?

FALWELL: And Liz Taylor eight. I've been married for 45 years to the same sweet Christian lady, and with three children and eight grandchildren. We're trying our very best to do something about the 50 percent divorce rate in this country. All of that is terrible.

But to add to it the complexity and the perversion of approving gay marriages does not improve anything. I'm doing an effort right now for a federal marriage amendment. And I would urge anybody who would like to see a constitutional amendment to define the family as one man married to one woman to go to and cast your vote.


All right, Congressman Frank, your leader in the Senate, Tom Daschle, came out for the Defense of Marriage Act. Is Tom Daschle wrong?

FRANK: No. Well, I thought he was wrong when he voted for that a while ago.

But the Defense of Marriage Act said does not stop Massachusetts from doing this. You've got to distinguish. The Defense of Marriage Act said, in part, that if one state did it, it didn't compel another state. That's not the issue today. The issue was, Reverend Falwell just mentioned, with the constitutional amendment he's in favor of, that would reverse what Dick Cheney said should be the national policy and 200 years-plus of American history and say that the federal government will prevent the state from making this decision. Tom Daschle is not for that constitutional amendment. So the question is...

BEGALA: Reverend Falwell, we have five seconds left.

Yes or no, should the Republicans dump Dick Cheney because he supports...


BEGALA: ... gay civil unions?

FALWELL: Absolutely not. He's a great Christian man. I want to see Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney reelected.

NOVAK: We're out of time, gentlemen. Thank you very much. Thank you, Jerry Falwell. Thank you, Barney Frank.

Up next: Why is Al Gore so interested in toilets these days?


NOVAK: Finally, as if we needed proof that Al Gore's political career is really in the toilet, reports say the former vice president has joined the advisory board of a company called Falcon Waterfree Technologies. Its big product? Waterless urinals.

BEGALA: And that's great.

America leads the world in environmental technology. We can make money and clean up the environment. And God bless Al Gore.


BEGALA: George Bush is doing neither. We're losing money in the economy and we're polluting the environment under George W. Bush.

NOVAK: I don't know if you're old to remember when people who just lost the presidency used to be called titular leader of their party and they acted with dignity. They tried to be a leader. They didn't worry about trying to make a fast buck at every moment.

BEGALA: The difference is, he won the presidency. The Supreme Court stole it from him. And he ought to be in the White House now.


BEGALA: He ought to be addressing the British Parliament. He wouldn't be in this mess that Bush has gotten -- God bless Al Gore. I love him.

NOVAK: You rant -- you rant and rave, but he not's acting like the titular leader of his party.

BEGALA: George W. Bush is -- good luck in Great Britain, Mr. President.

From the left, I'm Paul Begala. That's it for CROSSFIRE.


NOVAK: And from the right, I'm Robert Novak.

Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.


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