12:28 - Source: CNN
Religious beliefs vs. gay rights

Story highlights

"Have you noticed, anatomically, there's a goodness of fit between a man and a woman?" asks Donohue

"You need people to care for you -- gay or straight," says Cuomo

"Marriage is about family -- it's not about love," says the Catholic League leader

CNN  — 

If at first you don’t succeed, discuss.

A day after Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a “religious freedom” bill that critics say would have allowed businesses to discriminate against gays and lesbians, a supporter of the bill said that community appeared to need no special protection, thank you very much.

“Where are the examples of gays being discriminated against?” Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, asked CNN’s Chris Cuomo, in an interview on “New Day” that became a spirited discussion of marriage. “If they’re so discriminated against, how come they make more money than straight people, on average?”

In fact, at least one survey has shown that gays and lesbians tend to earn more, save more, owe less and better prepare for retirement.

Cuomo reversed the question to ask why people of faith would need special protection. He noted that proponents of the law had been unable to cite a single example of a business in Arizona that was forced to do something that would have violated the religious beliefs of its owner. “You didn’t need the law,” Cuomo said.

Referring to a court case that required a photo service in New Mexico to document a same-sex wedding ceremony, the anchor asked how the Catholic photographer could have found that job to be a substantial burden to his faith.

Donohue contended it was. “I think, if people say, ‘Listen, I don’t want to sanction polygamy or gay marriage or anything other than traditional marriage,’ I think we need to respect that,” he said. “And if you don’t like it, you can shop around. It’s not hard for gays to find somebody to take a picture of them.”

People of faith, he said, feel that their rights “are being whittled away in the name of gay rights.”

You need love”

Donohue then moved on from the Arizona law to take aim at same-sex marriage in general. “It basically says that there is no profound difference, socially speaking, between a man and woman – the only union that can create a family.”

Cuomo noted that some people marry not to have children but because they seek life-long companionship and commitment. “You don’t have to be married to propagate,” he noted. “And you don’t have to have kids to be married.”

Why should heterosexual marriage be considered any different than gay marriage, he asked.

Citing his education as a sociologist, Donohue had a ready answer: because heterosexual marriage is in the best interest of society. “Kids do best in an intact family,” he said. “The evidence is overwhelming: you need a father and a mother.”

“You need love,” responded Cuomo. “And you need people to care for you – gay or straight.”

That rationale – that love is all that’s needed as a condition for marriage – could lead to a brother and sister tying the knot, Donohue said. “That’s where we’re going with this thing – polygamists, also.”

Donohue said gays and lesbians have individual rights, but contended that “the institution of marriage is best set when we have kids raised by a father and a mother.” He then went a step further: “Maybe Tom, Dick and Harry want to get married. What are you going to say about that?”

Donohue acknowledged that he could offer no evidence that children of gay or lesbian couples have outcomes any different from those of heterosexual parents, but said that was because the research had not been completed.

“Why would we want a social experiment with an institution that has served us well for over 2,000 years?” he asked. “The gold standard is a father and a mother creating a family. That’s what was ordained by nature, and nature’s God.”

Not true, said Cuomo, noting that the putative gold standard has been tarnished by a divorce rate of about 50%, broken homes and latchkey kids. And nature ordaining marriage? Most mammals do not couple for life, he noted.

Donohue clung to his assertion. “Have you noticed anatomically there’s a goodness of fit between a man and a woman?” he asked.

Cuomo stood fast. “Nobody’s arguing that this is how you procreate, but marriage is about love and commitment and the right to it is about equality – and you know that.”

Donohue: Marriage based on duty and commitment

“Marriage is about family – it’s not about love,” Donohue said. “Two sisters can love each other.”

“Marriage is not about love?” an incredulous Cuomo asked. “Are you married?”

Donohue, who has been widely reported to be a divorced father of two adult children, did not address that question, but moved on. “Marriage has always been based, historically, on duty and on commitment,” he said.

“The duty, the commitment grow out of love,” responded Cuomo.

“If they love each other, that’s great,” said Donohue. “It can’t be the condition – otherwise, you can sanction all kinds of things.”

The two men then returned to the topic that started their discussion. “In Arizona, there was no legal force making business owners do business with gay people if they don’t want to,” Cuomo said. “So the law, fundamentally, was unnecessary. The governor said it; that’s why she vetoed it. The bigger proposition is why do you want to discriminate against gays?”

Donohue said he did not want to discriminate against gays as individuals, only as part of married couples.

“But that’s the same thing,” said Cuomo. “Because their right as an individual is to marry. You do not own marriage. It was not developed by Christians. It is a civil institution, secular. If they are equal, they have equal rights.”

Donohue ceded no ground, saying he had plenty of allies. “I have Christianity, I have Judaism, I have the Muslims, I have Mormons, I have most of the world who regard this idea as being bizarre that two men should get married.”

Cuomo then drew a distinction between the Arizona law and Pope Francis, the leader of the Catholic Church, who has refused to judge gays. “He’s saying forgive and he’s saying include. That’s not what that law was about, and that’s not what you’re saying.”

“I do believe that people ought to love gays as we would straights,” Donahue said. “I’m all in favor of that, and discrimination against gays is wrong.”

“I’m making a distinction between individuals,” Donahue added. “You’re bleeding the individual into the institution. I think, sociologically, that’s not correct.”