Debate Over Anti-Gay Marriage Constitutional Amendment

Aired February 24, 2004 - 21:00   ET

[AUDIO FILE] GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today I call upon the Congress to promptly pass and to send to the states for ratification an amendment to our Constitution defining and protecting marriage as a union of a man and woman as husband and wife.


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, the president comes out hard against same-sex marriage, and emotions are rising as the debate heats us. With us tonight, San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom. He brought this issue center stage earlier this month when he ordered the city and county to issue same-sex marriage licenses; nationally syndicated Christian broadcaster Pastor John MacArthur of California's Grace Community Church; Chad Allen, the actor and producer who starred in TV hits like "My Two Dads" and "Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman," became an activist after he was outed by tabloids in 1996; and Representative Marilyn Musgrave, Republican of Colorado. The White House says the president approves of the broad principles in the federal marriage amendment. That's an amendment she introduced in the House. They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Two quick notes. The presidential -- the Democratic presidential debate will take place here on this -- at this time slot, Thursday night. I'll be the moderator. It'll come from the University of Southern California, co-sponsored by CNN and "The Los Angeles Times." It'll be 90 minutes. And tomorrow night's a special hour with special phone calls for Sarah Jessica Parker of "Sex and the City."

Let's begin our go-round here with Mayor Newsom. How did you react, Mayor, to today's announcement by the president?

MAYOR GAVIN NEWSOM, ORDERED S.F. TO ISSUE SAME-SEX LICENSES: I was disappointed, but I confess, Larry, I wasn't surprised. Frankly, the president's been talking about this for some time. He certainly raised it in terms of a national priority in his State of the Union. I unfortunately, though, feel it's divisive, inappropriate, and frankly, I feel it's shameful to divide this country like this at a time when we need to unite this country. And I find it unfortunate the president's decided to make this such a political priority.

KING: Were you challenging, Mayor, the wishes of the people of California?

NEWSOM: No, I was actually upholding my constitutional oath to bear full faith and allegiance to the constitution of the state of California. And Larry, nowhere in that constitution does it allow me to discriminate against people. And what we were doing previous to our directive was, I believe, discriminating people. And I find that abhorrent and I find that inappropriate. And we wanted to stand up on principle, stand up on a constitutional footing, and we made the appropriate action. Now 3,300-plus couples have affirmed their love, in and turn, Larry, I believe my marriage has been affirmed.

KING: Do you still issue licenses?

NEWSOM: We're still issuing licenses. Today we issued another 70 to 80 licenses. We have people coming from all over the world, from every part of the United States of America, and it is just exhilarating to see the love and the bond and the commitment of faith and understanding the responsibilities and obligations of marriage that are being executed every single day down at City Hall.

KING: Where do we stand in the courts, Mayor?

NEWSOM: Well, we're waiting to see what happens this Friday. The attorney general of the state of California desires this to go to the California supreme court. We've three times been in court. Three times we've been successful. Two different judges in those three separate hearings have said no irreparable harm is being done. The legal process is working. Frankly, the whole process, as it was conceived of, has been set up and is working as we speak. And we look forward to making strong arguments later in the next court series.

KING: John MacArthur, what is the irreparable harm of gays being married?

PASTOR JOHN MACARTHUR, OPPOSES SAME-SEX MARRIAGE: Well, I think there a number of things that we need to talk about. One is it would destroy the family. I mean, obviously, God designed the family to be a man and woman to produce a child. It is the DNA, it's the genetic structure of civilization. If you don't have that, you don't have civilization. So you're striking at the very core of its existence.

KING: But what does the state have to do with that? God can do it, and as a religious person, you can practice it, but why should the state be involved in a marriage?

MACARTHUR: Well, typically, the state is always involved -- always been involved in a marriage and I think -- because the state's responsibility is to uphold what is right, to uphold righteousness. I mean, it's in the fabric of human thinking to understand a man and a woman make a marriage and a family. God has put that in the very thinking. It's in the heart. It's there. The state upholds that standard, always has in every state in every human history -- factor of human history.

KING: Do you favor civil unions?

MACARTHUR: You know, gay and...

KING: The president said that should be left up to the states. MACARTHUR: Yes. Gay and lesbian people can do that whenever they want. They can do that in this culture or any other culture. But they don't have the right to determine marriage for a whole nation.

KING: So it's the marriage aspect, not the -- if the state wants to pass civil unions are OK, to give rights...

MACARTHUR: Right. We're talking about two things, Larry.


MACARTHUR: We're talking about an issue of civil union. That's a civil issue. If you ask me about whether it's moral or whether it's right, then it becomes a biblical issue.

KING: That might come up later, but...


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