There was supposed to be a same-sex-marriage debate on January 18 at Town Hall. Folks from both sides agreed to argue their case, 800 people reserved their tickets, KIRO's fair-and-square host Dave Ross agreed to moderate, and the Seattle Channel agreed to live-stream it.
But the debate was canceled. (Sorry to all the folks who had free tickets—in hindsight, they were overpriced.)
What happened? Even though we've got stacks of anti-gay-marriage leaders in the state, not a single one of them was willing to defend the position in a fair debate. Pastor Ken Hutcherson and attorney Stephen Pidgeon had confirmed the week before; Hutcherson's assistant Rachael Whaley e-mailed, "It will be Pidgeon and Hutcherson." But they canceled four days later, insisting on a larger venue in Bellevue. It was too late to move the entire event.
But we didn't call it off at the time. Working with Town Hall, we scoured the state for replacements.
Pastor Joe Fuiten at the Cedar Park Assembly of God and Joseph Backholm, director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington, agreed to argue against same-sex marriage. "Joseph Backholm has said he will do it with me," Fuiten wrote in an e-mail after seeing all the debate details. But then Fuiten canceled the next day, saying they got "cold feet." Mars Hill Church pastor Tim Gaydos also agreed to make the case, with his assistant Steven Kwan writing in an e-mail, "Pastor Tim is in!" Gaydos backed out two days later, citing unspecified "personal" reasons.
Plenty of other people—people who have repeatedly gone on the record opposing marriage equality—also refused. Including: Mars Hill Church pastor Mark Driscoll, state senator Val Stevens, state senator Dan Swecker, the entire state GOP legislative caucus, conservative radio host Michael Medved, SPU political science professor Reed Davis, and City Church pastor Judah Smith. We even asked anti-gay-marriage attorney general Rob McKenna, but we never heard back.
These are the same people who evangelize against gay marriage in front of their congregations, espouse anti-gay positions in editorial board meetings, record anti-gay videos, take votes against gay rights in the legislature, go on their radio shows to denounce marriage equality, and run anti-gay campaigns.
Sure, you could claim that The Stranger is biased—we are—but we worked closely with Pastor Hutcherson to make sure it was a fair debate. Anyway, they don't seem interested in fairness. They prefer to churn out lies in venues where they can't be challenged on their facts or their logic.
Which is probably why, in the end, they all refused to come to the table.
If you're going to fight to deny equal rights, the least you can do is stand up in a room of mixed company and explain yourself. But they won't do it.