CBS’s Smith: Gay Marriage ‘A Serious Civil Rights Issue’

Harry Smith, CBS At the top of Friday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith teased a segment on the controversy surrounding Barack Obama’s decision to have pastor Rick Warren deliver the invocation at the inauguration: "Barack Obama angers gay rights groups by choosing Rick Warren to give his inaugural invocation." Later Smith brought on Dr. Robert Jeffress of the First Baptist Church of Dallas and David Corn of the liberal Mother Jones magazine to debate the issue, declaring: "President-elect Barack Obama has ignited a firestorm of controversy by selecting conservative Pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration. Warren is an outspoken critic of gay marriage and that has angered many of Obama's liberal supporters."

Later, Smith turned to Jeffress and wondered why Warren would agree to speak at Obama’s inauguration. Jeffress replied: "But I want to say, to me, it's just unbelievable to think that because Rick Warren believes that marriage should be between a man and a woman, somehow that characterizes him as a hate-monger and makes him unfit to pray at the inauguration. I mean, this sounds like bizzaro world to me-" At that point, Smith interrupted: "Well, excuse me, excuse me though, this is a serious civil rights issue in this country."

Smith began the debate by asking Corn: "Obama chooses Rick Warren to give the invocation. What message do you think he's trying to send?" Corn replied: "Rick Warren compared homosexuals to people who engage in incest and pedophilia. So I think that's – by putting him on the stage at the invocation, Barack Obama is, indeed, insulting a lot of people who came out and worked hard for him...So I think he's reached out a little bit too far in this instance."

Later, Corn reacted to Jeffress defense of Warren: "Rick Warren is, you know, is -- I'm -- you can call it – some people may call that hate-mongering. It certainly is being very dismissive of people who love and choose to live their lives in a different fashion than he does." Jeffress replied: "David, Rick Warren is strictly teaching what the Bible teaches...Rick Warren is simply delivering the message of the Bible. Jesus said marriage is...Between a man and a woman and that's what the Bible is. Rick...is not making up the message he is simply delivering the message...of the Bible." Corn dismissed that argument: "That's the biggest dodge there is...The Bible says a lot of things...Abraham was -- Abraham was a polygamist."

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

7:00AM TEASE:

HARRY SMITH: Barack Obama angers gay rights groups by choosing Rick Warren to give his inaugural invocation.

BARACK OBAMA: It is important for America to come together, even though we may have disagreements on certain social issues.

SMITH: We'll debate the issue.

7:08AM SEGMENT:

HARRY SMITH: We're going to move on now, speaking of presidential politics. President-elect Barack Obama has ignited a firestorm of controversy by selecting conservative Pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration. Warren is an outspoken critic of gay marriage and that has angered many of Obama's liberal supporters. We are joined by Dr. Robert Jeffress, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, long-time friend of Rick Warren, and David Corn is Washington bureau chief of Mother Jones magazine. Good morning to you both.

DAVID CORN: Good morning.

ROBERT JEFFRESS: Good morning.

SMITH: David, let me start with you. Obama chooses Rick Warren to give the invocation. What message do you think he's trying to send?

DAVID CORN: Well, I think he's trying to send a message of being inclusive and including even people who don't agree with him on many key issues. I think the problem here is that while it's great to have a president who will reach out to the other side and try to make common cause, and I think there are issues where he could do that with Rick Warren, climate change and poverty issues and AIDS, issues where Rick Warren has been very -- I would think -- I would even say somewhat progressive. But when it comes to the issue of gay rights, only about a week or so ago, Rick Warren compared homosexuals to people who engage in incest and pedophilia. So I think that's -- by putting him on the stage at the invocation, Barack Obama is, indeed, insulting a lot of people who came out and worked hard for him and is sort of saying we -- that he sees Rick Warren in total as a religious leader who demands hearing and demands respect when I think there are parts of what Rick Warren stands for are really at great odds with what people who work for Barack Obama believe and feel. He's been very dismissive of a good part of Barack Obama's base.

SMITH: Alright, let me go over to-

CORN: So I think he's reached out a little bit too far in this instance.

SMITH: Okay. Alright, Dr. Jeffress, let me ask you this. Because there are people within the Evangelical community who can't see straight that this invitation has been accepted by Rick Warren because here's a president who is very clear on this issue -- in terms of issues of abortion and other things. Why would you even accept an invitation like this?

ROBERT JEFFRESS: Well, Harry, I think there's a tradition, certainly in the Bible, of the Old Testament prophets, and the Apostle Paul in the New Testament, of speaking before government authorities and using those opportunities to speak a word for God. But I want to say, to me, it's just unbelievable to think that because Rick Warren believes that marriage should be between a man and a woman, somehow that characterizes him as a hate-monger and makes him unfit to pray at the inauguration. I mean, this sounds like bizzaro world to me-

SMITH: Well, excuse me, excuse me though, this is a serious civil rights issue in this country.

JEFFRESS: Well-

CORN: Harry if-

SMITH: Dr. Jeffress, go ahead.

JEFFRESS: Let me say this, I mean, we all believe that polygamists certainly enjoy constitutional rights but those rights don't extend to the right to be married. We have believed historically in this country that marriage is between a man and a woman and that reflects, by the way, the traditions of the three world religions, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Rick Warren is not out of the mainstream with world religions, nor is he out of the mainstream with what the majority of Americans believe.

SMITH: Okay.

CORN: But, Harry-

SMITH: David Corn, I've got about 30 seconds left, go ahead.

CORN: Yeah, but Harry, the issue -- I didn't use the word 'gay marriage' in talking about the objections to Rick Warren. I talked about what he said in comparing gays and lesbians to people who practice incest and people who are pedophiliacs. And so that -- I mean that goes beyond saying 'I disagree with gay marriage,' that's saying anyone who practices these things are pretty loathsome. And so I think in that regard, Rick Warren is, you know, is -- I'm -- you can call it -- some people may call that hate-mongering. It certainly is being very dismissive of people who love and choose to live their lives in a different fashion than he does.

SMITH: Alright, thanks very much-

JEFFRESS: David, Rick Warren is strictly teaching what the Bible teaches-

SMITH: Really, very quickly Dr. Jeffress.

JEFFRESS: Rick Warren is simply delivering the message of the Bible. Jesus said marriage is-

CORN: That's the biggest dodge there is.

JEFFRESS: Between a man and a woman and that's what the Bible is. Rick-

CORN: The Bible says a lot of things-

JEFFRESS: -is not making up the message he is simply delivering the message-

CORN: Abraham was -- Abraham was a polygamist.

JEFFRESS: -of the Bible. And that is the message of Rick Warren and Bible.

SMITH: We've got to go. Gentlemen, we've got to go. And you can feel a little bit of the temperature that this has created by the conversation this morning. Thank you gentlemen, both for being here.

JEFFRESS: Thank you.

CORN: Thanks, Harry.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC