For Two Days in a Row, MSNBC's Contessa Brewer Presents a One-Sided Debate on Gay Marriage

As the anchor of MSNBC's noon news hour, Contessa Brewer could not openly advocate for supporters of gay marriage – but she definitely seemed to give generous credence to their views on Thursday and Friday. Furthermore, she made snide comments about opponents of same-sex marriage, providing an opposition to their arguments but not seriously questioning proponents of same-sex marriage.

Brewer obviously has strong views on this particular issue, and as a news anchor seems to have trouble keeping her personal opinions out of her news desk duties. In the little time allotted during each show to the same-sex marriage debate, Brewer hosted three pro same-sex marriage guests and none from the opposition.

On Thursday, her guest was a retired female Presbyterian minister who is facing a church trial for conducting multiple gay marriages, having already been acquitted in 2008 before the Presbyterian Church (USA) Supreme Judicial Council.

On Friday, Brewer hosted the two plaintiffs of the recent Proposition 8 court case, Jeff Zarrillo and Paul Katami – a homosexual couple hoping to marry soon.

Brewer also marginalized the arguments of same-sex marriage opponents with snide remarks and loaded questions. "Opponents of same-sex marriage often argue it undermines the institution, and the family," she remarked on her Thursday news hour. "So my big question today: Isn't divorce a bigger threat to marriage in America?"

When one of her viewers who opposes gary marriage wrote in that having two same-sex parents would "mess up the child development for life," Brewer cynically quipped "I guess he hasn't seen what happens with step-families integrating. Typically you have two dads and two moms."

On Friday, Brewer seemed to be pushing for a quick end to the stay on same-sex marriages in California, apparently using one of the Left's favorite arguments in equating the current legal battles with the civil rights struggles of the 1960's.

"You know, those against gay marriage are arguing the worst that happens if the state is kept in place is that same-sex couples will have to wait longer for their nuptials," she summarized. "So my big question today: Isn't justice delayed justice denied?" she asked, quoting the mantra of the civil rights movement.

A transcript of both segments, which aired on August 12 and 13, is as follows:
MSNBC NEWS HOUR 8/12/10

12:00

CONTESSA BREWER, MSNBC anchor: A Presbyterian minister in [California] is facing charges from her own church. The authorities believe she violated the church rules by presiding over the weddings of gay couples. Her trial begins later this month in Napa, California, and Rev. Jane Spahr joins me now. Reverend, it's good to talk to you today.

Rev. JANE SPAHR: Thank you, Contessa. Great to be here.

BREWER: You have been through this before in 2008, when you were acquitted, I understand, from marrying a lesbian couple. So what's this renewed fight about in the Presbyterian church?

SPAHR: Well the renewed fight is really about all these marriages that I did with so many of my friends who – they're legal. They were from those dates from June 17th to November 4th in which the state has said "Yes, all these are legal." So it's been an amazing time to be able to marry so many of my wonderful friends.

BREWER: What's the official stance of the Presbyterian Church on same-sex marriage?

SPAHR: Well there really isn't a stance yet, there hasn't been a ruling on that, so what it is, I think for me, is, as pastors, we should be able to marry the people who come to us, and that is, for me, I take over a year to meet with couples, to work with them, to talk with them about their love, and it's been an amazing time to be able to do that. So what I say to people, "It doesn't matter what your sexual orientation is. It matters to me that you have a healthy, just, loving, mutual relationship. So that's why I meet with couples. So I say "It doesn't matter to me." What matters to me is that the church could be there to help people have the healthiest, most loving relationships.

BREWER: Given your stand on this, and given that you have been a long-time advocate on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities, do you think that you're a good fit with the Presbyterian Church?

SPAHR: Well I think every church has the opportunity to become open and welcoming, to really follow the founder of our Church, which said, "You all come, and be, and be who you are, and love who you are." When people love who they are, then they can be free to serve in such a healthy and wonderful way. So I think it's time for the churches to say "Welcome home."

BREWER: But given how many people base their opposition to gay rights on religious or moral principles, what would you say to them, and what would you expect to happen in this trial? Again, it's a church trial, coming up later this month.

SPAHR: Well again, people will be able to hear the stories of some 11 couples, be able to hear about their love, and to be able to know that we too are people of faith. We too are faithful people. We too care. My friends, Sarah and Sherry, the first couple that was ever named, I've been with them through all the things they're bearing, their fathers, being with them to see their daughters raised, so it's for people to see us as they really are.

(...)

12:05

BREWER: Opponents of same-sex marriage often argue it undermines the institution, and the family. So my big question today: Isn't divorce a bigger threat to marriage in America?

(...)
12:52

BREWER: And Terrance thinks differently. He says "I believe if a child is raised around two fathers or two mothers that will mess up the child development for life." I guess he hasn't seen what happens with step-families integrating. Typically you have two dads and two moms.  

MSNBC NEWS HOUR 8/13/10

12:00

CONTESSA BREWER: In the meantime, good Friday the 13th. I'm Contessa Brewer, covering the big news, coast to coast. And on the West Coast, a massive tug-of-war is erupting over the gay marriage fight in California. Opponents want a federal appeals court to act now, before a hold on those weddings expires. ...there will be mass confusion about whether the couples are indeed legally married. The judge's decision to hold off 'till next week not going over well with some.

(Video Clip)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been here for two hours this morning, and we've watched so many straight people walk in and get married in front of us. It's so "in your face," that once again, "no you can't."

(End Video Clip)

(...)

12:01

BREWER: You know, those against gay marriage are arguing the worst that happens if the state is kept in place is that same-sex couples will have to wait longer for their nuptials. So my big question today: Isn't justice delayed justice denied?

(...)

12:02

BREWER: Joining me now, Paul Katami, Jeff Zurrillo. They are the plaintiffs in the case to overturn Proposition 8. Gentlemen, good to see you. Let me ask you that question. Do you think justice delayed is justice denied?

JEFF ZARRILLO: Martin Luther King said it very well, in his letters to Birmingham, justice delayed is justice denied, and that's exactly what's happening here.  

BREWER: Do you have – do you think optimistic feelings about what happens now with the appeals court? Paul, weigh in.

PAUL KATAMI: We're absolutely optimistic. We know that we put on a fair and balanced court case. We won on the merits of that case, so now the law is on our side. We know that history is on our side, so it's just a matter of getting to that finish line and we're very confident we'll get there.

BREWER: You know, it's interesting that the opponents who have filed the suit, guys, say that the judge's decision that said voters made this Proposition 8 based on anti-gay morality, they said the judge's statement was cruel because the people of California have actually enacted into law some of the nation's most sweeping, most progressive protections of gays and lesbians. Do you feel protected in California?

ZARRILLO: It's really not about feeling protected as much as it is about separate, yet unequal, and that's what we are, we are a separate yet unequal category. We are second-class citizens in the state of California. And what we really are looking for is just our equal rights, just like every other American is afforded at birth, according to our Constitution.

KATAMI: I think it's important to remember also that we're not trying to create a new law or import a law into our Constitution. This was a law that was found in our Constitution, and so we are just trying to reiterate that that law belongs to us fundamentally, so it's important to remember that our Constitution actually has this law in it. And we're just wanting it to be applied to us.

BREWER: Alright, gentlemen. Jeff, Paul, thank you both. I appreciate your time.
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014