Catholic League President Bill Donohue's anti-equality arguments collapsed under questioning from CNN host Chris Cuomo, who tried to get Donohue to explain how marriage equality undermines religious freedom. Donohue couldn't point to any specific damage done by marriage equality, but resorted to comparisons of same-sex marriage with polygamy and condemnation of the modern notion that marriage should be based on love.
During the February 27 edition of CNN's New Day, Donohue sat down with Cuomo to discuss Arizona Republican Gov. Jan Brewer's veto of a measure that would have allowed individuals and businesses to refuse service to gay couples on religious grounds. Donohue defended the bill as an effort to protect religious liberty, leading Cuomo to ask how marriage equality engenders religious freedom.
Donohue couldn't point to any negative consequences - religious or otherwise - of allowing same-sex couples to marry, but he made clear he wasn't happy about “alternative lifestyles” or the shift away from the notion that marriage is about “duty,” not shared love and commitment:
CUOMO: How does gay marriage compromise your rights?
DONOHUE: Gay marriage - the problem with gay marriage is this - it makes a smorgasbord. It basically says that there's no profound difference, socially speaking, between marriage between a man and woman - the only union which can create a family - and other examples.
CUOMO: Who says that's the purpose of marriage? What if you want lifelong companionship and commitment?
DONOHOUE: If a man and woman don't have sex, we can't reproduce, can we? We can't propagate.
CUOMO: But you don't have to be married to propagate.
DONOHUE: No, that's right.
CUOMO: You don't have to want to have kids to be married.
DONOHUE: Look, I don't want alternative lifestyles to be exactly that. I want marriage to be given a privileged position.
CUOMO: Who says it's an alternative lifestyle? Why isn't it just a lifestyle?
DONOHUE: Well, you want to make it that way and a lot of people - polygamy ...
Donohue's endorsement of a “privileged position” for heterosexual couples undercuts his patently false claim earlier in the segment that gay people don't encounter discrimination. It's not surprising that Donohue couldn't demonstrate how same-sex parenting harms children; studies say it doesn't, and the only “study” to suggest otherwise has been thoroughly debunked.
What Donohue's anti-equality position boils down to is the complementarity argument, which fixates on the anatomical differences between the sexes and amounts to little more than a slightly more highbrow version of the “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” line. Given the argument's weaknesses, it's unsurprising that Donohue found himself crying “polygamy” instead of providing valid reasons to oppose equality for same-sex couples.
Their latest encounter marked the second time in recent months that Cuomo and Donohue have faced off on the subject of gay rights. In a September interview after Pope Francis said it wasn't his place to judge gay people, Cuomo called out Donohue's history of anti-Semitic and homophobic smears.