Dr. Phil's audience is split down the middle on a controversial topic: same-sex marriage. On one side are audience members who believe in the lawful right of a gay marital union. The members on the other side think the institution of marriage should only be between a man and a woman.
Since Election Day, when voters banned gay marriage in Florida and Arizona, and repealed the right in California, this hot-button issue has taken center stage across the country. It's not entirely clear what will happen to the legality of the 18,000 same-sex marriages that took place in California between May and November when the ban was lifted. Same-sex marriages remain legal in Massachusetts and Connecticut.
Dr. Phil brings together some key players at the heart of each side of this controversial and emotionally-charged issue. In support of gay marriage is attorney Gloria Allred, president of the Human Rights Campaign and equal rights advocate Joe Solmonese, and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. Opposing gay marriage is pastor of Skyline Church in San Diego County Jim Garlow, president of the National Organization of Marriage Margaret Gallagher and co-campaign manager for the Yes on 8 Campaign Jeff Flint.
Dr. Phil addresses Pastor Jim Garlow. "What is your primary objection to gay marriage being acknowledged by the state?"
"My answer is two-fold," Jim says. "Number one, as a follower of Jesus Christ, I believe the Bible clearly states it begins with a marriage and ends with a wedding, so consequently, as a Christian, I feel strongly, and almost everywhere, all the world's religions, hold the same view. Secondly, as one who participates in the process democratically, I believe the will of the people should be upheld, and it was not."
"Mayor Newsom, you have been a real mover in the battle to get rights for gay couples to marry and have the full complement of rights and equality that heterosexual marriages have. What was your big motivation and what was your greatest fear when you saw this proposition coming on?" Dr. Phil asks.
"The idea of submitting the rights of a suppressed minority to the whims of a majority is the reason we have a constitution," Gavin says. "Imagine if we did that in 1967 and submitted to the will of the people the determination of the U.S. Supreme Court, after the Loving vs. the State of Virginia case that adjudicated unanimously that it was wrong and unconstitutional to disallow interracial marriage. The vast majority of Americans opposed interracial marriages. Imagine if we brought that to the people. So I believe in fundamental rights. I believe in equal rights, to answer your question, and I believe in the rights of the gay and lesbian community."
"Here's a question that I personally haven't had a satisfactory answer to: Isn't it possible to be equal but different?" Dr. Phil asks.
"Of course not, Dr. Phil, come on," Gavin says. "Brown vs. Board of Education, 1954, the notion that separate is now somehow equal? That's anathema to what America has always stood for. If anyone here, and I don't know if any of the proponents of Prop 8 believe that separate is now equal or decry the principles of Brown vs. Board of Education. I mean, the idea that separate institution is somehow equal is not something this country has necessarily seen fit since that landmark Supreme Court decision, so to now acknowledge it for the gay community, I think, is wrong."
Margaret speaks up. "It's not discrimination to treat different things differently. Listen, bans on interracial marriage were about keeping two races separate so that one race could oppress the other and that was wrong. Marriage is about bringing together the two great halves of humanity, male and female, in part so that children can know and be known by, and love and be loved by their own mother and father, and that's good," she says. "The majority of courts and the majority of Americans do not think marriage is a civil rights issue. We do not think that you have an individual right to redefine marriage and make it mean what you like it to mean, and we think there's an important reason why, in almost every known human society, marriage has been seen as intrinsically a union of husband and wife because these are the only kind of unions that can both make new life and connect those children in love to their mother and father."
"Did this proposition take away civil rights from California residents?" Dr. Phil asks Margaret.
"I absolutely disagree with that," Margaret says. "First of all, all the practical rights and benefits to help people live their lives are still available through civil unions. Secondly, the people of California, in their constitution, have a core constitutional right, a civil right, to do what we did, which is to speak, to organize, to vote and to donate. And no American should have to be subjected to a campaign calling them haters and bigots, threatening their property, threatening their persons, threatening their livelihood, because they peacefully and lawfully participated in the democratic process, especially not religious minorities."