The same-sex marriage debate at Town Hall on January 18 is canceled.
Sorry to all the folks who had free tickets (in hindsight, they were overpriced).
So 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 their position at Town Hall in a fair debate moderated by Dave Ross. As we mentioned on Monday, Pastor Ken Hutcherson and Stephen Pidgeon canceled, even though they had confirmed the week before. But we didn't call it off at the time. We scoured the state for replacements.
On Monday Pastor Joe Fuiten at the Cedar Park Assembly of God and Joseph Backholm, the director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington, agreed to take part in the debate. "Joseph Backholm has said he will do it with me," Fuiten wrote in an email on Monday evening after seeing all the debate format details. He was even working on confirming attorney Austin Nimocks as a backup. "It will either be the two Joes or the other Joe and Austin," Fuiten added. But then he canceled the next day, saying they got "cold feet." Mars Hill Church Pastor Tim Gaydos also agreed to debate against gay marriage, with his assistant Steven Kwan writing in an email, "Pastor Tim is in! January 18th would be the best date." Gaydos backed out of the January 18th debate two days later, citing unspecified "personal" reasons.
Plenty of other people—people who have repeatedly gone on the record opposing marriage equality—also refused to argue against same sex-marriage at Town Hall. Other folks who refused include: Mars Hill Church Pastor Mark Drisoll, State Senator Val Stevens; State Senator Dan Swecker; the entire state GOP legislative caucus, according to a spokeswoman; conservative radio host Michael Medved; SPU political science professor Reed Davis; and City Church Pastor Judah Smith. We even put in a request to 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 help run anti-gay campaigns.
Tickets to the event were promoted action alerts sent out by Hutcherson's Antioch Bible Church, so the audience wasn't going to be hostile or unfairly stacked against the anti-marriage-equality side. The debate was to be moderated by fairsy-squaresy Dave Ross. It was going to be recorded and replayed on the Seattle Channel and live-streamed so it could reach the largest possible audience. Sure, you could claim that The Stranger is biased—we are—but we worked closely with Ken Hutcherson to make sure it was a fair debate. But 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.
In the end, they refused to come to the table. And if you're going to fight to deny equal rights, the least you can do it stand up in a room of mixed company and explain yourself. But they won't do it.