Unlike the biblical Daniel, San Francisco attorney Raoul Kennedy entered the lion’s den of his own free will today — and held his own.
Kennedy, a partner in Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom’s San Francisco office, appeared at a luncheon hosted by the Federalist Society — a 26-year-old group of conservatives and libertarians — to defend same-sex marriage. He debated Glen Lavy, senior counsel for the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund, who’d argued against gay marriage before the California Supreme Court in March.
Kennedy, a self-identified libertarian defending a very liberal cause, joked that he was in a “red bastion” within the “deep blue territory” of the Bay Area — and would stay behind the podium to avoid being hurt. But that didn’t stop him from getting tart with the small crowd that raised questions about the gay “agenda,” referred to radical homosexual activists and called same-sex marriage a social science experiment that would hurt children in the long run.
“How are any of us adversely impacted,” Kennedy asked, “when same-sex couples get married?”
The issue of gay marriage, he added, “is to the 21st century what slavery was to the 19th century.” Years from now, Kennedy insisted, the average person will look back and say, “How could people be so backward-oriented?”
He told the crowd there are so many problems in the world that gay marriage — in which two people only want to commit to a life together — shouldn’t be a problem. “You’ve got to have something better to do with your lives,” he said.
Kennedy also argued that Lavy wasn’t even a California resident, so why should he be here fighting against something that doesn’t affect his home state? He said he would have been really pissed off back in 1948 if a “bunch of good old boys from Mississippi” had come out to the state and tried to reverse the California Supreme Court’s landmark ruling that upheld mixed-race marriages.
Lavy spoke before Kennedy, and argued that the California Supreme Court had violated the people’s will when it voted 4-3 in May that a ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.
“Instead of saying what the law is,” he said, “they said what they wanted the law to be.”
Lavy also said that only those “who oppose democracy” would try to challenge Proposition 8, the Nov. 4 ballot measure that would limit marriage to heterosexual couples, if it passes. He also argued that a defeat of Prop 8 would lead to legal attacks — on the tax-exempt status of churches that refuse to perform same-sex marriages and on pastors who preach that same-sex relationships are immoral based on biblical teachings.
“These are the kinds of things we will be seeing if same-sex marriage becomes the norm,” he said.
Somewhat surprisingly, however, Lavy said he believes that gay couples who wed before Nov. 4 likely would still retain their marriage rights if Prop 8 passes. That’s because he believes the measure would be prospective only and couldn’t affect couples’ contractual rights.
The luncheon was held in the Bankers Club of San Francisco on the 52nd floor of the Bank of America building at 555 California St.
— Mike McKee