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Keith Olbermann's Special Comment on Proposition 8


Keith Olbermann delivered an amazing "special comment" this evening devoted to the passage of Proposition 8.

Says Olbermann: "This isn't about yelling, and this isn't about politics, and this isn't really just about Prop-8. And I don't have a personal investment in this: I'm not gay, I had to strain to think of one member of even my very extended family who is, I have no personal stories of close friends or colleagues fighting the prejudice that still pervades their lives. And yet to me this vote is horrible. Horrible. Because this isn't about yelling, and this isn't about politics. This is about the... human heart, and if that sounds corny, so be it..."

Watch it, AFTER THE JUMP...

Olbermann's contract was extended for four years today...


Finally tonight as promised, a Special Comment on the passage, last week, of Proposition Eight in California, which rescinded the right of same-sex couples to marry, and tilted the balance on this issue, from coast to coast.

Some parameters, as preface. This isn't about yelling, and this isn't about politics, and this isn't really just about Prop-8. And I don't have a personal investment in this: I'm not gay, I had to strain to think of one member of even my very extended family who is, I have no personal stories of close friends or colleagues fighting the prejudice that still pervades their lives.

And yet to me this vote is horrible. Horrible. Because this isn't about yelling, and this isn't about politics.

This is about the... human heart, and if that sounds corny, so be it.

If you voted for this Proposition or support those who did or the sentiment they expressed, I have some questions, because, truly, I do not... understand. Why does this matter to you? What is it to you? In a time of impermanence and fly-by-night relationships, these people over here want the same chance at permanence and happiness that is your option. They don't want to deny you yours. They don't want to take anything away from you. They want what you want -- a chance to be a little less alone in the world.

Only now you are saying to them -- no. You can't have it on these terms. Maybe something similar. If they behave. If they don't cause too much trouble. You'll even give them all the same legal rights -- even as you're taking away the legal right, which they already had. A world around them, still anchored in love and marriage, and you are saying, no, you can't marry. What if somebody passed a law that said you couldn't marry?

I keep hearing this term "re-defining" marriage.

If this country hadn't re-defined marriage, black people still couldn't marry white people. Sixteen states had laws on the books which made that illegal... in 1967. 1967.

The parents of the President-Elect of the United States couldn't have married in nearly one third of the states of the country their son grew up to lead. But it's worse than that. If this country had not "re-defined" marriage, some black people still couldn't people. It is one of the most overlooked and cruelest parts of our sad story of slavery. Marriages were not legally recognized, if the people were slaves. Since slaves were property, they could not legally be husband and wife, or mother and child. Their marriage vows were different: not "Until Death, Do You Part," but "Until Death or Distance, Do You Part." Marriages among slaves were not legally recognized.

You know, just like marriages today in California are not legally recognized, if the people are... gay.

And uncountable in our history are the number of men and women, forced by society into marrying the opposite sex, in sham marriages, or marriages of convenience, or just marriages of not knowing -- centuries of men and women who have lived their lives in shame and unhappiness, and who have, through a lie to themselves or others, broken countless other lives, of spouses and children... All because we said a man couldn't marry another man, or a woman couldn't marry another woman. The sanctity of marriage. How many marriages like that have there been and how on earth do they increase the "sanctity" of marriage rather than render the term, meaningless?

What is this, to you? Nobody is asking you to embrace their expression of love. But don't you, as human beings, have to embrace... that love? The world is barren enough.

It is stacked against love, and against hope, and against those very few and precious emotions that enable us to go forward. Your marriage only stands a 50-50 chance of lasting, no matter how much you feel and how hard you work.

And here are people overjoyed at the prospect of just that chance, and that work, just for the hope of having that feeling. With so much hate in the world, with so much meaningless division, and people pitted against people for no good reason, this is what your religion tells you to do? With your experience of life and this world and all its sadnesses, this is what your conscience tells you to do?

With your knowledge that life, with endless vigor, seems to tilt the playing field on which we all live, in favor of unhappiness and hate... this is what your heart tells you to do? You want to sanctify marriage? You want to honor your God and the universal love you believe he represents? Then Spread happiness -- this tiny, symbolic, semantical grain of happiness -- share it with all those who seek it. Quote me anything from your religious leader or book of choice telling you to stand against this. And then tell me how you can believe both that statement and another statement, another one which reads only "do unto others as you would have them do unto you."


You are asked now, by your country, and perhaps by your creator, to stand on one side or another. You are asked now to stand, not on a question of politics, not on a question of religion, not on a question of gay or straight. You are asked now to stand, on a question All you need do is stand, and let the tiny ember of love meet its own fate. You don't have to help it, you don't have it applaud it, you don't have to fight for it. Just don't put it out. Just don't extinguish it. Because while it may at first look like that love is between two people you don't know and you don't understand and maybe you don't even want to know...It is, in fact, the ember of your love, for your fellow **person...

Just because this is the only world we have. And the other guy counts, too.

This is the second time in ten days I find myself concluding by turning to, of all things, the closing plea for mercy by Clarence Darrow in a murder trial.

But what he said, fits what is really at the heart of this:

"I was reading last night of the aspiration of the old Persian poet, Omar-Khayyam," he told the judge.

"It appealed to me as the highest that I can vision. I wish it was in my heart, and I wish it was in the hearts of all:

"So I be written in the Book of Love;

"I do not care about that Book above.

"Erase my name, or write it as you will,

"So I be written in the Book of Love."


Good night, and good luck.

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  1. Keith, it's about hate, bigotry, and the Radical Religious Extremists controlling others lives. It's about the Radical Religious Extremists poisoning the hearts and minds of otherwise good people with hate toward Gay-Americans. Sad so sad that the Radical Religious Extremists promote this in of all countries, America.

    Posted by: Sargon Bighorn | Nov 10, 2008 10:17:05 PM

  2. snap...snap...snap...snap. Good on you Keith O. Hopefully some of the outraged homos out there will appreciate the fact that not all the "'ros" out there are out to get us. Let's quit being so divisive and recognize there ARE people out there trying to help us.

    Posted by: (F)reddy | Nov 10, 2008 10:17:32 PM

  3. Hey guys boycot Rockstar energy drink

    Posted by: chuy | Nov 10, 2008 10:17:42 PM

  4. Phenomenal. Keith preached it good.

    Posted by: Acolyte | Nov 10, 2008 10:18:27 PM

  5. Only CA matters? What about the 29 other states with similar bans?

    Posted by: anon | Nov 10, 2008 10:21:08 PM

  6. Mr. Olbermann's comments were beautifully spoken. His emotion was apparent as he spoke to the US audience and he became visibly choked up.
    His comments were not just to get ratings as some of his counterparts do, but instead, Mr. Olbermann was passionate about Proposition 8 and disagreed with every bit of it.
    I commend Mr. Olbermann for speaking so eloquently about an issue that affects not just the gay community - which of course it does - but the nation as a whole. Not one person is trying to redefine marriage but instead they are trying to incorporate everyone under that definition umbrella, as Mr. Olbermann stated.

    I was moved to tears by Mr. Olbermann's comments. I wish I could thank him personally for what he said.

    It was well timed, well spoken and well put.

    Thank you MSNBC and Keith Olbermann.

    Posted by: Gary | Nov 10, 2008 10:22:06 PM

  7. All I can say is a very big THANK YOU... that was beautifully put and might even have the chance of melting some of the ice hearts of the religious right (or wrong as it is)... THAT is what should be preached from pulpits, not the hate and exclusion that we hear of all the time.

    Posted by: CK | Nov 10, 2008 10:30:01 PM

  8. Does Olbermann work for EQ CA?

    This is all well and good, and much appreciated, but as he goes on and on - he's missed the point of PROP 8 in precisely the same way the know-it-all control queens running NO ON 8 did.


    Posted by: David B. | Nov 10, 2008 10:36:19 PM

  9. WOW. Potent. Poignant. Perfect. I soooo agree that the overlooked issue with this whole mess, is that it's about LOVE. It's about 2 people NOT affecting anyone else. Simply justifying, legally what millions of others have been allowed to do. Thanks Kieth O. I'm writing to MSNBC right now to thank them for his amazing comments and for renewing his contract for four more years. Good on them. (this is the best address I could find after 15 minutes on their website:

    Posted by: pickles | Nov 10, 2008 10:44:53 PM

  10. Many copies of this transcript are going to the headquarters of Focus on the Family, every Mormon church in my city, and to all the offices of the Knights of Columbus.

    The time for discrimination and bigotry IS OVER!

    Posted by: Webster | Nov 10, 2008 10:54:42 PM

  11. Why is Obermann making this statement after the vote? Where were appeals like this BEFORE the election? Why didn't Obama make the point about his parents being unable to wed in some of the U.S. when they married. Oh, of course, the Obama campaign didn't want to make race -- or civil rights -- part of the election.

    Posted by: Jeff Atwood | Nov 10, 2008 10:59:35 PM

  12. Thank you. I appreciate your words.
    Hear, hear people, we too shall overcome!

    Posted by: Rob Molina | Nov 10, 2008 11:07:48 PM

  13. I just saw this live, and I was completely moved. I live in WV and don't see the laws changing here any time soon, but I wish everyone could hear his words, and take half a second to think how their views and actions are impacting others. Thanks to all who support us, and to all of my "family" out there, stay strong!

    Posted by: Stephen Miller | Nov 10, 2008 11:18:03 PM

  14. are the drum beats coming closer together? is something beginning to happen? something remarkable, unexpected, wonderful?

    Posted by: Chris in MN | Nov 10, 2008 11:40:06 PM

  15. I don't knwo why Americans don't look to Canada - you know that big country to your north. We have allowed gay marriage on a federal level for three years now.
    God has not smote us.
    Children are not rioting in the streets.
    Straight couple remain to be married and get married.
    Churches are not forced to do things that are against their doctrines.
    Nobody has married a goat.
    And our economy has actually gotten stronger.

    Learn by example.

    Posted by: David C Jones | Nov 10, 2008 11:49:45 PM

  16. and yet this happens the same day he appears on the view, where he said that he does not vote at all. as it is his way of sending a message. huh?

    um, we would've rather had your vote. not sure what state he is registered. regardless, it's pure ignorance....and also so hypocritical considering all of his tirades. joy behar called him out as a bad role model. who says she's not hard on liberals too? :-)

    nice speech though - it's just too bad he doesnt practice what he preaches.

    Posted by: greg1106 | Nov 10, 2008 11:56:19 PM

  17. That was incredibly genuine and heartfelt. Thank you so much for that, Keith. I know civil rights in America will catch up with Canada soon. Good luck you guys!

    Posted by: Ambrose | Nov 11, 2008 12:10:05 AM

  18. Where was he before the vote?

    The state Constitution is now amended to exclude gay people from marrying.

    To the people that continue to blame the NO on 8 campaign. They said they needed help and cash BEFORE September because they knew the opposition was planning a blitz in the final months. Instead you sat on your butts until the polls tightened.

    Posted by: Bill | Nov 11, 2008 12:22:31 AM

  19. ANON...the difference between CA and the 29 other states with similar bans is that only in CA was the right of marriage taken away. One day, gay people in CA could marry each other. The next day, they couldn't. That is the difference.

    Posted by: peterparker | Nov 11, 2008 12:30:32 AM

  20. I truly appreciate KO's special comment and the fact that he took the time to even mention it, but I have the same problem that I have with all of his "special comments" they all sound way too rehearsed. Maybe if he said something to this effect while speaking to someone or said this during an interview, but for some reason whenever he gives these special comments I always feel this tiny disconnect from his words and his intent. He just went overboard when he started that fake voice-quiver, and trust me it was fake. I have no doubt that he believes what he's saying, he's just trying to damn hard to convince us that he believes what he's saying.

    Posted by: Pekemo | Nov 11, 2008 12:34:19 AM

  21. Someone said: Why is Obermann making this statement after the vote? Where were appeals like this BEFORE the election?

    Correct me IF I'm wrong, but wasn't Obermann yanked off the air for some time before the election because of eloquent logical statements (of political "non-right-conservative" ideas which GE, owner of MSNBC, hated) like this?

    Posted by: chris | Nov 11, 2008 1:22:46 AM

  22. Wow! Very moving.

    Posted by: Aman Chaudhary | Nov 11, 2008 1:33:11 AM

  23. What's with the criticism that he didn't speak sooner or should have done more than he just did. Like he said, he is not gay. We can't look to others to do the work. This does not affect him personally yet he is putting himself out there. Maybe it's time to take some responsibility that we did not do enough, that we did not work hard enough, that we did not organize efforts enough...we had the right to get married one day and yet the passion and grass roots efforts did not come about until it was taken away. It's a wake up call. Yes, it's great to be angry and passinate but only if it's directed in a productive way.

    Posted by: MIKE | Nov 11, 2008 1:56:43 AM

  24. Finally! Someone who actually gets "it"!

    Posted by: Marc | Nov 11, 2008 2:03:37 AM

  25. i agree with Peter, Anon. not to diminish the loss in the other states with constitutional marriage bans, but it feels even more personal, even more hateful and ignorant, to have witnessed what happened here in california. it's that age-old adage, about whether 'tis better to have loved and lost... a lot of people here assumed that californians would not be so cruel as to annul marriages that had already happened, nor so closed-minded as to not notice that five months of marriage equality had not affected them at all.

    not to mention that california has been a veritable flagship for america's gay population, so this emphasizes the feeling that very few places are safe for us in the world today, and that progress has not been as fast as we thought.

    all my love to massachusetts, and now to connecticut as well. i hope we can rejoin the equality club sooner rather than later, which will make it easier to forgive those 52% who saw fit to vote our rights away.

    by the way, there's a movement growing to show protest/support for equality by wearing pink triangles on your clothing, daily, until we get equality back. i think it's a good idea.

    Posted by: le_sacre | Nov 11, 2008 2:05:40 AM

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