Say What? – John Rich

Reader Roger Newcomb suggested a thread covering recent statements from John Rich of  Big & Rich regarding homosexuality.     The first comment was made on a radio show in Nashville, as Rich was discussing why he supports Fred Thompson for President:

“I think if you legalize [gay marriage], you’ve got to legalize some other things that are pretty unsavory. You can call me a radical, but how can you tell an aunt that she can’t marry her nephew if they are really in love and sharing the bills? How can you tell them they can’t get married, but something else that’s unnatural can happen?”


After receiving some negative feedback over this comment, he issued the following statement:

“My earlier comments on same-sex marriage don’t reflect my full views on the broader issues regarding tolerance and the treatment of gays and lesbians in our society. I apologize for that and wish to state clearly my views. I oppose same-sex marriage because my father and minister brought me up to believe that marriage is an institution for the union of a man and a woman. However, I also believe that intolerance, bigotry and hatred are wrong. People should be judged based on their merits, not on their sexual orientation. We are all children of God and should be valued and respected.”

First, I have to ask how it’s possible that John Rich was brought up with the understanding that marriage is between a man and a woman, when gay marriage wasn’t even on the radar until the past few years.   I was in college by the time people started talking about it, and I’m a lot younger than John Rich.    So I don’t really buy what he’s selling there.

Second, a look back at our country’s history.  Forty years ago, the state of Virginia was actually arguing in front of the Supreme Court that interracial marriage should be a crime.   When they lost, the right of a man and woman to marry regardless of race was finally awarded to all citizens.   That was only forty years ago, friends.   What argument did the trial judge who convicted the couple eight years before that use to justify his decision to sentence them to a year in prison?  This one:

Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, Malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.

I’ll leave the debate over the sincerity of his apology and the merits of his original argument to you, readers.    I’m sure you’ll keep the conversation respectful and thoughtful.    Thanks again to Roger for tipping me off on this one.  I hope he’s right about this being a good place for a discussion of this!


  1. I think that you can be brought up with the understanding that marriage is for heterosexuals only even in a world in which gay marriage isn’t much of an issue. Homosexual relationships are certainly described in the Bible and other historical accounts and thus would have been part of Rich’s teaching if not his experiences. Furthermore, when you’re taught that something is good and pure – e.g., the love that is shared between your mother and father and similar couples – you don’t have to be exposed to every kind of perversion of that institution in order to make value judgments about practices that deviate from the norm.

    Here’s where I’ll get myself into trouble, but I have no problem with analogies between legal recognition of gay marriage and legal recognition of consanguineous marriage. The analogy has descriptive quality and isn’t bigoted per se, although it may reflect the bigotry of the speaker. The fact is that we’ve judged that relationships to be unworthy of legal recognition if not downright wrong, and at least until recent times the majority has made the same judgment about homosexual relationships. Regardless of whether or not that judgment is misguided and perverted, the analogy reveals that precedent supports the prerogative of government to extend the marriage franchise on the basis of moral judgments that may offend some groups.

    I agree with Rich that homosexual marriage is unnatural. Whether or not “unnatural” is necessarily bad and whether or not it constitutes legitimate ground for drawing legal distinctions are separate questions. However, the opinion that gay marriage is unnatural is important given that legal marriage does not intrinsically reflect the reality of the love between a couple or the sincerity of their relationship but rather guarantees simply legal privileges that we have deemed necessary in traditional marriages. The legal institution of marriage was not conceived with homosexuality in mind and extending that franchise to non-traditional relationships on the rationale that you can’t make value judgments about the love between two people certainly weakens the cases against legal recognition of things like consanguineous marriage and polygamy.

  2. All I’m going to say is that people like John Rich burn me up. I completely disagree with his statement, and cannot even understand how gay marriage is going to lead to marriage between mothers and sons or any other family members (Which is obviously wrong). That kind of thinking in my opinon is wrong. It makes it seem as though there is something sick about gay people – when they love just like straight people, when they have the same feelings and emotions as straight people do. JMO.

  3. Some form of gay marriage has been around for centuries. All a person needs to do is read a little history to know that. I’m glad you mentioned the interracial marriage decision. The definition of marriage has changed over and over throughout history. People act like it has been the same since the beginning of time and now “the gays” are threatening to destroy it. First of all, hetero marriage (interracial or not) is a disaster. The family unit has fallen apart and the divorce rate is high. How can allowing two gay people who just want to have the same rights and protections as everyone else harm anyone else’s marriage. And that’s what it’s about, equal rights. My partner and I are almost at six years and we should be allowed to have those same protections under the law. I know couples who have been together 30 and 40 years. Why is it so threatening to people like John Rich if these loving, committed folks want to be married? Massachusetts has allowed gay marriage for over three years now. Guess what? The world didn’t end. Hetero marriage didn’t fall apart. It’s no one’s business but the couple who wants to build a life together.

    The fact that he backtracked gives me even less respect for the man. And will country radio ban him and burn his records and treat him like garbage? Or is that just reserved for liberal artists who speak out? There are a lot of gay people in the music industry in Nashville including the label that has supported Big & Rich the past few years. I doubt many will speak out, but privately I bet this has left them fuming.

    I will never understand how anyone can say that gay marriage is unnatural. People are either born gay or they’re not and it’s very natural to me to want to find a soulmate and be married. But again, how this affects ANYONE who is not part of a loving gay couple is beyond me. And how dare anyone make judgments about other people’s private lives.

    Thanks for posting, Kevin.

  4. Hear hear! Great post Kevin! What’s interesting about this to me is that Rich had to make a second statement to smooth over the first, which hopefully shows that most Americans are not okay with equating homosexuality and incest.

  5. I applaud John Rich for his comments. Having an opinion based on morals and values doesn’t make one a bigot.

    RE: “I suspect that forty years from now, they’ll sound just as ridiculous to our grandchildren as Bazile does to us.”

    Speak for your own kids. I’ll raise my future children to know the difference between right and wrong, and I won’t leave it up to the left-wing media outlets (like Country Universe) and liberal politicians to do that. The only thing they will believe to be ridiculous is the society in which we live where people get stoned in the street for not being politically-correct, and forming opinions on Christian beliefs.

  6. John Rich has to have made one of the issues most respectable statements thus far. Despite his belief about marriage he still states that gays and lesbians are humans and should be treated as such and judged on the person, not the persons preferences. Similarly a person would never be judged if he was country or rap, but if he was a respectable person in their lifestyle. I myself am Catholic but I’m neutral on the subject because its not my place to tell people what to believe. John made it clear he stands the same and even though he is against it and was brought up that way it doesn’t mean his word is granite in determining the issue. he spoke his mind and made his opinion clear. John, lyrically and vocally, is one of countries most talented and influencial spokesman in my book and his delivery of his statement and the correction of any mishap that could have been takin or caused from it proves that.

  7. Dave S,

    I’m also raising my children to know the difference between right and wrong. You and I probably have different definitions of those terms. In my house, being intolerant and judgmental are filed under “wrong.” Personally, I don’t care who marries whom. It doesn’t affect me one goddamn bit.

    Then again, my kids have an interracial lesbian set of aunties they love deeply, and I’m pretty sure I couldn’t convince them it was wrong even if I thought it was.

    I’m also raising them to never listen to Big & Rich, but that’s because I want them to go to college someday.

  8. Wow, helluva topic for a Thursday.

    I think that Rich’s comment is interesting in its comparison between legalizing gay marriage and making it legal for an aunt marrying a nephew. Not that one legalization would necessitate the other, but why should one be OK and the other not? Assuming that they (the aunt and nephew) are in love, of legal consenting age, and want to spend their lives together as otherwise law-abiding, tax-paying citizens, why should they be prohibited from doing so? Scientific cautions against incestuous breeding are one thing, but what if the couple does not plan to, or is unable to produce children?

    The other aspects of this discussion are a bit too contentious for me to get into, but I think its interesting to question why a marriage would not be recognized based on the non-typical nature of the participants. Should there be a “collaborative”, wherein three or four people can enter into a marriage-type union together, and be afforded benefits and legal recognition like a married couple is?

    Interesting discussion post Kevin.

  9. Timmy Mac,

    This politically correct society can accept homosexuality and gay marriage all they want; but just because man’s laws change, doesn’t mean God’s law does.

    Good for John Rich for ‘coming out’ and sharing his opinion. I’m sick of society trying to shove homosexuality down our throats. Just because someone has a different opinion from your own, Timmy boy, doesn’t mean the person is wrong. There are plenty of us who still wish to live our lives with morals and Christian values, instead of accepting politically correct garbage society tries to feed us.

    You reject my opinion just as much as I reject the idea of gay marriage. Who’s judgemental and intolerant now? Double standard? I think so.

    And this will be the last time I visit Country Universe.

  10. Well, my hope that this would be discussed with civility has mostly come to pass, more so than I expected at least. I didn’t want to write about it all at first, but you know what? Roger Newcomb has been reading and posting here for a long time, and his point is valid: the country blogs were strangely silent on this, but it’s getting major play in the larger entertainment press. I started Country Universe because I felt that music that I liked and issues surrounding the genre were being ignored by the mainstream country music media (, Country Weekly, etc.) I wanted other people to know that there was another angle to approach the genre from.

    Since I began, there have been so many voices that have joined the conversation that I feel a real community is out there now. I’m proud of the fact that Roger thought enough of my work here to suggest that this could be a place for real discussion.

    I’m sorry that it’s made Dave S. not want to visit the site anymore (and a little excited that I’ve been elevated to left-wing media outlet status, though I don’t think a single word of that description captures what I do here). But honestly, I’d rather have a discussion that’s on the mind of a loyal reader than avoid talking about it because it might make another reader upset. I don’t censor anyone, unless they’re posting offensive things, and I don’t include opinions I strongly disagree with in that category. The beauty of dialoguing with those you disagree with is that you can come to a greater understanding of your mutual humanity, even if you walk away with the same opinions you entered the conversation with.

    Given that this issue affects Newcomb directly and personally, it’s only fair he have a place to discuss this, given that it is directly related to country music. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that those most supportive of Rich haven’t engaged one single line of Roger’s personal testimonial to why this issue matters to real people. It’s a lot harder to deny human rights to a person when you’re looking them in the eye.

  11. As a Catholic, I’m against gay marriage in a religious context, but I believe everybody should be able to get the “rights” of marriage through civil means. I’d even go farther to say that civil marriage would be a thing of the past, in favor of civil unions, with churches then allowed to decide what marriages they wanted to perform. To me, marriage IS something between a man and a woman, while anyone, gay or straight, who wants to be together civilly can do so.

  12. Kevin, which of the larger entertainment outlets are covering the story? I did a Google News search and it didn’t come back with much and we cover quite a few sites in our daily roundups, but your site was the first mention I saw about Rich’s comments. I tried finding the context in which the comments were made, but there really isn’t that much out there and a lot of the outlets have their facts screwed up.

    Brody linked to it in the roundup this morning and it’s sparked a discussion over there as well in which I’ve stated just about all I feel I should say on the subject (it’s kinda hard to elaborate in the limited context of the commenting system). Good job on covering the issue, though.

  13. Brady,

    I caught it on AOL News, highlighted in the Entertainment section. I was struck by the fact that it was being covered in a general Entertainment section but I hadn’t seen it on any country sites. I also saw it somewhere else but I don’t remember where. It might have been on the Rolling Country thread, now that I think about it. I actually forgot about it until Roger left a comment suggesting I cover it.

  14. I first saw it in Perez Hilton of all places. But I later saw it on AOL, in the USA Today and a number of other news/blog sites I visit. But just never really any commentary from the country landscape which is why I’m happy Kevin posted about it. It’s interesting to read the comments. A poll came out recently that showed that people who have friends or family who are gay have a much high acceptance rate of gays and the issues we face. It’s easy to hate something you don’t know or dismiss the rights of a huge group of people. The Bible is an easy thing to twist around. Just go visit and see the hate being spewed in the name of God. It’s sad. John Rich obviously got busted by his label and that’s why he made the second statement. There are gay people at that label, gay DJs and gay fans who were all insulted.

    I think the fact that he compared being gay to incest was a key point moreso that any belief about gay marriage. This man is a great songwriter but has quite a reputation for a lot of “unsavory” things so I was personally insulted that gays were called unssavory by him of all people.

    As for myself, I just want the right to marry my partner of many years and have all the same rights. We have built a life together but I couldn’t collect his pension or visit him in the hospital even. Some things we are taking care of through legal documents, but many rights can only come if you are married. I’ll never understand how people like Britney Spears can get married for five minutes and that is “okay” but if I want to get married for life, it is “unsavory”. :(

  15. I believe homosexuality is wrong. That doesn’t mean I hate gays, or that I am homophobic. Adultery is also wrong. War is wrong. There are lots of things that are wrong. You can know, or believe something is a sin, and still not hate. Anyone raised in a Christian home, at least in the past, was taught that homosexuality is a sin. God’s law doesn’t change. Only human’s definition of sin has changed.

  16. There was an article about it in the Tennessean, with plenty of interesting comments. I’m outside of the country news mainstream and I’ve definitely heard of it. I think it made news for one reason – Big and Rich have portrayed themselves as fairly open-minded “Love Everyone” type of people. However, the news may not have much national staying power because the general reaction has been “Oh, well that’s just country music.” To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t a Big and Rich fan before, and if I ever had any motivation to start, it’s definitely gone. What is interesting, however, is that another article in the Tennesseean, picked up by the USA Today, is saying that Big Kenny has been donating to the Democrats, and so his views may be different. I wonder how this little controversy and John’s big-time upcoming support for Fred Thompson will affect the duo…

  17. Have we become a pathetic country or what? We have soldiers dying in another country, fighting a war that most believe we shouldn’t be fighting. While on our own soil we have men, women, and children being beaten, abused, starving, murdered, etc., on a daily basis. Yet we want to spend all our energy on some statement that was made by John Rich. So what?, John opened his mouth and voiced his opinion. Who cares? We all have opinions. Most, unlike John, tend to keep them to ourselves. He has the right to say what the hell he wants, everyone does. It might not have been the best thing to say, by all means, but it is still his right. It isn’t you nor I that will have to awnser for what John Rich says or does while in the public eye, or in his personal life. It is HE and HE alone!! John is an amazing singer/songwriter/entertainer, and I refuse to let one statement made by him, change how I feel. We all make mistakes! And if you have nothing better to do then to continue bashing him, then YES!, we are a pathetic, self-centered country. We are no longer a “Love Everybody” country, we are a self -destructing country, and that is our problem!

  18. I guess I was more surprised than anything when I read John’s statements. That just reinforces the fact that we really don’t know any of the celebrities (or I should say, where they are coming from), even though we like to think we do. I am now disappointed, but I will not hold his beliefs against him in so far as listening to his music, etc. Okay, maybe it will be in the back of my mind, but I’ll try to continue to judge each song, etc. on it’s own merit. There probably wouldn’t be anyone left to listen to if we had to 100% agree with someone on everything in order to listen to them.

    Roger, I hope you can get all the legal stuff covered. I know that it is “real life” and it makes it that much harder to accomplish your goals and dreams, much less be there for your partner when he needs you. I do believe the day will come when same sex marriages and the rights that come with them will be a reality. In the meantime, I hope you can take comfort in the fact that you have that special relationship with someone. Many are not so lucky.

  19. Hey Frederick and Dave S. – news flash – God created homosexuals out of the same stuff he made the rest of us. Gay men and women are born, not made, so any negative sutff you have to say about them, you’re saying about your own Creator. People who twist religion to suit their own narrow-minded beliefs make me sick.

  20. Breckinridge –

    You’re misreading the intent of the comparison. I noted that similar religious arguments were used against both interracial marriage and gay marriage, and then added that I suspect people 40 years from now will wonder what the fuss was all about over gay marriage the way most Americans look back on interracial marriage being controversial 40 years ago.

    Given that marriage is a civil institution guided by civil laws, I find the religious arguments against gay marriage irrelevant. Any church can, of course, decide who can get married within their church. I couldn’t marry a Jewish woman in my church, but that doesn’t prevent me from marrying her civilly. Then she can make medical decisions on my behalf fifty years from now, much like my mother had to do for my father, regardless of whether or not the church thinks God views my marriage as legitimate.

  21. I am impressed with this website and the different angle that is taken from what seems to be the norm for country music. I love country music, but am uncomfortable with its tendency to have almost strictly conservative views. It’s nice to see country music fans who think outside of the confines of country music’s conservative reputation.

  22. I think his music just plain sucks, and I’m sorry he’s getting this publicity.

    to all on this discussion, one of these days somebody is gonna steal your phone, or hit your car and not have insurance, or whatever, and all of a sudden you’re gonna stand up and say ‘hey that’s not right!’ and you will have discovered relativism. If two guys can marry and it’s ok for some, then I can steal your phone or cut you off in traffic, because it’s all just my opinion of what I THINK is right, right?

    His music still sucks. Stupid, and not even close to country. It just plain sucks

  23. Politics aside, John Rick is a huge jerk. I saw him in concert earlier this year and was disgusted with the way he was treating audience members.

    As far as his statement on homosexual marriage goes – why say something like that in the first place if you’re just going to turn around and apologize for it? It’s obvious that his pea-brain can’t understand the difference between homosexuality and incest, so one would wonder why he’s even allowed on talk radio.

  24. There are a few things I find disconcerting here. #1 is that the RAYBAW imprint over at Warner Bros. Nashville that John is involved with is named RAYBAW (red and yellow blcak and white) to convey tolerance among human beings, as evident in the fact that Muzik Mafia includes folks like Cowboy Troy and Damien Horne.

    #2 – Isn’t “Lost in This Moment,” aside from being a great wedding song for straight couples, perhaps the one true Gay marriage anthem? I mean, how many wedding songs feature two male vocalists harmonizing their love to one another as this song does. I’m not suggesting that Big Kenny and John Rich are anything but heterosexual, but seriously, most duets of this nature feature a man and a woman vocalist declaring their love for one another, not two males. Considering John’s statement I think some Gay DJ ought to do a house remix of “Lost in This Moment” and take ownership of the song as a gay marriage anthem to give John his comeuppance for his absurd statements on this issue.

  25. i agree with john it is a little cooky i love big and richs music and i really love lost in this moment i know that is not gay they are a male group deal with it

  26. Dude – I’m not saying Big & Rich are gay, and I know “Lost in This Moment” is a song about marriage. and if you can get behind John Rich’s point of view on gay marriage, then I’m not gonna be the guy to convince you otherwise… but I disagree with you.

    And because I disagree with you, and believe that there’s nothing wrong with the concept of gay marriage, I can also then classify “Lost in This Moment,” as performed by Big & Rich (or anyone else for that matter), as a marriage song which can be an integral part of any couple’s marriage celebration and memories, straight or gay. I just think it would be ironic, and just desserts, if the gay community flipped the script and declared Big & Rich’s version of the song as their gay marriage anthem.

  27. Leave John Rich the hell alone, you jerk. What is wrong with you “emporer’s new clothes” subscribers?! It is intrinisically unnatural for people of hte same sex to untie and absurd to try and argue otherwise. Face reality; he is just expressing what most people are natrually inclined to understand through reason and a conscience. To try and defend the unnaturalness otherwise is to deny, well reality!

  28. What’s “unnatural” for you is not always “unnatural” for others. What’s absurd is that you want to sit there and pretend that you know what you’re talking about, yet you can’t write in any sort of correct English. “Face reality; he is just expressing what most people are natrually inclined to understand through reason and a conscience.” – Reason and/or conscience has NOTHING to do with you Repubes, so don’t try to claim otherwise. Reason is something you religious-right nuts are very uncomfortable with, so why then would you claim to use reason to support your narrow-minded theory? That’s right, because you AGREE with John Rich “The Bitch,” but I have news for you; that doesn’t make it right. “To try and defend the unnaturalness otherwise is to deny, well reality!” – Look who’s talking, I’m sorry have you ever SEEN God; then he doesn’t exist. YOU come to terms with reality then maybe you would have the right to FORCE your OPINIONS on other people, but until then shut up!

    To the rest of you dopey homophobe apologists, quit claiming that he doesn’t “hate gays.” The Country Music Industry is BUILT on homophobia, racism, and exploitation of national tragedies and the military, not to mention all that drinking. It’s a well-known fact that the majority of Country Music (performers and fans) believe in the same things, which more often than not happens to be the bible and they take said bible literally, which isn’t how it’s supposed to be used. If you don’t believe in the same things then you get boycotted, harassed, stalked, and have death threats sent against you like the Dixie Chicks. The same people that are kissing John Rich “The Bitch’s” ass right now are the same brainless twits that vilified the Dixie Chicks, gee and people wonder why Republicans are called hypocrites.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.