Unsurprisingly, Maggie Gallagher (Redefinition Revolution, National Review Online) is spouting off about how awful it is that two men can now go to California and get married. (Though the first marriage in California was between two women who had been partners for 55 years, Maggie makes no reference to this: it doesn’t fit her paradigm of “gay marriage”, and as her meltdown on The Volokh Conspiracy three years ago demonstrated, she is simply not capable of fact-based arguments for or against same-sex marriage.)
Let’s be clear; opponents of same-sex marriage are homophobic. There’s no reason to oppose lesbian and gays having the legal right to marry, but the belief that it’s wrong for LGBT people to have the same civil rights as heterosexuals: and that is a homophobic belief.
The justifications for why it’s “wrong” are all illogical. Maggie begins her argument with “Gay men are promiscuous!” (Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon points out that if consensual promiscuity were a reason for banning marriage for all, straight marriage has to be banned too.) In part of course Maggie is just presenting a naively homophobic argument – it’s okay for straights to get married even though some of them will be openly polyamorous within marriage, but gays have all got to behave far better than straights if they want to be “permitted” the right. But mostly, I think Maggie begins her argument with this because she wants to summon the familiar prejudices against gay men, and “they’re all promiscuous!” is certainly one of them.
Moving on to Maggie’s next “point”, she mentions:
Same-sex marriages are tailing off rapidly, after what the New York Times describes as “an initial euphoric rush to the altar.” In Massachusetts, that rush included residents of other states — as indicated by the New York Times headline of May 18, 2004: “Despite Uncertainties, Out-of-Staters Line Up to Marry.” The latest data indicate that 867 gay weddings took place in Massachusetts in the first eight months of 2007, down from 6,121 gay weddings in the first six months of 2004.
This is the same pattern seen in other jurisdictions where same-sex marriage has been allowed.
Yes, Maggie, it is. And a little thought – or even a little examination of the marriages taking place in the first few months – would tell you why this pattern is common to all countries and states where same-sex marriage, or civil union equal to marriage. Because couples who have been together for decades, who have committed their lives to each other, who are given the chance to marry, will do so. Immediately.
Once all the couples who have been waiting for ten, twenty, forty years to be able to marry are married, of course there’s an apparent fall in the marriage rate. There is no more backlog, so the marriage rate steadies to a normal rate.
I noted in a post I just recently republished from GJ that opposing same-sex marriage is in general tied in with racism and sexism (Why do people get so panicky about falling birthrates?), so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Maggie Gallagher is dismissive of Mildred Loving (Mildred: “I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people civil rights.” Maggie, dismissively: “if the word ‘marriage’ can be redefined as a civil-rights imperative”).
By the end of her rant, though, Maggie has moved on to the Christian platform: not the platform of this kind of evangelical Christian, but the Christianity of the Gay Hatin’ Gospel, that believes homophobia is central to Christianity and asserts that anti-gay discrimination, persecution, and bullying are Christian activities: therefore interference with a Christian’s discrimination against LGBT people is a threat to religious freedom.
That’s what Maggie means when she writes:
Many of the harshest legal conflicts could be alleviated with religious-exemption legislation. But gay-marriage advocates will fight those religious exemptions tooth and nail (as they did in Massachusetts when the Catholic Church asked for one for Catholic Charities) because, they will say, it’s the principle of the thing: We wouldn’t give a religious-liberty exemption to a racist, so why should someone who opposes gay marriage get one?
Conservative gay-marriage advocates like Andrew Sullivan may well tut tut that they don’t really agree with, say, kicking Catholic Charities out of the adoption business. If it were left it up to guys like them, they probably would not do it. But it won’t be left up to them (and they can hardly be expected to fall on their swords to prevent it either.)
No “gay marriage advocates” agreed with “kicking Catholic Charities out of the adoption business”. None whatsoever. It wasn’t any gay marriage advocate that ordered Catholic Charities out of the adoption business: it was Sean Cardinal O’Malley, who considered that promoting Catholic doctrine that same-sex couples can’t be good parents was more important that allowing Catholic Charities to continue to find good parents – gay or straight – to care for children in need.
Maggie appears to lay blame for the closure of Catholic Charities, not where it rightly belongs, but on the anti-discrimination laws that the Catholic Church decided they did not want Catholic Charities to obey. This is a fairly standard way of thinking for bigots: they see as the “problem” the anti-discrimination laws that check what they find “natural”, discrimination against their object of bigotry. A bigot who can self-identify as a bigot is at least halfway to being able to quit bigotry: the nature of bigotry is the conviction that the negative feelings the bigot has for X (black people, women, LGBT people) are the natural and normal way to feel.
Religious belief is no excuse for extra-religious persecution. The Catholic Church has a right to decree that no Catholic priest is allowed to be openly gay – that from now on they will ordain self-hating complete closet cases only, because they want no more priests like Mychal Judge, they only want priests like these men. That’s religious business. The Catholic Church has a right to order their priests not to marry in church two people who aren’t able to conceive children together: that’s religious business. (Catholics may well argue that they want their Church to change, to cease to persecute even on religious grounds, but they have the right.)
In the Torah, in the same book and chapter as the Mosaic law against a man lying down with another man, the law says that a devout Jew may not eat meat cooked in the milk of its mother (the law that became the rule against mixing dairy and meat at meals); may not eat meat from a pig, or shellfish, or crustaceans. All of these things are abominations. A school which provides lunches for children would be engaging in (as Maggie says) “the official harassment and repression of traditional religious faiths” if it required all children to eat a set meal which included beef and cheese, or bacon. The solution is not to require the school to provide kosher food for all children, Jewish and gentile: nor to demand that Jewish parents send their children to school with a packed lunch if they want their children to respect religious dietary restrictions. The obvious, practical, respectful solution is to provide food choices, clearly labeled, so that all children can have a decent meal without offending against their family’s religious traditions.
Maggie Gallagher’s argument, like many another anti-marriage nutter’s, is that it is “harassment and repression” not only to have the kosher options available in the canteen, but to ensure that the kids who choose the kosher options aren’t then discriminated against for their choices.
She’s oddly open about it:
The architects of this strategy have targeted marriage because it stands in the way of the America they want to create: They hope to use the law to reshape the culture in exactly the same way that the law was used to reshape the culture of the old racist south.
Exactly. Just as legislation forcing bigots to refrain from racist discrimination and persecution reshaped American culture: just as the legal right for couples like Richard and Mildred Loving to marry and have their marriage recognised reshaped personal and social reactions to “interracial marriage”: so too will legislation forcing bigots to refrain from homophobic discrimination and persecution reshape American culture, so too will the legal right of George Takei and Brad Altman to marry, along with so many other happy couples who have been together for years and decades, reshape personal and social reactions to “homosexual marriage”.
And Maggie Gallagher thinks this is a bad thing. Maggie argues that homophobia is a necessary, essential part of US culture: that if same-sex couples get married, this will do a great deal to reshape US culture away from homophobia: and that therefore same-sex marriage must be opposed. (No wonder Maggie dismisses the Loving arguments so contemptuously: her side lost the racist argument in the old south – the law changed, and America culture changed with it and because of it.)
“The meaning of marriage” to Maggie Gallagher is not loving or human: she sees marriage as an instrument to enforce bigotry, to oppose equality. She really is redefining marriage.