Jesurgislac’s Journal

June 18, 2008

Maggie Gallagher redefines marriage

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.

13 Comments »

  1. Our esteemed hostess wrote:

    Though the first marriage in California was between two women who had been partners for 55 years

    I’d suggest that “the first marriage in California” was between a man and a woman, many, many years ago.

    Comment by Dana — June 18, 2008 @ 2:13 pm | Reply

  2. You have problems reading for context, Dana? Ah well.

    Comment by jesurgislac — June 18, 2008 @ 2:15 pm | Reply

  3. RE: “The Catholic Church has a right to order their priests not to marry (same sex couples): that’s religious business. (Catholics may well argue that they want their Church to change, to cease to persecute…)”

    In fact, two-thirds of U.S. Catholics-in-the-pews reject the Roman hierarchy’s self-loathing, homophobic views, according to numerous surveys. About one-third support full marriage rights both civilly and within the church, while another third support civil unions. This roughly reflects overall US public opinion.

    Most US Catholics agree with our dear Father Mychal Judge, “the Saint of 9/11”, who often asked, “Is there so much love in the world that we can afford to discriminate against any kind of love ?!” Fr. Mychal also advised us, “Don’t let the (institutional) church get in the way of your relationship with God.”

    See:

    http://SaintMychalJudge.blogspot.com

    RE: Catholic Charities of Boston abandoned the adoption business rather than comply with state anti-discrimination laws.

    You’re absolutely correct to say that Cardinal Sean O’Malley, not the state, made this decision. Two more important points on this —

    First, the Board of Catholic Charities had voted unanimously to comply with state law and not bar qualified gay couples from adopting. The board was made up of child welfare professionals as well as pastoral priests. O’Malley overrode the Board’s decision. For the Roman hierarchy, homophobic ideology trumps the welfare of children.

    Second, Catholic Charities adoption services were funded by *state money,* so the state had every right to regulate how its money was spent. If Catholic Charities was completely self-funded, they may not have been required to comply with state law. Again, ideology trumped the welfare of children.

    But, “Whoever shall offend one of these little ones who believes in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matt 18 )

    Comment by J.M. Kelley — June 18, 2008 @ 2:51 pm | Reply

  4. In fact, two-thirds of U.S. Catholics-in-the-pews reject the Roman hierarchy’s self-loathing, homophobic views, according to numerous surveys. About one-third support full marriage rights both civilly and within the church, while another third support civil unions. This roughly reflects overall US public opinion.

    Thank you for the reminder, and for the link to the Mychal Judge website.

    I’m an atheist, but I admire Mychal Judge wholeheartedly: he was a thoroughly splendid human being.

    Comment by jesurgislac — June 18, 2008 @ 3:05 pm | Reply

  5. J M Kelley wrote:

    In fact, two-thirds of U.S. Catholics-in-the-pews reject the Roman hierarchy’s self-loathing, homophobic views, according to numerous surveys. About one-third support full marriage rights both civilly and within the church, while another third support civil unions. This roughly reflects overall US public opinion.

    The Catholic Church is not an organization which can compel either membership or attendance. If people disagree with Church teachings, they are perfectly free to change denominations, or choose no church at all.

    Comment by Dana — June 18, 2008 @ 5:11 pm | Reply

  6. If people disagree with Church teachings, they are perfectly free to change denominations, or choose no church at all.

    Or, as you have done, Dana, pick and choose which bits of the teachings of the Church you’re going to follow.

    I doubt there are very many Catholics in the US who are devout followers of the whole of the teachings of the Church: whether Republican Catholics who support the Iraq war, or Catholic women who use birth control, or any Catholic who supports human rights deciding that regardless of what the Pope says they’re going to continue supporting Amnesty International… Not to mention, of course, the many Catholics who profoundly oppose the teachings of the Church on behaving with inhumanity and cruelty towards LGBT people.

    Comment by jesurgislac — June 18, 2008 @ 6:22 pm | Reply

  7. Dana said — “… If people disagree with Church teachings, they are perfectly free to change denominations, or choose no church at all.”

    We Catholics also have a third option: to remain in the Church and to disagree with certain teachings which are against conscience.

    This principle of *primacy of conscience* is not new. Specifically refuting the claim that one must always obey church authority, St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, “It is better to die excommunicated than to violate one’s conscience.”

    On the question of same-gender marriage, Rome and the bishops simply don’t speak for the Ecclesia, the full Church. And we the dissenting Ecclesia aren’t going away.

    Comment by J.M. Kelley — June 18, 2008 @ 9:49 pm | Reply

  8. Good post jesurgislac.

    Maggie seems to be really obsessed with the “sex makes babies” mantra. She revealed why when debated Dale Carpenter at the Cato Institute back in 2006. We reported on it here:

    http://www.equalityloudoun.org/?p=337

    “Maggie Gallagher told her personal story at the Cato Institute forum in June. It seems that she had premarital sex, was impregnated, and was unable to convince the father to marry her. Her feeling of victimization as a single mother is what drives her mission to return the institution of marriage to its former role as authoritarian regulator of all sexuality. If same sex couples are denied the dignity and security of legal recognition, and GLBT people are demonized in the process, that’s just collateral damage…”

    Comment by Jonathan — June 19, 2008 @ 3:11 am | Reply

  9. Jonathan, I somehow doubt Maggie Gallagher’s motives are as simple or one-off as you describe. Or even as she describes it.

    She’s a political campaigner for “family values”. But at some point, when she got pregnant, she decided to have the baby, – and to keep her daughter, instead of giving the baby up for adoption. That decision goes against what she now campaigns for. Naturally, she’s got to present it in negative terms now. But I no more believe it than I believe the pro-life women who have abortions and then invite themselves back into the pro-life fold by talking about their decision to have an abortion in the most negative terms possible.

    She’s a seasoned political campaigner and writer. What she told the Cato Institute in June two years ago would have been planned and calculated, not a spontaneous outpouring of personal motivation.

    But I agree that demonization of LGBT people is just collateral damage from the anti-marriage campaigners – what they want is unequal marriage. Where there is no gender difference in rights, obligations, and responsibilities between either partner in marriage, there is no reason not to have full marriage equality and include LGBT people. Feminism is the enemy: LGBT equality the first casualty.

    Comment by jesurgislac — June 19, 2008 @ 8:28 am | Reply

  10. “Feminism is the enemy: LGBT equality the first casualty.”

    Jesurgislac,
    While I enjoyed and agreed with your article, I must disagree with this statement. Feminism is about choice. Women (and all people) should have the choice to marry or not marry. Marriage should not be based on economics or societal pressure. Marriage should be about love. Feminists have supported the LGBT cause for years and will continue to do so. We are fighting the same enemy. We are fighting those that would place us in little generalized boxes and deny us our choices. We are all in this together.

    Comment by Robin — June 19, 2008 @ 3:00 pm | Reply

  11. Robin, since I agree with everything you said, I’m really not certain why you think you’re disagreeing with me.

    I do see misogyny as the root cause of opposition to LGBT equality (the gendered nature of attacks on gay men and lesbians to my mind makes that clear). But I don’t think it’s worth quarrelling about; we are on the same side.

    Comment by jesurgislac — June 19, 2008 @ 3:06 pm | Reply

  12. Robin, In a round about way, jesurgislac is stating the obvious. Misogyny and homophobia are twin brothers. Scratch a homophobe, you’ll find someone who doesn’t believe in equality for women, whether he/she realizes it or not.

    Comment by Jason — June 19, 2008 @ 10:13 pm | Reply

  13. […] past posts on the claims by Maggie Gallagher and her nommy crew, see Maggie Gallagher redefines marriage, They’re trying to ‘protect marriage’ with this dreck?, and, for the benefit of […]

    Pingback by Maggie Gallagher says NOM « Jesurgislac’s Journal — April 10, 2009 @ 12:26 pm | Reply


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