NOM’s Gallagher: “Don’t Call Me a Bigot!”

Maggie Gallagher is finally getting it — and she doesn’t like it.

The National Organization for Marriage leader is just now realizing that those who oppose marriage equality will be defeated when they are finally painted as bigots for believing same-sex marriage is not morally on par with heterosexual marriage.

“And if you see a difference, there is something wrong with you,” Gallagher said. “You are like a bigot who is opposed to interracial marriage. If you want to know how same-sex marriage is going to affect traditional believers, mainstream Christians and other faith communities, ask yourself how do we treat racists who are opposed to interracial marriage in the public square.”

Speaking in Salt Lake City this week, she complained about the “relentless torrent of accusations and hatred against anyone who speaks, no matter how civilly, for marriage.”

One of those “torrent[s] of… hatred” happened recently as Gallagher testified before a House committee on the Defense of Marriage Act. GetEqual cornered Gallagher in the hallway on the way to the hearing to give her an “Anita Bryant Bigotry Award” for “her work to undermine and overturn progress toward recognizing LGBT Americans as human beings,” the certificate read.

Gallagher calmly accepted the “award” — verbally sparring a bit with the presenter — who was later accused of being on “the hating side” on the NOM blog. GetEqual has promised to deliver the cream pie part of the award at a later date — harkening back to the “pieing” of Bryant. I realize Gallagher believes she is speaking out “civilly” against marriage equality, but whenever she tries to make her point — she does sound, if not bigoted, at least ill-informed about the reality of the modern family.

Gallagher tries to paint herself as someone who doesn’t hate gay people — not at all. Instead, she’s simply concerned about the institution of marriage. She sees marriage’s main purpose as procreation — or bringing mothers and fathers together to raise children. Of course, if this is the main purpose of marriage, it would stand to reason that Gallagher should also vehemently oppose the marriage of the elderly or other infertile couples — or those who don’t want children — since this defeats the purpose of bringing mothers and fathers together to create new babies even more than marriage equality.

If viewed simply as creating and sustaining families, it would seem to me that supporting the union of gays and lesbians in marriage would only serve to strengthen the institution. Right now, it’s estimated that between 6 to 14 million children in the United States are being raised by gay or lesbian parents. Many of these children were born in previous heterosexual relationships, but many others were born to two women or two men in much the same way infertile couples conceive — by in vitro fertilization or by surrogacy or donors. In addition, an estimated 65,500 adopted children are living with a lesbian or gay parent. Gallagher would not begrudge heterosexual couples the opportunity to conceive artificially, or by a surrogacy, or to adopt — but would deny such methods of parenting to gay or lesbian parents.

It’s not because gay and lesbian parents make lousy parents. Study after study has shown that gays and lesbians raise well—adjusted children. “It’s more about the quality of the parenting than the gender of the parents,” said one researcher, Judith Stacey of New York University told USA Today.

But, in Gallagher’s world, only a man and woman will do as parents, even though that “gold standard” of “God’s plan” for families is dwindling as divorce rates grow. What Gallagher fails to get is this: Gay and lesbian people don’t want to change the definition of marriage, or spit in God’s face, or paint their opponents as evil. Gay people simply want the legal protection that the civil contract of marriage offers to protect their children, and the lives they have built with their partners.

Under the law, I can build a lifelong relationship with my partner, have children, buy property in common, and do everything other married people do. But, when one of us dies, we are strangers under the law. The custody of the children is up for grabs, perhaps by parents or grandparents who disapproved of the relationship. Our property is up for grabs, usually by greedy family members who smell quick money from estates. Our government refuses to give us benefits like Social Security survivors benefits because we are not legally married. The march for marriage equality has absolutely nothing to do with God, with the church, or with demonizing Christians or the church, or curtailing the rights of the church grant or deny marriage rites to whomever it wishes. Churches do no marry couples — the government does — and denying gays and lesbians equal access to a government contract is discrimination, plain and simple.

To Gallagher, my marriage to my wife is morally suspect. That’s okay. She’s welcome to her belief. I believe the marriage of Newt Gingrich to his several wives are morally suspect as well — but that doesn’t give me the right to deny him the right to marry and divorce as many women as he pleases, even though I believe such acts degrade the institution of marriage.

Gallagher is wrong, however, to assert that she is being painted as a bigot by some hateful cabal of gay and lesbian operatives. Instead, she is simply discovering herself on the wrong side of history as the world begins to understand how ridiculous it is to bar two consenting, unrelated, adults from forming a civil contract called marriage. A new CNN poll shows 51% of Americans believe gays and lesbians should be allowed to marry. No one has to call Gallagher a bigot or shove her to the margins. By clinging to her outmoded ideas about marriage and morality — she’s the one painting herself into a tiny corner of history.

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