Friday, February 10, 2012

The Messed up Mind of Maggie Gallagher

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is a shady group that operates as a front for big money opposed to marriage equality. They have deep links to the conservative wing of the Roman Catholic church (e.g., here and here). Yes, the irony abounds given the majority of Catholics are supportive of marriage equality.

As we make steady progress towards equality, NOM becomes increasingly less about “marriage” and more about demonizing and dehumanizing gay people, telling lies and relying on hysteria and junk science (e.g., here.)

All this as an intro to Salon's illuminating profile about the founder of NOM, Maggie Gallagher.

It seems Maggie Gallagher’s obsession with marriage comes from the fact that she bore a child out of wedlock when at Yale, and the father refused to marry her. In a classic example of transference, she has become a primary culture warrior against gay equality. To her gay people marrying is THE cause of family failure: not divorce, not casual sex, not quickie marriages without counseling, not high rates of childbearing out of wedlock, not a crisis in poor communities. It’s the audacity of gay couples asserting a right to be together.

Barely half of the people in the US are married. Those with education are much more likely to be married . Indeed, those awful blue state liberals turn out to be the real social conservatives, with a high rate of marriage and low rates of unmarried parenting (e.g., here ). But the biggest threat to marriage is arguably the economy, as marriage rates collapse in the economically disadvantaged.

Nevermind all this. Maggie Gallagher blames “Teh Gay”. And regardless of facts or experience, she will continue to oppose our marriages because it's all our fault that there are children out of wedlock.

In her forthcoming book, she writes that “including same-sex unions in the legal category of ‘marriage’ will necessarily change the public meaning of marriage for the entire society in ways that must make it harder for marriage to perform its core civil functions over time.” How do we know? We just do.

And even if somehow the evidence showed, conclusively, that same-sex marriage were good for children? Gallagher would still be dissatisfied: “Nothing could make me call a same-sex couple a marriage, because that’s not what I believe a marriage is.” (Salon)
THe illogic of this is so noticeable, the author stresses it again.
She is asserting what to her is a timeless social fact: that institutions and norms are delicate, and that if you mess with them — say, by expanding the definition of marriage — bad things are likely to happen.

There is an obvious problem with this sort of argumentation: it is not really susceptible to evidence. Gallagher is unwilling to make any predictions of what doom will befall families after the legalization of same-sex marriage. She just has faith that marriage, the central institution of good child-rearing, will be weakened if same-sex couples are allowed its prestige and protections.(Salon)
Over at Andrew Sullivan’s blog, Patrick Appel comments about this unwillingness to be moved by evidence
Gallagher's declaration that her mind cannot be changed is the statement of a fundamentalist. There is no greater sin against open debate than to preemptively seal oneself off from evidence.
He goes on,
Before gay marriage was legal anywhere, arguments for or a gainst it were mostly based on first principles and theoretical conjectures. Now that there are real-world examples of same-sex marriages, evidence-based arguments for or against equality are possible. Opponents of equality retreat to first-principles arguments because the facts are increasingly stacked against them.

Political opinions are not science, but they can be informed by science. Gallagher's fact-resistant opinion has almost nothing to do with gays themselves. Her opposition is rooted in theology and was likely reinforced by personal longings for a nuclear family.
So, conservative Roman Catholic, carrying around a huge level of guilt for her own perceived failure, and transfers all of that onto gay couples. Apparently, outside of this issue, she can be a warm person, but it's as though she has this blind spot that she so casually dehumanizes us and our relationships. (Interestingly, her son does not agree with her--he's in theatre, and must have many gay friends who are being deeply injured by his mother's activism.) She really has an almost unnatural ability to view us as deeply "other" so that she hurts us and doesn't really care or notice that it's real people she's hurting!
At one point, breaking from my script of questions, I interrupted her to ask if, despite all of her fears about same-sex marriage, she didn’t find it heartwarming to see those pictures of joyous gay couples in Massachusetts or Iowa or California, crying and hugging as they celebrated their marriages. Before answering, she takes a long pause, the only long pause of our conversation. “Am I happy for them?” she finally says. “That’s a tough question. I like to see people happy. It’s better than seeing people sad. So yes, I am happy for them. But I am sad. But I am not sad because they are happy.” (Salon)
Maggie Gallagher opposes marriage of gay people because she thinks children should be raised by a man and a woman. And even though marriage is not required for procreation, even though procreation is not required in marriage, even though the fight for marriage equality says nothing about raising children, even though denying us marriage in California has, as the recent decision points out, absolutely no effect on child-rearing in a legal sense, even though all this:
Maggie Gallagher opposes letting two men marry because one man walked out on her.

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