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Yes, marriage means something, Maggie -- and you are not its overlord

by Jeremy Hooper

In what is pretty much a same ol', same ol' syndicated column, Maggie Gallagher writes one thing that allows for at least a semi-unique reply:

Yes, marriage means something. That is why voters who have no interest in keeping two gay men from visiting each other in a hospital room, want to protect the meaning of the word marriage, including sustaining its deep roots in human nature.
Maggie's syndicated column --2/15/12]

The semi-unique "in" I see is in the area of intent. Desire. The reality that transcends any one voter's intent and instead depends on the clarified reality of the day. The dangerous effects that Maggie is fomenting, whether she wants to or not. It's not something we'e discussed so much in the past, so let's do it now.

Unsurprisingly and perhaps even understandably, Maggie frames the above quote through her own lens. Her prevailing interest is in denying that her movement is Screen Shot 2012-02-17 At 1.23.32 Pmmotivated by animus. Or not only in denying animus, in fact, but in actually flipping the script so that equality activists are positioned as the ones who are showing hostility to her "team." Since Prop 8, that script-flip has been Maggie's major goal, running neck-and-neck with the overarching goal of "marriage protection" itself. So that's what she's doing here: Looking at those who vote against same-sex marriage without actually wanting to deny gay people of things like hospital visitation.

But the thing is, even if that were the prevailing mindset on the other side -- and seeing what I see every day, I sadly cannot in good conscience say that it is the majority view -- that desire would not lessen the ill effects that inequality in the law and culture brings to same-sex couples and their families. The reality is that the ongoing "culture war" against LGBT people and their rights creates a whole slew of inadequacies that make life harder for certain kinds of citizens. In some places, this is more of a cultural or psychological thing, with the greater fear in terms of something like hospital visitation being the askance looks or hostile comments that certain members of this still not-always-so-accepting society of ours have decided to foster. But in other places, the "culture war" climate has led to flat-out denials in policy. In some states, something as taken-for-granted as being allowed at your loved one's hospital bedside is still very much a fight. And for all of us gay folk, married or not, federal inadequacies are constantly thrown in our face in a number of different ways.

Yes, marriage means something -- Maggie's right about that. But she's wrong in suggesting that it's meaning should be denied to certain kinds of taxpayers, or in thinking that her side gets to determine when and where we gay folk get treated fairly. The truth is that marriage's full breadth of meaning cannot be replicated by another kind of system, a separate word, or whatever decided-upon bone the "protect marriage" crowd deems qualified same-sex couples of receiving in a given state at a given time. I'm willing to take Maggie on her word that she, personally, has no interest in denying me certain rights and processions. But as I make my way through this world, it's not Maggie Gallagher's personal stamp of approval that is going to help me and my husband preserve and protect our bond to each other and our eventual child(ren). Although sadly, her personal career choice does plenty to threaten the same.

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