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08/01/2014

Maggie Gallagher's latest shows what a disservice she did to the *civil* marriage debate

by Jeremy Hooper

If there's any name that modern Americans associate with the wrong side of the marriage equality debate, it's Maggie Gallagher. She will likely go down in history as the most prominent face of that cause. Maggie got there early and she was really loud about it. The National Organization For Marriage co-founder essentially shaped the talking points that the "protect marriage" movement uses to this day.

And as I knew then, Maggie's advocacy and overall view on marriage was largely guided by the fact that she, like most everyone involved at NOM, is a deeply devout Roman Catholic. In her latest column for National Review, which she titles "Why Catholic Marriage Matters" and in which she argues that divorce and remarriage is a sin, Maggie makes this very canonical root very apparent:

What brought me back to faith was when I really heard, for the first time, the Catholic teaching on marriage: not that divorce was wrong, but that it was impossible. Marriage changes reality, and it changes the identity of the people who enter it.

I was hungry for this, personally. Just as my son’s birth transformed me into a mother, a new identity that I could never relinquish, I wanted my future marriage to transform me into a wife, to have a relationship with my husband at least as real and as life-transforming as that which made me a mother. (I can imagine bringing the civil authorities in to protect me or my son from me, in some extreme circumstances, but I can never imagine that I could become “not his mother” — not called to find a way to love him, and to restore the relationship, if possible).

In our whole postmodern culture, the only visible witness to the reality of the connectedness between sex and babies, between love, mothers, and fathers, that I saw was the Catholic Church. And so I signed up.

FULL: Why Catholic Marriage Matters [NRO]

It's pretty clear that if Maggie had never come back to the Catholic church (her mom left it when she was a kid), then she never would have taken on this pet cause. It's possible that she would have gotten involved, but it's not probable. Maggie makes it clear that her views on marriage—from who can enter it, how two people conduct themselves within it, and how they dissolve it (if they even can)—are much more informed by the confessional than they are by the constitution.

So much of what those of us who have had the focused conversation about civil marriage equality have had to take on and refute has been a wholly (and hole-y) faith-driven viewpoint that movement masterminds like Maggie—and Robert George and Brian Brown and Salvatore Cordileone and Ryan T. Anderson and...—then back up and reshape into something they think they can sell to the public. They sell special exceptions for tax-subsidized Catholic adoption agencies as "religious freedom;" sell resistance to fair employment protections as "coercion;" they sell the denial of thousands of state and federal rights to certain couples, many with children, as "protecting marriage and family." But no matter the packaging, it's always a religious view. It's a moral stance. It's a personally-held conviction that they, the ones who choose to subscribe to a certain orthodoxy, then pit against the shared public policy of a nation with supposedly distinct lines between church and state. And increasingly, with Bishops acting like lobbyists and the NOM that Maggie co-founded pretty much operating as a wing of the Vatican, it's a very Catholic view.

In essence, marriage inequality doyenne Maggie and her merry band of devotees have demanded—stealthily and strategically—that we all give currency to specific convictions that may or may not have any weight within our life. And worse yet? They love to accuse us of only thinking of ourselves.

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