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'The newly stigmatized' Maggie Gallagher

by Jeremy Hooper

More than just about anyone else who works in the "pro-family" movement, Maggie Gallagher is determined to sell the flawed, offensive, and incredibly entitled idea that it's worse to be called out for your anti-gay activism, your lobbying against civil rights, or your flouting of nondiscrimination law, etc., than it is to actually do those things. I first noticed it right after Proposition 8 passed and Maggie started going around warning that people might someday view her actions against same-sex marriage in an unfavorable light, and she started using words like "blacklist" and "McCarthyism" and "jihad" to refer to consumers who chose to stay away from businesses that go against their civil rights. Maggie took on this new cause as sort of next phase for her side, and she is largely behind the mutant strain of self-victimization that has now come to define the anti-equality cause.

Now that her attempts to stop marriage equality have largely lost and the US Supreme Court seems poised to deal that pro-discrimination movement its biggest blow yet, Maggie is pleading (her word) with likely swing vote Justice Anthony Kennedy to not interpret the US Constitution as granting full parity to qualified same-sex couples who wish to marry. Maggie's main reason? It'll make it tougher for people who think like her to keep thinking like her:

Screen Shot 2015-05-01 At 1.14.35 PmThe LGBT community has built a powerful cultural, legal, and political movement. They are not helpless or friendless. They do not need you to distort the Constitution to win the right to live as they choose. We who believe in the traditional understanding of marriage do need your help. We live at a time when our livelihoods are under new attack, when our standing as equal citizens is under attack, when the system of ideas and the deep human realities that gave rise to marriage for millennia are now being dismissed as mere bigotry, as irrational, incomprehensible hatred.
A Letter to Justice Anthony Kennedy [National Review]

It is the sort of thinking that could only come from a movement as entitled as the one that fights us. More and more over the decade that I've done this kind of work, I've come to realize that the opposition movement, in general, truly does believe that they always get to have the upper hand over us. They truly believe that there is some sort of secret script that mandates their dominance in this world that we all share. Their driving narrative is one that leaves no possibility for their own wrongness or our own peace of mind. It's always about them and what our lives and loves and families and rights supposedly mean for them.

No, "livelihoods are not under attack" because of same-sex marriage. It only feels that way to the opposition movement because they keep lying to people and telling them they have right to ignore nondiscrimination laws that they do not favor, legal marriages that they do not wish to honor, and certain duties of their jobs (e.g. issuing marriage licenses to qualified same-sex couples) that they feel they shouldn't have to perform. The anti-LGBT movement is pushing a huge lie that has turned fair compliance into some sort of undue burden. The only "attack" is coming from them, against reality.

No, no one's "standing as equal citizens is under attack." There is not one citizen who resides in any of the nearly forty marriage equality states in our nation who is any less of a citizen than he or she was on the day before his or her state received the blessing of equality. Once again, it only feels that way the anti-equality far-right because they believe that reality bends around whatever their press releases or commentary pieces demand. So yes, if they paint same-sex couples' fair inclusion as an "attack," then they might feel under newfound pressure. But that's on them. The problem is with their flawed conceit, not any happily married gay person's doing.

And when it comes to Maggie's claim that "the system of ideas and the deep human realities that gave rise to marriage for millennia are now being dismissed as mere bigotry, as irrational, incomprehensible hatred."? A few things. One, marriage has meant many different things over time, so stop with the fairy tale that marriage is and has always been a TV sitcom portrait frozen in time between 1950 and 1966. Two, if the "system of ideas and the deep human realities" are ones that exclude the clear and present reality of gay people, those those were not "human realities;" human reality is not purely heterosexual. And third, no, most rational people are not demanding that every single person who still stops short of full marriage equality is seething in bigotry or hatred. Some are and some aren't. But what they all are is wrong on this issue, at least when it comes to the civil licensing aspect.

The reason Maggie has to claim that people like me cannot exist without reducing our oppositional voices as being driven by "bigotry, as irrational, incomprehensible hatred" is because she cannot admit that her movement's ideas—ideas she very much helped develop, let's always remember—have simply lost out in the public square. Increasingly, people like Maggie like to pretend that this has been something other than a robust debate and that activists like her have had less of a chance to engage. Bull.Crap. This has been a long, multi-faceted, exceedingly explored debate in which marriage equality activists, faced with a very tough burden, met the challenge—and then some. Of course Maggie dislikes that; she's already told us how much joy she gets out of winning. But pretending that her side has largely lost because of our supposed "bullying" and "name-calling" is just shameful commentary. The vast majority of the activists engaged on our side have zero desire to force Maggie Gallagher to walk through the rest of her days with some sort of scarlet letter emblazoned on her chest; even fewer want to see her unfairly burdened under the law in any real way (as opposed the fake ways her movement concocts). But most all of us take great pride in our ability to triumph over the highly discriminatory and often dehumanizing debate that she very much helped create and lead. None of us should apologize for that.

Maggie closes her plea to Justice Kennedy by referring to herself as part of "the newly stigmatized." If that is how she sees herself, then I truly do hope she, at long last, will stop buying into her movement's ridiculous insistences and start realizing that feeling stigmatized is a choice she is choosing to make. Even with her choice to take on discrimination as a major part of her career, Maggie Gallagher really doesn't have to suffer under any sort of day-to-day penances for her years of delaying her fellow citizens' freedoms (and in fact she made a lot of money off of it). On that note, she comes out far ahead of those us in "the formerly stigmatized" who have dealt with many penalties because of activism like hers.

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