Maggie Gallagher is the chairman of the National Organization for Marriage. But that is only the beginning of the introduction. A longtime and courageous advocate, researcher, and laborer for marriage, she is a nationally syndicated columnist. She spoke with National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez about the marriage law Andrew Cuomo signed Friday night in Albany.
Kathryn Jean Lopez: What’s your best explanation of what happened in New York on Friday night?
Maggie Gallagher: Governor Cuomo pushed hard for something he a) believed in and b) knew would help his national profile and political prospects. The Republican party inexplicably decided to help him, despite knowing its own base disapproved.
Lopez: How significant is it that a legislature did this?
Gallagher: That’s not actually new. New Hampshire and Vermont have both passed gay-marriage bills without a court order. And, of course, so did Maine, which the people were able to reverse in 2009 by referendum. What’s new is the Republican party deciding to facilitate the passage of gay marriage.
Think for a minute about the difference between the two parties. In state after state where Democrats control a legislative chamber (as in Iowa right now) they’ve simply refused to bring marriage amendments up for a vote — even though strong majorities would pass them and refer the question to the people.
Now, in states where Dems are the minority and have no control (like Wisconsin and Indiana) they’ve done extraordinary, extra-constitutional things like flee the state to try to prevent a vote.
All the GOP leadership or conference had to do was decide not to take up Cuomo’s bill.
We asked them to kill the bill, and instead conduct an advisory referendum. If the people of New York voted for gay marriage, that would have gotten them off the hook. Instead they voted to bring up a bill they knew would pass (even though most Republicans voted no, the key decision was to bring up Governor Cuomo’s bill).
Democrats are loyal to their core, New York’s Republican party abandoned theirs. And for what? So the New York Times can editorialize about how bad they are for passing minimal religious-liberty protections?
Lopez: Why did Republicans buy in? Is it bad education? A false sense of civil rights?
Gallagher: Four Republicans told voters during 2010 they opposed gay marriage, then voted for it. Why? Probably they believed the propaganda that voters don’t care about this any more. I think they are going to find that was a mistake.
Each of these guys has a different story. Grisanti, who beat Antoine Thompson (a black Democrat who voted for gay marriage) is in a district trending Democratic — and the incumbent lost in part because he voted for gay marriage. I think he’s going to be in a serious trouble. Alesi’s political career is probably over anyway.
Lopez: What needs to happen with marriage? Is it a fundamental thing? A federalist thing? A national thing?
Gallagher: We have to decide whether or not we are, as a culture and a nation, seriously committed to marriage not just as an expression of romantic love, but as a social institution necessary to the common good. That is, are we interested in making sure we have a next generation that is raised by their mothers and fathers — united, and committed to raising their children together?
As my husband says, “It’s not just about you and your feelings.”
Gay marriage was sold to many conservatives as the beginning of that process of marriage renewal. Instead, we are seeing quite clearly that victories for gay marriage lead to renewed calls for accepting family diversity under the powerful new “equality” banner institutionalized in marriage law. (Did you see the LA Times story last week that lauded the Census news on family decline on the grounds that Heather can now have three mommies, thanks to separation and re-partnering among lesbian couples? Heck, in a couple of years she can have six mommies. Families are now wonderfully fluid and to fail to applaud that would be narrow-minded bigotry.)
Our children are being re-educated as we speak.
NOM’s next immediate challenge is to get a vote reversing gay marriage in New Hampshire — to show once again, as we did in Maine, that history is not unidirectional.
In New York, we have to demonstrate once and for all that it is a very bad idea to vote for gay marriage if you are a Republican. Dede Scozzafava was not enough, apparently. Okay. If that’s what we have to do, it’s what we have to do.
Fundamentally, we are also going to need a large anti-defamation project behind the gay-marriage line, to locate the many people now feeling silenced and harassed and create for them a legal and cultural environment where people have a shot at passing on a Christian (or other traditional) marriage culture to their own kids and in their own communities. I’m getting e-mails and phone calls from people losing their jobs because they spoke up for marriage as one man and one woman. Extraordinary!
Lopez: Why weren’t churches able to stop gay marriage in New York like they did in Maryland?
Gallagher: I do not think the black church was as seriously engaged — and the black Democrats were more integrated into the hard Left in New York. The governor was much stronger, and more committed in New York than in Maryland. And of course key Republican donors who are gay (Ken Mehlman) or have gay family members weighed in in a big new way, trumping the base with Republican leadership.
They also wrote big checks. We estimate at least $2 million was spent in the run up to passing gay marriage in New York.
That’s a lot of money outside of an election cycle.
Lopez: It can look like conservatives don’t care about the issue of traditional marriage so much. What’s that about? Is it about what bad stewards we can be of marriage?
Gallagher: Conservatives care about it. A lot of libertarian elites, not so much. They seem to think we can redefine marriage — and make the Judeo-Christian tradition akin to racism in the public square — and American civilization can go on just the same. I think they are making a big mistake in thinking that.
We had, until New York, a virtually unbeaten string of victories for marriage. One setback, and even NRO is saying “conservatives don’t care about it.” Why is that?
The base cares. The majority is still with us — which is why gay-marriage advocates are never willing to permit a referendum, even in blue states.
But there is little “echo” effect. Conservative networks, not just liberal networks, have been shut down on this. Fox News doesn’t cover it. Even talk-show hosts who are with us hesitate to speak — why? Every one has a different reason, but it’s always a reason not to speak.
This is a quite powerful movement that is quite serious about shutting down the debate and redefining the Book of Genesis as bigotry. Will they succeed? Maybe in the short or medium term. But in the end, a civilization built against nature falls. Every time.
But a lot of damage can be done in the meantime.
Lopez: What is the future of protecting traditional marriage? Why does it matter?
Gallagher: Look, the most urgent goal is find creative new responses to the challenge we face, not only to protect marriage in law, but in culture and society.
The “traditional” understanding of marriage is not optional for a civilization. Either you channel eros into a social institution that is pro-creation — or it becomes anti-creation, anti-civilization, anti-life.
Gay people are children of God and each one matters. But they are also about 2 percent of the population, while a new Gallup poll shows Americans on average think they are 25 percent of the population.
That’s cultural power.
This is a top-down, very powerful, culture-creating movement, grounded in the fantasy they can change basic human realities like marriage or human life without any long-term consequences.
But “they” can only do this if we let them. Will we? That’s the question we have to ask — and answer — ourselves.