SALT LAKE CITY — When Maggie Gallagher first got involved in marriage issues it had nothing to do with gay marriage advocates or redefining marriage. She was on the road to recreate what she calls a "marriage culture" in America where more children have stable homes with loving mothers and fathers. But before long, she was drawn into the debate over gay marriage.
"I avoided the discussion of gay marriage as long as I possibly could," Gallagher told the Sutherland Institute's "One Hundred Club" annual dinner last night at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City. Before she got involved in the issue, she thought same-sex marriage was an "us/them" problem while the larger problems marriage was facing in society was a "we" problem and more important.
"The capacity of our nation to sustain a reasonably well-functioning marriage culture is the key problem in our time," said Gallagher, who is the founder and chairman of the board of the National Organization for Marriage. She said where marriage is weakened children suffer and there are higher rates of social ills like crime and education failure. She also pointed to Europe and what she called "the sudden collapse of the willingness to have enough children to replace the current generation."
Gallagher spoke about how marriage is an almost universal social institution throughout diverse cultures and time. Why is that? She said there were three reasons for its universality:
1. "The overwhelming majority of us are powerfully attracted to an act that creates human life. Newsflash: Relationships between men and women create babies."
2. "Society needs babies. … Only societies that have learned how to successfully manage the procreative implications of male/female attraction have survived."
3. "Children ought to have a father as well as a mother. … When a baby is born there is bound to be a mother somewhere close by. If we want fathers to be there for their children and the mothers of their children, biology alone won't do it. We need a cultural mechanism to attach fathers to the mother/child bond."
When events in Massachusetts looked like they would make same-sex marriage a reality there, Gallagher said she saw the implications to her dream of strengthening a marriage culture in the United States. She said marriage would change and no longer be about bringing together mothers and fathers for children.
So she quit her job and started a think tank and eventually the National Organization for Marriage.
She said that if same-sex marriage proponents prevailed, "the first thing that happens, is that it will become perfectly obvious that we have abandoned the idea that marriage is in some deep and intrinsic way rooted in the natural family and oriented towards sustaining the natural family. By the very act of declaring that two men in a union are in a marriage we are announcing that marriage has nothing to do with bringing mothers and fathers and children together."
Gallagher doesn't see the push for gay marriage as just a redefinition of what marriage means; she sees it also as a redefinition of the relationship between America and the Judeo-Christian tradition.
Her reasoning is that the argument being proposed by proponents of same-sex marriage is that there is no morally significant difference between same-sex and opposite sex couples. "And if you see a difference, there is something wrong with you," Gallagher said. "You are like a bigot who is opposed to interracial marriage. If you want to know how same-sex marriage is going to affect traditional believers, mainstream Christians and other faith communities, ask yourself how do we treat racists who are opposed to interracial marriage in the public square."
Racists, Gallagher said, are marginalized, stigmatized, oppressed and made second-class citizens.
She gave examples of how this is already happening:
Graduate students are being kicked out of marriage counseling programs because they are unwilling to personally counsel gay couples on how to sustain their relationships.
A physician in California was penalized for not artificially impregnating a lesbian woman.
In Massachusetts and Washington D.C., Catholic Charities was driven out of the adoption business because it refused to place children with gay couples.
In Illinois, Catholic, evangelical and Lutheran adoption and foster care agencies are being probed for discrimination.
"What they've done now is that they've stopped trying to persuade people that gay marriage is a good idea," Gallagher said. "What they are doing is raising the cost of speaking out … by directing a relentless torrent of accusations and hatred against anyone who speaks, no matter how civilly, for marriage."
She said that wars don't end when one side is annihilated, but when one side loses the will to fight.
For the same-sex marriage proponents, Gallagher said victory would be having same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states as a constitutional right. Then they can "move onto the process of reshaping society so that objections to gay marriage or homosexuality are treated the way we treat racism."
But for Gallagher the fight against recognizing same-sex marriage is a means, not an end. It is one thing on the road to what she was working on before she entered the fray. "For me, victory is rebuilding a culture of marriage so that each year more children are born to and raised by a mother and father who love them in a decent, average good-enough marriage."