Changing Their Tune on Gays

Leading marriage equality opponents insist they are pro-procreation, not anti anything

In a 2009 appearance on the cable channel MSNBC, Maggie Gallagher summed up the views of gay marriage proponents.

“The heart of the gay marriage idea is that there is no difference between a same-sex union and a union of husband and wife and that you’re a bigot engaging in discrimination if you think otherwise,” said Gallagher, who founded the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and heads the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, two political groups.

The moderator asked what that meant for a hypothetical gay couple named Ray and Tommy.

“The couple, Ray and Tommy, have nothing to do with it,” Gallagher said. “I wish them the best. This is about how the government is going to define marriage and it’s going to define it for all of us.”

This is the new Maggie Gallagher. She does not hate gays and she has little bad to say about them. Gallagher even asserted at a 2010 event held at a think tank that a few gays were helping her defend traditional marriage.

She was not always so polite.

In a 1996 newspaper column, Gallagher called homosexuality “a sexual temptation that appeals to about two percent of the population” and argued against laws that ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.

“I oppose extending anti-discrimination laws to gays for many reasons — a distaste for big government, fear of the job-shrinking side-effects of more lawsuits, a sense of injustice that a small affluent group should be pressing for new economic protections,” Gallagher wrote.

That same year, she chastised the US Supreme Court for overturning a Colorado law that barred any government entity there from enacting a law or regulation that barred discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Under the rubric of protecting traditional marriage, Gallagher, like a number of people who oppose gay marriage, has reinvented herself. She is no longer a reliable opponent of all things gay. She is a protector of marriage and is offended if she is called a bigot or untruthful.

“This is the way the gay marriage movement operates — if you disagree with them, they call you a liar,” she said on MSNBC.

“Bait and switch has always been a hallmark and increasingly indispensable feature of NOM and that crowd’s case against the freedom to marry, and I think here we are seeing it again,” said Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry, a pro-gay marriage group. “They say one thing, but do another. They come up with diversion and distraction points, such as making themselves the victim, to mask their attacks and the lack of true persuasive arguments based on evidence and reason.”

In 2008, supporters of Proposition 8, an amendment to California’s state constitution that banned gay marriage, used a similar tactic — they avoided attacking the gay community.

“It is not our goal in this campaign to attack the homosexual lifestyle or to convince gays and lesbians that their behavior is wrong — the less we refer to homosexuality, the better,” one training document used in the campaign read. “We are pro-marriage, not anti-gay.”

Similarly, Robert P. George, NOM’s chairman, sounded reasonable when quoted in a Washington Post article on recent rulings from a federal court that struck down parts of the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law that bars federal recognition of same-sex marriages and allows states to do the same.

“In the same way, this is a good-faith dispute among people of goodwill who just disagree about the rightness and wrongness of the practice,” George said in a July 10 Post story. “There’s no neutral middle ground. A decision will have to be made.”

But in 2002, George and a co-author wrote a friend-of-the-court brief for the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family, two conservative groups, in Lawrence v. Texas, a US Supreme Court case, that urged the court to uphold the Texas sodomy law. Instead, the high court struck down the nation’s remaining sodomy laws in its June 2003 ruling in that case.

The authors said that Texas could single out same-sex couples for arrest for having sex because they cannot marry, which was defined as a relationship in which the potential to procreate exists. Unmarried heterosexual couples who have sex, even if they engage in behavior defined by the law as sodomy, should be left alone by the government because the potential for procreation is in those relationships.

“Texas legislators could reasonably conclude that, though these couples’ deviate sex might be immoral, criminal prosecution would disrupt these potentially or incipiently marital relationships,” they wrote referring to straight couples. “But a reasonable legislator could instead decide that, where marriage is not and cannot be present, incipient, or remotely in view, the common good is better served by prohibiting deviate sex acts.”

In 1997, George made a similar argument in a law journal article. He argued that if the “constitutive value or values” of marriage were “pleasure, intimacy, the expression of tender feelings,” then it would be wrong to deny marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. But that is not marriage in George’s view.

“No principle of equality is violated, however, if, in truth, homosexual sexual acts and relationships cannot realize the constitutive value or values of marriage, if marriage truly is… a bodily communion of persons consummated and actualized by sexual acts which are reproductive in type,” he wrote.

In 2006, George was a co-founder of a religious coalition that supported an amendment to the US Constitution to ban same sex marriage.

Gallagher and George did not respond to calls seeking comment.