NOM’s Gallagher mocks pro-marriage equality Catholics

by Michael K. Lavers

National News Editor

Thursday December 9, 2010

Gay blogger Andrew Sullivan and National Organization for Marriage Board Chair Maggie Gallagher sparred over nuptials for same-sex couples at Georgetown University on Wednesday, Dec. 8.

Gallagher asked the predominantly Roman Catholic audience their position on nuptials for gays and lesbians-roughly two-thirds indicated they support marriage equality, while one-fourth said they opposed it and another 25 percent indicated they had no position. She then highlighted a pin on her lapel that read "marriage equality = one man plus one woman."

"I really do support marriage equality, but I don't support gay unions," stressed Gallagher.

Sullivan, who married his partner in Massachusetts in 2007, acknowledged Gallagher's assertion a marriage between a man and a woman is a "beautiful event." He said he would defend the idea of traditional marriage as passionately as Gallagher does. Sullivan added, however, gays and lesbians should also have the ability to tie the knot if they choose.

"I don't think my parents' marriage or my sister's marriage is invalidated by my own," said Sullivan.

The Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) reported 60 percent of Catholics under 30 support marriage for same-sex couples, compared with only 25 percent of Catholics 65 or older. The PRRI also reported in July that 51 percent of Catholics in California and 57 percent of Catholics of Latino descent would back pro-marriage equality legislation.

Washington Post columnist EJ Dionne, who moderated the panel, acknowledged his own evolution towards marriage equality. Gallagher mocked those Catholics who support nuptials for gays and lesbians.

"Don't pat yourselves on the back for how brave you are," she said. "It takes courage to go into the public square and defend the church's teachings on marriage."

Sullivan used the church's own teachings and traditions to frame his pro-marriage equality arguments. He said God was the first person to whom he came out. Sullivan added his own Catholicism has allowed him to live openly as a gay man, but Sullivan used a question about LGBT teenager suicides as an opportunity to single out the church's hierarchy for its anti-gay rhetoric and doctrine.

"It singles out homosexuals for a special kind of suffering," said Sullivan.

Gallagher quickly accused Sullivan of asserting the Pope "intends hatred." She also dismissed suggestions she and the church is anti-gay.

"I don't think gay Catholics should be excluded from the church because you commit sexual sins," she said. "I think of gay people as my friends, my neighbors and my fellow citizens."

Gallagher further stressed the church's opposition to marriage for gays and lesbians.

"You want me to be divorced forcefully," countered Sullivan, suggesting Gallagher's anti-marriage equality rhetoric does more harm than she may realize. "You can't make me feel bad about my marriage, but you are trying to abolish it."

Gallagher and Sullivan also sparred over whether procreation is the only consideration for a couple who seeks to get married. "People are allowed to have non-procreational sex all the time, as long as they're not homosexuals," said Sullivan, questioning the basis of Gallagher's position on what she dismissed as the so-called great fertility argument.

In a post-panel interview, Gallagher asserted a same-sex couple's marriage would have no impact on her and her husband's marriage. She reaffirmed, however, nuptials for gays and lesbians would have unintended consequences on society-at-large.

"I don't believe it is about me; it's about my children," Gallagher told EDGE.

Based in Washington, D.C., Michael K. Lavers has appeared in the New York Times, BBC, WNYC, Huffington Post, Village Voice, Advocate and other mainstream and LGBT media outlets. He is an unapologetic political junkie who thoroughly enjoys living inside the Beltway.