Response to Maggie Gallagher on marriage
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Response to Maggie Gallagher on marriage


From: Rick Rosendall
To: author@nationalreview.com
Sent: Tuesday, July 15, 2003
Subject: Response to Maggie Gallagher column


Maggie,

This statement in your latest column shows signs of desperation: "Polygamy is not worse than gay marriage, it is better. At least polygamy, for all its ugly defects, is an attempt to secure stable mother-father families for children." Who, outside your right-wing echo chamber, is the intended audience for this? Orrin Hatch, at a recent town hall meeting in southern Utah, mentioned that he knows a lot of polygamists and they are fine people. Maybe the two of you should form a caucus.

You make lots of sweeping statements. Here's one: "By embracing gay marriage the legal establishment will have declared that the public purposes of marriage no longer include anything to do with making babies, or giving children mothers and fathers."

No, Maggie. What it will declare is what is already manifestly the case for heterosexual couples: marriage is not ONLY for raising children. Unless you propose to prohibit barren couples from marrying, and to regard marriages without issue as illegitimate, you are applying a double standard. You won't admit this, and I am familiar with the contortions that the Catholic Church goes through on this, but it remains the case that the ability to make children is neither a legal nor religious requirement for marriage.

The irony is that you and your allies are not mollified but even more incensed when gay couples do seek to raise children. Instead of giving gay couples a shred of credit and respect for taking in children that straight people have thrown away and giving them loving and nurturing homes, you wring your hands even more at how this just shows our society is sailing straight to hell. This suggests that the actual plight of actual children matters less to you than your abstract, ideological imperatives.

You quote Evan Wolfson in horror: "What counts is not family structure, but the quality of dedication, commitment, self-sacrifice, and love in the household." Whatever your objections, it is just plain pathetic that you cannot pause to acknowledge that dedication, commitment, self-sacrifice, and love are good things.

As a matter of fact, I share your opposition to privatizing marriage, though I strongly disagree with your operatically exaggerated fears of marriage being on the verge of collapse. Marriages and families existed before laws and religions. The most important basis for any marriage is that people are drawn to each other and commit themselves to each other -- not threats of sanctions by states or churches, however appropriate those may be. Bizarrely, instead of blaming straights for their adultery and divorce, you and your allies blame gay couples who are seeking to embrace legal responsibilities. Thus an essentially conservative impulse is treated as a radical and destructive one, simply because gays are involved.

You wrote, "There is scarcely a dollar that state and federal government spends on social programs that is not driven in large part by family fragmentation: crime, poverty, drug abuse, teen pregnancy, school failure, mental and physical health problems." I trust you are not blaming these things on gays. If straights have made such a mess of things (and your picture is highly slanted), how can gays make things worse simply by seeking protection for their committed relationships?

It amazes me how you and others persist in seeing the direst of consequences from two people making a positive mutual commitment.

You wrote, "The bad news is that gay marriage will gut this marriage movement, and reverse these gains." You don't explain how this will result, you just assert it. Given the significant number of gay couples with children, I would think you would welcome the greater security that legal gay marriage would bring to those children. But of course your position is based on utter and complete denial of reality. What you apparently fail to grasp is that denying our existence will not make us disappear. And we are in fact not bent on destroying society, all your lurid prognostications notwithstanding.

You wrote, "We do not know of any culture that has survived without a reasonably functional marriage system." Here we go with the doomed-society meme. It would be just as accurate to say, "We do not know of any culture that has survived." All civilizations have their life cycles, but there is no consensus that the decline of marriage has anything particularly to do with it. Edward Gibbon seemed to blame the Catholic Church as much as anything for the fall of Rome.

You wrote, "But when a society abandons the marriage idea altogether as a shared public norm, do not expect private individuals to be able to sustain marriage." The bottom line that you cannot accept is that gays do not want to destroy marriage as a shared public norm, we want in. We have heard your sort of reaction before: "There goes the neighborhood."

Applying the standard of Occam's Razor, which is to say preferring the simplist explanation that fits the available facts, I suggest that irrational anti-gay bias is a much simpler explanation than your hysterical one: "Losing this battle means losing the idea that children need mothers and fathers. It means losing the marriage debate. It means losing limited government. It means losing American civilization." These dire warnings, in addition to exemplifying the far right's continuing race toward political irrelevance, make about as much sense as insisting that extraterrestrial visitors are the likeliest explanation of the Pyramids, rather than simple human ingenuity. You really should have more faith in people.

I sure hope that you and your right-wing allies lose, but marriage, families, and civilization will if anything be better off by welcoming gay families into the fold. Your rigid definition of what constitutes a family, and the threat you claim from families that don't conform to it, is the real threat to the common good. Like it or not, we do exist, and we are claiming our rightful place in the sun and in the society of which we are contributing members. And that will be good for everyone except those blinded by hate.


Rick Rosendall
Washington, DC


Copyright 2003 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.