Maggie Gallagher announces her readiness to surrender to homosexual “marriage”

(Question: but is “announces her readiness to surrender” a correct characterization? See my below exchange with Jim Kalb.)

A reader writes:

Maggie Gallagher has a post today at National Review about same-sex marriage. In response to a question about what it would take for her to change her mind, she said that if there were two generations of same-sex marriage, and kids’ benefiting from a mother and father was still held as an ideal, she would still personally oppose it but essentially not mind it.

Since those two concepts seem contradictory to me, maybe that was her convoluted way of saying nothing could change her mind, but it didn’t read that way. This is part of the problem with this debate. Gallagher posits that if social indicators showed that same-sex marriage hadn’t affected much, she’d stop opposing it on a political level. But suppose hypothetically that there was overwhelming evidence, accepted by liberals, that children raised by homosexual couples were far worse off, and not because of society’s alleged bigotry. Would they modify their stance? No, because they see homosexual marriage as a fundamental human right.

Similarly I think conservatives who are seriously against homosexual marriage can offer social scientific data if they want, but in the end their core argument must be that traditional marriage has an intrinsic essence. Maybe such an argument isn’t “secular” enough, but it is important.

LA replies:

This has always been the weakness in Gallagher’s position: it is based on social science data relating to the raising of children, not on the essential truth of male and female. As a result, she lacks a principled stance against homosexual “marriage.” She has never said, for example, that the very idea of two people of the same sex “marrying” each other is an absurdity. She has only opposed same-sex “marriage” insofar as she felt it would be harmful to children.

True conservatism means, inter alia, belief in a transcendent moral and natural order. Only conservatives who have that belief can consistently oppose liberalism. Gallagher, at least as far as marriage is concerned, lacks such a belief.

- end of initial entry -

Gintas writes:

So we see another so-called conservative who is really just another Benthamite utilitarian. Gallagher has no ground to stand on when faced with, “Sure, these numbers indicate a degradation in family life, but that is a cost we are willing to pay!” In battle of utilitarian calculators, the big-spenders always win. It’s clear to me that no social disaster is too expensive for liberals. This is why liberalism is a luxury that will fall only when there is nothing left, when they’ve finished spending all our social capital; when they cannot (or will not) afford their utopian experiments, it’s over. Until then we shall suffer at the hands of these mad scientists. God save and preserve us.

LA replies:

And let’s remember that Gallagher has been perhaps the single most vocal and prominent opponent of same-sex “marriage.” Once again we see that today’s conservatism is the Oakland of political philosophies: there is no there there.

Jim Kalb writes:

It’s an interesting case. She seems to accept the idea of a state that is oriented solely toward the useful and not toward the true except to the extent the true is useful. That’s part of how she became the “most vocal and prominent opponent of same-sex ‘marriage.’” If she hadn’t accepted that idea she wouldn’t have been admitted to the liberal public discussion at all.

That discussion makes freedom the highest good. Utilitarians can participate, since utility is a matter of people getting what they want and so can be viewed as a kind of freedom. As one of your commenters notes, to-hell-with-consequences libertines can also participate, since they obviously favor freedom. There’s no place, though, for to-hell-with-consequences transcendentalists.

Within that disposition of forces, moderates will maintain social peace by claiming that on the evidence libertinism is useful, e.g., that “gay marriage” is good for children, family stability, and whatnot. That way everyone can go home happy. That in fact is what has happened.

LA writes:

Also, to place this latest development in context, let us remember that David Blankenhorn of the Institute for American Values, a long-time though highly ambivalent and even tortured opponent of homosexual “marriage,” announced a couple of months ago that he no longer opposes it. (I thought I had posted about this highly interesting event but do not find anything at VFR about it.) Maggie Gallagher, Blankenhorn’s long-time ally and one-time employee, respectfully differed from him on this, and called his new position a “surrender.” And yet now, two months later, Gallagher announces that, given enough time, she will surrender too.

Jim Kalb writes:

In fairness, she doesn’t say she will surrender, she says that if she continues to lose, and we have 50 years of gay marriage, and things are nonetheless going OK for [real] marriage, then at that point she’d drop her political opposition to same-sex marriage. My guess is that she doesn’t think that would happen, but she has to say something of the sort to stay in the discussion. Which, as we’ve noted, introduces an essential weakness into her position if only because of the way it biases the playing field.

LA replies:

I just read her Corner post again more slowly. It is incomprehensible doubletalk. I can’t imagine why she even wrote it, except that she is engaging—as she always does, and which I think is a big mistake to do—in dialogue with the other side, and so has to make herself acceptable to them, as you pointed out.

I agree with you that my characterization of her post as “readiness to surrender” could be reasonably criticized as too conclusory. But I ask this: does a person who has a firm position on an issue, a position he will never surrender, engage in incomprehensible double-talk about the circumstances under which he would surrender?

Here is Gallagher’s post:

Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage and Dan Savage at long last came together in Savage’s living room to debate the topic “Is Christianity bad for LGBT people?” (Savage chose the topic.) Of course, gay marriage came up as well. You can watch the whole thing:


At one point Mark Oppenheimer, who moderated the debate, raises the question of falsifiability and asks: What evidence would change your point of view? He says (with some caveats, acknowledging that I could reply if he didn’t get this right) that I had said none could.

Thanks Mark for that caveat. With regard to the public policy of same-sex marriage, I had said, here is what I would want: I would want to see two generations of gay marriage and some society that in that time-span was able to create a basically functioning marriage culture i.e., one in which the ideal for a child is mom and dad was upheld as a norm and supported in theory (and at least to some degree in practice).

In that case, I might personally not believe gay unions are marriage, but I would no longer believe the law’s definition had any effect on the things I care about, and so would not oppose same-sex marriage. [LA replies: she would still not believe that same-sex marriages are marriages, but she wouldn’t oppose same-sex marriage, even though she thinks they’re not marriages.]

I would add: If really good scientific evidence disproved the idea that children benefit from their mom and dad, that would rock my world in ways that I can’t say what would happen. [LA replies: why even admit such an absurd possibility, adding that if it happened, if would “rock my world”? It’s like being asked, “How would you react if it was proved to you that two plus two does not equal four?”, and answering, “If really good scientific evidence disproved the idea that two plus two equals four, that would rock my world in ways that I can’t say what would happen.”]

Social science rarely amounts to proof. It generally counts as “evidence” that requires judgment.

[end of Gallagher post.]

LA continues:

More on the question of dialogues with the other side. As the original poster pointed out, the other side has a clearly marked out, absolute position: same-sex marriage is a fundamental human right, period. But Maggie does not have a clearly marked out, absolute position. So when she participates in these collegial dialogues, she’s at an inherent disadvantage. She accommodates the other side to show that she’s reasonable, while they don’t have to accommodate her, because they’re arguing for a fundamental human right on which no compromise is allowed.

In reality, same-sex marriage is as alien to our civilization as Communism. During the Cold War, did anti-Communists engage in polite dialogues with Communists? No.

Jim Kalb replies:

She wants to stay in the discussion and it seems to me she’s doing the minimum she has to do for that purpose. I’d imagine she’s bought into the discussion enough to think what she says makes sense, but if so how deep that goes is unknowable. At least it’s unknowable by me.

Kenyon H. writes:

Your article on same-sex marriage is disturbing. Same-sex marriage undermines the institution of marriage by taking the gap that exists between marriage and parenthood and making it even wider. Once marriage is defined to accommodate same-sex couples, that change cannot help but lock in and reinforce the very cultural separation between marriage and parenthood that makes gay marriage conceivable to begin with.

In 1993 the courts in Norway imposed same-sex ‘marriage’ and Norway had a low out-of-wedlock birth rate. The traditional link between marriage and parenthood was still in place. Once same-sex ‘marriage’ was legalized Norway’s out-of-wedlock birth rate shot up as the traditional link was broken and cohabitation became normal.

This was the plan according to Kari Moxnes, a Norwegian feminist and vocal enemy of marriage. The goal of gay marriage movements in both Norway and Denmark was not marriage but social approval for homosexuality. The same is true in America. Scandinavia has run our experiment for us. The results are in. The verdict: Gay ‘marriage’ will destroy true marriage. Our cultural elite is giving us a culture with no morals that will lead us to eventual decline and chaos. The family is the backbone of our culture and it is slipping away as we speak.

LA writes:

Here is some support for my earlier remark that Gallagher does not say that the very concept of same-sex “marriage” is an absurdity. In a VFR discussion in 2008 concerning a debate Gallagher had on the subject with a same-sex marriage advocate, a commenter wrote:

She never mentions, for example, that the term “same sex marriage” is a contradiction in terms—like “square circle” or “crooked straight line”—because, while “marriage” hasn’t always meant “monogamous,” it has always and everywhere meant “heterosexual.”

LA writes:

Here is a June 2002 VFR entry, “Homosexual marriage is a logical and necessary outcome of liberalism,” in which I quote Maggie Gallagher herself to make the point that only absolute opposition to same-sex marriage, and to the liberal premises that make same-sex marriage a fundamental right, can win this battle:

Maggie Gallagher writes: “Gay activists … are pushing hard for gay marriage because they understand very well that marriage is not private, it is normative.” This drives home a key point about single sex marriage that may not have been clear before. It has always seemed to many conservative critics (1) that the demand for gay marriage is excessive and unnecessary (since homosexuals are already protected in their individual rights), and (2) that therefore the attacks on critics of homosexual marriage as anti-gay bigots are absurdly overblown. But since, as Gallagher points out, the institution of marriage is not merely private but public and normative, it follows that to exclude single-sex couples from that institution is to treat them unequally with regard to a fundamental value, and constitutes horrible discrimination.

As with so many other liberal phenomena such as political correctness, it turns out that the demand for gay marriage and the demonization of its opponents are not, as they initially appear to be, an irrational excess of liberalism; they are a logical and necessary outcome of liberalism. A consistent believer in equality must support gay marriage as a fundamental right. Which further suggests that in the long run gay marriage can only be effectively opposed by those who are prepared to challenge liberalism at the most basic level.

LA writes:

Here, in Gallagher’s defense, showing that she has spoken of the essentialist aspects of male and female and not just about the utilitarian effect of same-sex marriage on children’s well-being, is a statement by her that I quoted in a talk I gave on homosexual marriage at New York University in December 2005. Gallagher said:

The transformation of mother and father into “Parent A” and “Parent B” is the model of the paradigm shift now underway in Massachusetts. The distinctive features of the union of male and female are going to have to be removed from our notions of marriage and family. The experience of same-sex couples will become the new norm for family life, because the “unisex” idea that gender has no public significance is the only model that can be construed as “inclusive” of both opposite-sex and same-sex unions. The result is not neutrality but the active promotion of a new unisex ideal, in which the distinctive features of opposite-sex relations will be submerged, marginalized, cast to one side, and redefined as discrimination …

Ian M. writes:

The fact that a “conservative” would be willing to “dialogue” with the execrable sodomite Dan Savage says it all.

The original commenter writes:

Thanks for posting my comment and getting a discussion going, I’m finding it interesting. Regarding your comment about Gallagher making herself appear acceptable to the other side, it’s understandable that she wants to combat typical condescending liberal stereotypes about same-sex marriage opponents, and conservatives in general. However it has been clear for some time—other than a brief window when support for civil unions was insurance against being cast as a heartless bigot—that the other side will never accept that any arguments against their position have a rational basis. They view it all as intellectualization of a discomfort with homosexuals, similar to how any specific disagreements with the Obama administration are cast as a front for racial animus. I believe Atlantic writer Ta-Nehisi Coates has a new article where he attempts to “prove” just that.

LA replies:

Your point about what drives the other side is proved by David Blankenhorn, the long-time former ambivalent tortured opponent of same-sex marriage and now a supporter, as he announced in the New York Times on June 22. In that column he says that even while he was an opponent, his chief concern in this debate was the maintenance of “comity” between the two sides. He also says that, even when he was still opposing homosexual marriage, the highest good for him was “the equal dignity of homosexual love.” What made him switch to the pro-SSM side was (1) his realization that opposition to same-sex marriage was undermining “comity”; and (2) his realization that “much of the opposition to gay marriage seems to stem, at least in part, from an underlying anti-gay animus. To me, a Southerner by birth whose formative moral experience was the civil rights movement, this fact is profoundly disturbing.”

Laura Wood writes:

I have no interest in what Gallagher has to say on this subject given that she views the repulsive Dan Savage as worth debating.

LA replies:

Well, that certainly cuts through this discussion, including my back-and-forth on whether Gallagher has announced her readiness to surrender. Laura is declaring that Gallagher’s willingness to talk with an extreme and highly objectionable spokesman of the other side permanently disqualifies her as an opponent of same-sex marriage.

Here are VFR entries on Dan Savage, a bullying opponent of bullying.

LA to Laura Wood:

People often criticize me for being too tough on fellow conservatives and writing them off as liberals. You’re tougher than I am. You have permanently written off Gallagher on the basis of her talking with our enemies. I’m impressed.

Laura Wood replies:

The Wikipedia entry on Savage is worth perusing. It includes a description of his effort to infect Republican candidate Gary Bauer with the flu in 2000. “He wrote that he licked doorknobs and other objects in the campaign office, and handed Bauer a saliva-coated pen, hoping to pass the virus on to Bauer and his supporters (though he later said that much of the article had been fictitious).”

Last year, Savage said on television, “I wish the Republicans were all f***ing dead.”

LA replies:

I had forgotten about that. And Gallagher treats respectfully and replies to queries coming from a group including Savage. So she’s just lost. Like her long-time ally Blankenhorn, she’s so involved in the dialogue, in the importance of having dialogue with the other side, and having the other side think well of her, no matter how repulsive they are, that she’s lost all perspective. This does bring me pretty close to writing her off as well.

May one suggest that, instead of Gallagher writing an NRO post entitled, “What Evidence Would Change My Mind on Civil Same-Sex Marriage?”, she should have written a post entitled, “What Evidence Would Change My Mind on Having a Civil Dialogue with Dan Savage?”

Ken Hechtman writes:

I don’t think you’re being fair to Maggie Gallagher. Her job is different from yours. You can make the moral case to the minority of people who already believe in the same moral order you do and forget about everyone else. She can’t do that. She needs to put together a voting majority in the immediate term and that means she needs to make the public policy argument to people who don’t share her moral beliefs. I don’t think she’s saying she has no personal moral beliefs. I think she’s saying that by themselves they aren’t enough to win a national political campaign. If she loses the public policy argument, she loses.

It’s always legitimate to collect social science data and use it as a reality check on a public policy goal. There’s so many people out there who use social science to prove they’re right, you have to respect the ones who use it to *be* right.

The classic example is Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz reality-checking the Great Society programs 40 years ago and concluding that the public policy arguments for them didn’t hold. Remember, Kristol and Podhoretz weren’t Republicans in those days. They were Democrats. They weren’t trying to hurt the Democratic Party with their research, they were trying to help it. If it was legitimate for them to run the numbers and publish the results, I don’t see why it’s not legitimate for Maggie Gallagher to speculate about the same possibility 50 years from now.

Your reader Kenyon H. is mistaken about Norway. No place in the world has had 20 years experience with same-sex marriage. The Netherlands legislated it in 2001 and was the first country to do so. Norway got civil unions in 1993 and that was also done through the legislature, not the courts. The experience of a number of European countries has been that when the civil union option is available to heterosexual couples, a substantial number of them choose it over marriage. In that sense, civil unions did weaken marriage. The data backs it up. Possibly because of this, ever since Norway got same-sex marriage in 2008, the civil union option no longer exists for anybody. It’s marriage or nothing for both straight and gay couples.

Kidist Paulos Asrat writes:

I think this was a very insightful comment by Kenyon H.:

“The goal of gay marriage movements in both Norway and Denmark was not marriage but social approval for homosexuality.

The same is true in America (and Canada). Scandinavia has run our experiment for us. The results are in. The verdict: Gay “marriage” will destroy true marriage.”

I never thought that homosexual leaders were really interested in heterosexual culture (including marriage). All those soppy gay marriage ceremonies were really uber-emotional gays finding a way toward “commitment.” There are many ways to become formally “committed” without the specific institution of marriage.

I think the homosexual elite wanted to pull down marriage away from its traditional, religious and cultural standards, so that homosexuality can then prosper in this undefined peat.

August 24

Laura Wood writes:

Would Gallagher include in the dialogue someone who said he hated homosexuals and who cursed and spat at them? How about someone who ran a highly successful Internet project called “It Gets Worse.” I doubt it.

Jeanette V. writes:

I agree with Laura. I find Dan Savage so vile and objectionable I don’t even understand how anyone could step in that creature’s home with his homosexual lover and eat at the same table as him. I was shocked when I learned of Brian Brown going to that man’s house and eating with him.

Laura G. writes:

Just a comment to add to the insightful thread on homosexual marriage. In my academic community, I have asked numerous “smart,” highly educated and leftist friends what could possibly restrict marriage to two adults after homosexual marriage is legalized. The basis of homosexual marriage is that it is an individual right to be allowed to choose any partner. The state’s interest in regulating marriage is based on the understanding that marriage is an institution to protect and raise children, rather than being based primarily on the state’s interest in the rights of choice of an individual adult. Once that objective of the focus on child well-being is jettisoned, and the rationale for the state’s interest in marriage becomes ensuring individual rights, what could possibly be wrong with polygamy? What could be wrong with marriage between very multiple persons or groups? Why not child marriages? After all, the child would enjoy the love and protection of a powerful adult. Why not? Why not sibling marriage? There may be a small biologic risk to offspring, but that is true of other conceptions as well, and if the persons agree, what business is it of the state? Why not temporary marriages? Why the legal demand that there be only one marriage at a time? What could be wrong with bigamy? Why not allow a simple disavowal of the arrangement to dissolve it?

The traditional legal and mainstream assumptions about marriage have been formed at their basis from tendrils of Judeo-Christian religious beliefs and tenets. If those bases are fully discarded, there cannot possibly be any constraints on who can marry whom and under what circumstances. We can already see that process in action in legal demands for legalization of polygamous marriage based on the analogy to homosexual rights to marriage. In raising this issue, my many smart friends have never, ever, in any way given me the slightest answer to my question about controlling the trajectory that legalizing homosexual marriage will undoubtedly take other than to say: “Don’t worry. That just won’t happen.” Unfortunately, it already is happening.

Texanne V. writes:

I would suggest that, according to her own criteria, Maggie is essentially assured that she will not have to concede on this issue. One need not even wait for the results of two generations of same-sex “marriage”: the ideal that a child be raised by mom and dad is already seriously undermined. It is already unacceptable to label the traditional family with mother and father as “the norm”—because that implies that children who don’t have this are “abnormal” and our policy experts have pronounced this to be unfair, hurtful and even damaging to the child. The children being acquired by adoption, artificial insemination, and various forms of surrogacy are already being used as human shields, and to harbor the notion that these arrangements are not “the norm” is already forbidden.

It seems significant that Maggie is not relying on studies of “outcomes” of the children who are procured and raised in the households of various non-traditional couplings or other arrangements—but rather on whether an ideal can survive, and whether we can even talk about “normal.”

PS: When the discussion of “outcomes” in children raised in households of same-sex couplings, I can’t help thinking of this young man who progressives believe to prove a wonderful outcome.

Meanwhile, traditionalists pray for his soul.

LA replies:

You are making a good argument, which calls into question my initial statement that Gallagher was announcing her readiness to surrender. At the same time, the total gestalt of the situation as discussed in this thread—her tortured formulation made in polite response to a disgusting homosexual activist with whom she shouldn’t even be talking—calls into question whether Gallagher is an advocate of marriage whom conservatives should take seriously.

James P. writes:

The Wikipedia bio of Maggie Gallagher notes that she was, in her youth, an atheist and an Objectivist who “reverted to Catholicism” after she had a child out of wedlock. She is married to a man named “Raman Srivastav” but apparently never appears with him in public, and she does not take his last name. From his name he appears to be Indian; one may wonder, is he a Catholic?

All this suggests that she is an unlikely champion for traditionalists, and we should not be surprised if she radically changes her views and surrenders to liberalism.

LA replies:

I’ve referenced Maggie’s personal history and marriage and particularly her racial views (she has said that even to think of oneself as white is “racist”) many times.

She is smart and has definitely been on a higher intellectual level than most conservatives. I’ve previously shown in what respects she is a substantive, traditionalist conservative, not just a neocon-type conservative. But the fatal softness (what the British call wetness) is also there, as I’ve pointed out, and it is demonstrated in spades in her willingness to engage in respectful dialogue with a person such as Dan Savage.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 23, 2012 04:45 PM | Send

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