Anti Same-Sex Marriage & Pro-Slavery Arguments: Answering NOM’s Maggie Gallagher
I’ll be in Atlanta today for the “Love + Commitment = Marriage” rally. The event is a counter-protest to coincide with the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) Summer for Marriage Bus Tour’s arrival there. You will recognize my partner and me by our t-shirts. They were commemorative gifts handed out at a Renewing Our Commitment ceremony we held for our 10th anniversary celebration last year. The service took place in a small country Baptist church. Pretty much the entire community in our very conservative, rural southern town turned out to celebrate with us.
Some of those friends, heterosexual all, will be traveling to Atlanta with us today. For the ride we will listen (mp3) again to a 2008 National Constitution Center panel on A Right to Marry? Same-Sex Marriage and the Constitution. That panel features David Boies and Maggie Gallagher. In it Gallagher makes her oft-repeated argument that the reason for marriage is that the best, the ideal, family makeup and parental unit must contain a man and a woman as its foundation.
Re-listening will refresh my memory, but I recall Gallagher repeatedly complaining that no one will answer her, that no one can refute her, on that vital point. And to the extent that no one on the panel directly does, I think she’s right. None of the arguments I see from LGBT organizations, leaders, advocates and lawyers take her on directly on that point. They make the legal equal protection and due process claims and, indeed, make them very well. Their side won. But, briefly (I’ve got to get on the road) and without diminishing any legal argument, I would like to directly address what I remember to be Gallagher’s point.
Marriage is an institution to foster social stability. We want stable communities populated by people who take care of their homes, mow their lawns, tend their gardens, treat their neighbors with respect, observe and obey the rule of law, contribute to civic life, shop, pay their bills and generally comport themselves as fine upstanding citizens. Long-term, committed relationships – while not a requirement – have historically helped move us in that direction. Same-sex marriage will move us closer to every single one of those goals.
Baseless, needless, ostracism rooted in historic prejudices gussied up as tradition, is at odds with them. Most of the historic prejudices against LGBT people are rooted in passages taken from the Bible. The Bible assumed slavery, too, was normal and good and the 19th century pro-slavery arguments read to me very much like the arguments made against same-sex marriage today:
Now, the best way to begin to understand pro-slavery ideology, whether we’re in the early period of its defense in the 1820s–actually, a quite virulent defense of slavery begins early, it isn’t something that just sprung from Southern pens in the 1850s during all this expansion, it comes very early. But a framework in which to understand it is that pro-slavery ideology was, at its heart, a kind of deeply conservative, organic worldview. And by that I mean a Burkean conservatism, a set of beliefs that says the world is ordered as it is, for reasons, and that human beings ought not tinker with that order, very much. It was a set of beliefs in the sustenance of a social order as it is. It was a belief in a hierarchical conception of not only society, but of people. That people were conceived, whether by nature or by God or even by evolution, with a certain order to them; some born to do this and some born to do that and some born to do that. It’s an organic conception of the world. It just is the way it is. It’s natural. Remember back to Alexander H. Steven’s cornerstone quote — he uses the word “natural” twice in that passage.
If we treat lgbt people like perverts, how can we be surprised if they act like perverts? I am old enough to recall a godless gay agenda, that didn’t want to fight America’s wars or be bound by monogamous hetero-norms. Free love, reckless abandon and debauchery were the norm when, by its very definition, same-sex love was a crime. That gay ghettos, bars, rest stops, parks and the priesthood were places gay men found furtive refuge is no surprise to me. Now, out proud lesbian and gay people fight to be bound by the same responsibilities and obligations all people want — to serve our country in the military, for acceptance and inclusion in religious life and for state recognition of our committed, lifelong relationships. And those people arrested in bathrooms and highway rest stops tend to identify as heterosexual.
What marriage means to me is family, friends and the community coming together to celebrate, affirm and witness a loving commitment between two people. The special role of the state is to endow that commitment with legal standing. My relationship DOES NOT NEED that legal standing to survive or thrive. But it is in the best interest of the broader community that it will survive and thrive. Therefore, I believe, it is in the state’s interest to legalize and encourage same sex marriage.