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An Open Letter to Maggie Gallagher

Thursday, July 12, 2012
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Maggie you called me out yesterday in the National Review for referring to your comments about marriage equality as “monstrous.” Sorry, but they were. And continue to be.

Here’s what I said:

I’ve been really understanding of Maggie Gallagher since meeting her. I may vehemently disagree with her on every point, but I did think the rhetoric could become more civil. Less name calling, more substance. But honestly, her latest just ticks me off to no end.

“A society that is serious about marriage would gently stand up to gay people and say ‘not this, not now.’ Changes in law are hard to undo, once they are institutionalized. I did not decide to debate gay marriage, gay-marriage advocates did. I responded to the challenge.”

Wait our turn, Maggie? On civil rights? While teenagers kill themselves each day because they feel less than? That’s condescending and heartless. Monstrous, actually.

Maggie Gallagher

When we met a few months ago at a reception following a gay marriage debate you had with Andrew Sullivan, you were really quite charming, and we had a perfectly affable conversation on matters mostly unrelated to marriage equality.

I have endeavored since that meeting to be more civil in discussions about your advocacy and have become more sensitive to (and distressed by) the personal attacks I sometimes see directed at you.

I’ve tried to stick to what you say, while attempting to understand what you mean, since they are two entirely different things in most cases. You’re a master of knowing your audience, and you were honestly an engaging person to talk to at that Washington & Lee reception. We agree on nearly nothing, but I took from that evening that you were a human being, and deserved to be treated as such. I still believe that.

But the things you say are monstrous. Particularly because they put a polite and kindly gloss on something that at its heart is very ugly and does damage to a lot of people.

“Not this, not now?” Sorry, but marriage equality is NOT an affront to civilized society, and when you hold it out as such, you make it harder for gay youth who through no fault of their own are stuck in communities and families that say they and their relationships are “less than” their friends who are straight.

When organizations that you have been key in guiding like the National Organization for Marriage plan to encourage children of gay parents to speak out against them, you hurt real families. When NOM planned to divide this country based on race, you hurt an even wider audience, opening wounds that are yet to heal and go back hundreds of years.

Your words, however civil on their face, create fear, division, and distrust. When the affiliated Ruth Institute publishes snippets of essays by anti-gay folks like Michael Brown, and then link to stories hinting at gay men being pedophiles, you knowingly foment the prejudices of others far less “civil” than you. This is uncivil. This is monstrous.

You’re like those sweet little ladies from Arsenic and Old Lace. So charming… and yet serving up poison in their tea. Their behavior was monstrous too.

There’s a calculated pattern to the way you fashion yourself the victim here. Jeremy Hooper at Good As You captured it perfectly in discussing “the two Maggies.”

You play to the audience you’re faced with, and you’re perfectly charming to the side you’re facing, while stirring up as much animosity as possible. Then if someone calls you out on what you say, you choose to label yourself a helpless victim, who just happens to get booked on CNN and MSNBC regularly to spread divisiveness to a wide audience while quietly publishing hate to the right.

That’s not a victim, that’s a power player, and honestly, I can almost respect that. But I don’t have to let it go unchallenged, and I have absolutely no qualms about calling it monstrous.

I’m certain that we’ll meet again, Maggie. And when we do, I’m sure we’ll each have a brownie like we did in Virginia, and engage in a lively, polite discussion, because that’s what adults who disagree do. But I won’t be drinking your tea with it.

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