The Afterlife of the Anti-Marriage Equality Movement

Yesterday I wrote about the whining of Christian Right folk over the terrible indignities they are suffering as their grip on marriage laws is being loosened. At about the same time Jonathan Chait conducted a similar exercise focused on perhaps the country’s most prominent anti-same-sex-marriage agitator, the former National Organization for Marriage president and also founder of the Culture War Victory Fund, Maggie Gallagher.

There is no more telling sign of the opposition’s surrender than the public demoralization of Maggie Gallagher, the leading anti-gay-marriage activist and writer….

Today, the movement has advanced far more rapidly than expected, and it is hard to find much hope at all in Gallagher. She increasingly casts those on her own side as victims. Gallagher insists, in an interview with National Review — she has given up her column — the cause is about “the core civil rights of 7 million Californians to vote on the marriage question.” The rights of a gay couple to marry cannot be allowed to trample on the rights of heterosexuals to vote to ban them from getting married.

The surest sign of resignation is that Gallagher has redirected her focus from stopping gay marriage to preserving the dignity of her reputation and those of her fellow believers. She now presents her cause as a kind of civil rights movement to protect her fellow believers from the stigma of advocating bigotry and discrimination. “I worry when I get an email from a woman who’s a nurse in a hospital,” she told NPR, “who wrote a letter to the editor opposing gay marriage, and finds that she fears her job is in jeopardy.”

Chait cleverly suggests that as leader of a dying political movement, Gallagher is now focused on its “afterlife,” the dignity with which these once self-confident culture warriors are allowed to take away from their defeat.

There is no last-minute generational twist, no reversal of the tide, lying in store to save Gallagher and the gay-marriage opponents, and she knows it full well. Regardless of any Supreme Court ruling, her movement is lying on its death bed, and she is making her peace with it.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.