Earlier this week, Maggie Gallagher tried to assert that championing heterosexuality does not denigrate gay people, even though her specific goal in doing so is to deny them the same legal protections of marriage. In a follow-up post at the National Review also excerpted by the National Organization for Marriage, Gallagher doubled down on this claim, even unflinchingly quoting ThinkProgress’s response. The guise of her post was an explanation of why infertile straight couples should still be allowed to marry — they are “part of the natural lifecycle of marriage” — but she then directly responded to ThinkProgress’s argument:
Marriage equality is going to be used primarily to enforce the new moral norm: no differences between straight and gay can matter. Or as Think Progress put it recently “At a basic level, it’s logically impossible to say that heterosexuality is better — or should be the norm — compared to homosexuality without simultaneously stating that homosexuality is worse — or abnormal. Either all people are equal in society or they are not; she cannot have her straights-only wedding cake and eat it stigma-free.”
It is possible to affirm an ideal without stigmatizing the alternatives — to affirm in the positive without pushing the negative. But gay marriage advocates insist that any affirmation of the ideal represents a denigration of them, no matter how expressed.
The problem with Gallagher’s argument is that she does push the negative. There would be no need to highlight her attempts to justify heterosexism if she were not also justifying the idea that the gay community should be denied access to the securities and benefits of marriage.
Conservatives have exerted an incredible amount of effort to find talking points that oppose same-sex marriage without sounding anti-gay. In fact, they have found ways to talk about their position on marriage without even mentioning gay people. As a consequence, they’ve painted themselves into some amusing rhetorical corners, arguing that even straight adoption is inferior (though they don’t oppose it) and marriage somehow keeps older men from cheating on their post-menopausal wives. But despite their best claims to not be bigots, their motives continue to focus on relegating the gay community to second-class status.
Gallagher, NOM, and other conservatives regularly mention other values they have regarding marriage besides not allowing gay people access, such as opposition to divorce. But they don’t campaign against divorce — only marriage equality. If Gallagher truly does not want to perpetuate stigma against gay people, then she should discourage any attempt to codify her “ideal” into exclusive laws that discriminate.