October 10, 2012 at 11:00 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Former NOM president: Marriage is not a ‘civil rights issue’

Former National Organization for Marriage President Maggie Gallagher (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

BALTIMORE—The co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage stressed on Tuesday that marriage for same-sex couples is not a civil right.

“I’m here today to urge you to join with your friends and neighbors and your fellow citizens to vote no on Question 6 precisely because I do not believe that gay marriage is a civil rights issue,” said Maggie Gallagher, who lives in Montgomery County, during a League of Women Voters’ panel on the Nov. 6 referendum on Maryland’s same-sex marriage law at Morgan State University. “Marriage has existed not just in the state of Maryland but all over the globe for thousands of years as a union of male and female for a simple reason: These are the only unions that can make new life and connect children in love to their mother and their father. Marital unions have that capacity.”

The debate took place at the historically black university shortly after Marylanders for Marriage Equality, the group supporting Question 6, unveiled its first television ads that feature Rev. Donté Hickman of the Southern Baptist Church in Baltimore and Rev. Delman Coates of Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton in Prince George’s County. Both men joined Rev. Al Sharpton and other prominent black clergy last month who urged congregants to support Maryland’s same-sex marriage law.

“The question is whether or not we as a state are going to continue to treat all people in the state of Maryland — citizens of Maryland — equally and fairly under the law. And that’s what Question 6 or ballot Question 6 is all about,” said state Del. Keiffer Mitchell (D-Baltimore City) who spoke on behalf of Marylanders for Marriage Equality. “It’s about treating all our citizens fairly and equally under the law. What Question 6 does is simply allow gay couples to go to a court house to file to receive a civil marriage license in order to be married.”

A Baltimore Sun poll released late last month shows 49 percent of likely Maryland voters support the state’s same-sex marriage law, compared to 39 percent who oppose it with 10 percent undecided. A Gonzalez Research poll released earlier in September indicates 51 percent of Marylanders would vote for Question 6, compared to 43 percent who would oppose it.

The same survey noted that 44 percent of black Marylanders back nuptials for gays and lesbians, compared to 52 percent who oppose same-sex marriage.

Mitchell noted that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s board of directors passed a resolution in support of same-sex marriage after President Obama publicly backed the issue during an interview with ABC News in May. The NAACP of Maryland and the civil rights organization’s Baltimore City and Prince George’s County chapters have also urged their members to support Question 6.

“We may not literally force your clergy to perform marriage, but what we found in other states is that you can be expected fairly rapidly to be treated the way we treat, the way government treats, people who oppose equality,” said Gallagher. “We stigmatize, we marginalize, we oppress racists because racism is wrong. But in my view, this traditional understanding of marriage across different races, creeds and colors is not evil. It’s not discriminatory. It’s good. You need to bring together male and female to make inroads in the next generation. That’s the heart of the classic understanding of marriage. And it’s the heart that gay marriage will change. And it will change it not just for gay people. It will change it for every citizen in the state of Maryland.”

Mitchell pointed out NOM’s strategy to use marriage as a wedge issue to further divide black and gay voters.

“This is a civil rights issue. I am proud of a family that I come from of pioneers that set the way in terms of civil rights. And one of the lessons that I’ve learned from speaking with my uncles, parents and my grandparents, great-grandmother and others was that civil rights in the African-American community we do not have a monopoly on,” he said. “We have to continue to move forward and we just can’t get our rights and then kick the ladder away and say we have ours, you fight for your own.”

Rev. Meredith Moise, who co-chairs Baltimore Black Pride, confronted Gallagher over her reference to African same-gender marriage ceremonies to further promote tribal lineages as she walked off the stage after the forum.

“As a student, a former student and alumnus of this beloved university having said this to this man [Mitchell] whose family shed blood and died for the rights of all people is anathema. And shame on you,” she said. “And for you to support it and propagate hate in the black community. Shame on you. No human being has the right to divide people of African blood on this issue. We will remain one people.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

  • According to the Supreme Court decision in 1967’s Loving v. Virginia, marriage is “one of the basic civil rights of man.” Maggie Gallagher’s opinion is irrelevant.

  • Gallagher should be told in no uncertain terms that the oppressor does not have authority to declare what type of issue constitutes a civil rights issue. The malicious bigot is trying to perpetuate sexual orientation apartheid by means of CIVIL laws, ergo, this is a CIVIL RIGHTS matter, only she is claiming that she has the CIVIL RIGHT to perpetuate sexual orientation apartheid. Civil laws = civil rights. When will a house finally drop on that monster bigot? Her game of "let's all be civil" is not acceptable, when she is attempting to impose Catholic dogma on innocent human beings. The Catholic Church was complicit in the demonization of WWII-era homosexuals and getting them deported to concentration camps. At the site of a former concentration camp near Trieste, today there is a memorial to the gay victims of the Holocaust. Not only has the Vatican never yet acknowledged its complicity in the crimes against humanity that occurred because of its demonization of gay people — the Vatican is still baselessly demonizing gay people. We must demand that this bullshit stop. The Vatican and Maggie Gallagher both have to stop their bullshit. It is bullshit for her to say that this is not a civil rights matter, when she is trying to assert her CIVIL RIGHT to discriminate against us through CIVIL laws.

  • Maggie Gallaher said, “These are the only unions that can make new life and connect children in love to their mother and their father. Marital unions have that capacity.”

    Procreation has NEVER been a requirement nor an obligation for those getting married. PERIOD. Maggie’s argument doesn’t apply to heterosexual unions, yet she has the audacity to use procreation as a weapon against gay couples. Senior citizens, infertile couples, and those not wanting children are ALL permitted to marry in our country. You cannot allow a subsection of the straight population to get a “free pass” to marriage, but withhold that same “free pass” based on the exact same criteria to those with a different sexual orientation. Those that promote that ideology are rightfully called hypocrites.

    Rush Limbaugh has been legally married FOUR times, and I have yet to hear Maggie or Brian Brown condemning Rush for making a mockery out of the institution. He also has never “procreated” during any of those “till death do us part” marriages. So I’m wondering why Maggie thinks it’s okay for Rush to dismiss Maggie’s procreative definition of marriage, but it’s not okay for gay couples to do exactly the same thing? (By the way, there ARE same-sex couples that are raising children.) There is nothing inherently special or magical about Rush’s fourth marriage that is beyond that of a gay couple in a similar relationship. So basically Maggie’s only real argument is that Rush is having sex with a woman, so somehow that makes him worthy of being able to marry and divorce as many times as he wants. As arguments go, that one reeks of bigotry and discrimination. Sorry, Maggie. But if it quacks like a duck…

  • Says the mother of two kids from two different men and was only married to one…the first hated her so much he abandoned his own son to get away.

  • Since marriage is an institution granting rights to citizens and the 14th Amendment to the Constitution requires that all citizens be treated equally, marriage for same sex couples is very much a civil rights issue.

  • I rarely hear an honest debate focusing on the rights of children. It is only when people compassionately and unselfishly view life through the eyes of the child, that we will see clearly on this issue. Marriage is the social institution that protects the rights of the child. Marriage has a purpose far beyond adult aspiration. Everyone knows that many marriages do not go well, and not every marriage produces offspring, but that does not negate the purpose of marriage to protect the rights of children who, most of the time, are born to a natural mother and father. Every child who is born has a right to an ideal start if at all possible. It is interesting to me that most people are very interested in ideals for themselves. The ideal house, car, vacation, physical body, education and so forth and feel certain that they have a right to pursue that ideal. The most serious negative consequence of legalizing same sex marriage is that it strips, by law, the societal mechanism that protects children’s rights to begin life, so far as is humanly possible, in the association of the two people who gave them life. How can we have a discussion about civil rights if we do not acknowledge that children have a right to the love and association and yes, marriage of their very own natural biological mother and father? I realize that many people choose to be irresponsible with regard to the health and well being of their children. And everyone knows that adoption is societies compassionate response to a child’s tragedy.
    But legalizing same sex marriage will , by design, demand that some children will miss this right and blessing. No one wants to talk about the children. And it’s pretty easy to push them aside… because they aren’t here yet.

  • Just because I pray at night, doesn’t mean I can call my home a church and get tax free status form the government. It’s not a church, it’s a home. Gay people can have sex and be in love, they can’t be married, because the word marriage, the common sense meaning the world over, the legal definition the world over, has nothing to do with two people of the same sex, nothing at all. The supporters of gay marriage are trying to change the definition of marriage to something is isn’t and never was, which has nothing to do with civil rights, any more than me wanting to change the definition of the word church to include my house.

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