Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Will the real Maggie Gallagher please stand up?

The first rule in warfare is "Know your enemy."

Egomaniac, Maggie Gallagher
When it comes to the fight for marriage equality, Maggie Gallagher, founder of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is the public face of the anti-gay movement. Tuesday's landmark decision by the 9th Circuit Court overturning California's Proposition 8 as unconstitutional was a major blow to NOM and to the work that Gallagher says she never intended to get involved with in the first place.

In response to the ruling, Gallagher wrote on NOMblog, "Ninth Circuit to 7 Million Voters: You Are Irrational Bigots." A headline like this tells me two things. First that Maggie is paying attention.

Second - and perhaps more importantly - that Gallagher knows how to play the passive/aggressive game that is as old as the Catholic Church. Having been raised by a devoutly Catholic mother, I can tell you that playing the martyr is the last desperate attempt to win a losing battle. When you have nothing left in your arsenal, you nail yourself to the cross and blame the other side. The intent is to win sympathy, but what they usually get is pity and disdain.

To paraphrase Bette Davis, as "Baby Jane" Hudson, "But they are irrational bigots, Maggie! They are irrational bigots!" If they weren't, they wouldn't be so easy to exploit. Conservatives have known this for a very long time. Gallagher may not see herself as a bigot, but she is, if nothing else, a master manipulator and opportunist who believes that as long as she can exploit the bigotry of the masses to get what she wants, the end justifies the means. She has harnessed the homophobia of far right, religious extremists, not because of her faith, but to reshape the world into her own vision of the idealistic life she wanted for herself, but was denied, due, in no small part, to her own bad choices. did an extensive series of in depth interviews with Gallagher and those who know her best that paints a fascinating portrait of a woman who is driven more by her own inner demons than by religious conviction. She tells Salon's Mark Oppenheimer, that her return to the Catholic church after years as an atheist was more of an intellectual choice than a spiritual reawakening:
“I’m a revert,” Gallagher says. “I was raised Catholic. When I was 8, my mother left the church, and she ended up doing a lot of spiritual seeking … I was an atheist from the youngest age. When I was 16, I became a Randian. Becoming a Catholic began as an intellectual thing. In college, I reasoned my way into the pro-life stance. I could not come up with any good reason why the person inside a woman was not a person. Also, I had completely separated sex from procreation, and after I got pregnant, I realized that was a mistake. All the smartest people in the world, draped in all their Ph.D.s, were saying that sex and procreation were separate things, and of course that was just completely not true. The Catholic Church was the only institution that was saying that was not true. On the big issues, I began to realize that on all the issues I thought most deeply about, the church was right.”
The Salon piece depicts a young, naive, somewhat nerdy, college student who was socially awkward and saw herself as a budding, dispassionate intellectual and philosopher. But the young Maggie found out the hard way, as most college kids do, that life is a lot more complicated and more difficult than she'd expected. It's common knowledge that Gallagher got pregnant in college and was a single mother for several years before marrying her current husband. But what is revealed is the indelible impact that pregnancy had on her life and how it shaped her world view and became the motivating force of her life.
As Gallagher tells it, she and the baby’s father were close; they had been together “on the order of one year,” she says, so he might have been expected to stand by her. “My son’s father was my boyfriend at Yale,” is how she describes their relationship. But when she told him she was pregnant, right before spring break in 1982, he vanished on her. “I was in his room and he had to go do something, and I was going to fly out in a couple of hours, had to get to the airport. And the last thing he said to me was, ‘I’ll be back in 30 minutes.’ And then he wasn’t.”
He just left her sitting in his room. And that was the end of them. When summer came, Gallagher moved home to Oregon and took some classes to finish her degree. In the fall, she gave birth to a baby boy, Patrick.
College is not just a time for us to prepare for a career, it's a time when we decide who we will be as a person for the rest of our lives, whether we know it consciously or not. For Maggie Gallagher, college was the time that changed the course of her life, leaving emotional scars that shaped her idealistic world view. Making that distorted world view a reality would become her life's mission.

When Gallagher rails against same-sex marriage, it's not because she hates us, it's because of her colossal ego. She wants the world to be the way she wants it to be, for no other reason than because it's the way she wants it. She believes what she believes and wants the rest of the world to believe it too. This is a characteristic that is shared by many religious leaders (and dictators) and if she must align herself with them to achieve her goals, it's not out of a shared religious conviction, it's because they are useful.

Gallagher reveals that when she started out on her crusade to save traditional marriage, the gays weren't even part of the equation. But for whatever reason, she wasn't making much headway on her career path until the marriage equality victory in Massachusetts. Gallagher smelled blood in the water and went on the attack.

In layman's terms, Maggie Gallagher is an opportunistic control freak with delusions of grandeur. She dismisses any factual evidence that disproves her lies about gays and lesbians and the welfare of the children they may raise because it threatens her sense of self. Gallagher believes that in time, maybe even decades or centuries down the road, she will be proven right, because her fragile, damaged, overblown ego won't allow her to believe anything less.

Read the full Salon interview here.

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