Maggie Gallagher's Refusal to Attend Gay Weddings Shows Why Government Shouldn't Compel Service-Providers to Work Them

When you debate with words instead of government force, acceptance of gay marriage will win


National Review social conservative Maggie Gallagher has a telling and useful column today explaining to a hypothetical gay male friend who has invited her to his wedding why she, unlike Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida), will refuse to attend. Excerpt:

We are born male and female, and marriage is the union of husband to wife that celebrates the necessity of the two genders' coming together to make the future happen. I know you don't think that. I know the law no longer thinks that. But I have staked my life on this truth.

The problem for me in celebrating your gay wedding, as much as I love you, is that I would be witnessing and celebrating your attempt not only to commit yourself to a relationship that keeps you from God's plan but, worse, I would be witnessing and celebrating your attempt to hold the man you love to a vow that he will avoid God's plan. To vow oneself to sin is one thing, to try to hold someone you love to it — that's not something I can celebrate.

And I would be party to the idea that two men can make a marriage, which I do not believe.

On your happy day you should be surrounded by people who can honor your vow and help you keep it. I can't do that.

I appreciate Gallagher's candor, and not ironically. Just like when ESPN commentator Chris Broussard greeted the news of NBA backup center Jason Collins coming out of the closet by declaring Collins to be not "Christian," Gallagher's open expression of disdain is actually useful for those of us who believe the opposite, because it gives us something to argue against.

The notion that someone has staked their life on marriage staying male-female is frankly bizarre. To single out same-sex couples for being disqualifying unable "to make the future happen," and untenably mired in sin—in a world with tens of millions of multiply-married people, many of whom re-couple after child-rearing age; while younger same-sex couples eagerly adopt otherwise unwanted children—is to demonstrate that some Christian conservatives are elevating homosexuality far above other sins, most of which involve actual discord and harm rather than a joyous union of two loving people. Gallagher's literal intolerance of gay marriage can quickly become an argument in its favor.

That's how this stuff should work, and in fact has been working for decades.

As Jonathan Rauch put it, in a 2013 Reason piece on free speech I keep quoting (and will do so again in my editor's note of the forthcoming issue of the magazine), one big reason that public opinion about government policy related to homosexuality has changed so far and so fast is that trail-blazing activists

saw Jerry Falwell and Anita Bryant not as threats to hide from but as opportunities to be seized: opportunities to rally gays, educate straights, and draw sharp moral comparisons. "Is that what you think this country is all about? Really?"

To appeal to a country's conscience, you need an antagonist. 

It's a counter-intuitive point, one that many progressives find hard to swallow, but compelling people to change their minds and hounding minority viewpoints into silence is not nearly as persuasive as, well, persuasion. And it has the added benefit of being more harmonious with America's rich and enviable history of liberal free speech.

Final word goes to Jonathan Rauch:

For politically weak minorities, the best and often only way to effect wholesale change in the world of politics is by effecting change in the world of ideas. Our position as beneficiaries of the open society requires us to serve as guardians of it. Playing that role, not seeking government protections or hauling our adversaries before star chambers, is the greater source of our dignity.