Donna Pandori

Maggie Gallagher's husband not welcome at NOM event?

Filed By Donna Pandori | September 30, 2009 2:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Living, Marriage Equality, Politics
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Anyone remotely tuned into the same-sex marriage debate has heard of Maggie Gallagher. Most know her from the national stir she has created as President of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy.

Recently, there was flurry of blog chatter after Maggie showed up at a "Celebrate Marriage & Family Day" in Rhode Island solo. Maggie has been married for 17 years to Raman Srivastav. They rarely if ever appear together.

Is this odd?

It is compared to her colleagues Brian Brown, Executive Director of the National Organization for Marriage and Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council (FRC) who are often seen with their spouses. Displaying your marital bliss in public helps validate the one man/one woman message you are sending supporters and donors. Apparently, this doesn't matter to Maggie's fans who continue to listen in awe as she clamors on about the utter greatness of traditional marriage and banning same-sex marriage.

What brings closer attention to Maggie's solo appearance at the Rhode Island event is the way it was billed by NOM:

The National Organization for Marriage - Rhode Island (NOM - Rhode Island) is thrilled to announce its first annual "Celebrate Marriage and Family Day" on August 16th from 3 - 8 pm on the beautiful waterfront property of the Aldrich Mansion (www.aldrichmansion.com) in Warwick, Rhode Island. This positive and encouraging event will include live music, children's activities, 2nd Honeymoon and vacation giveaways, a chance to bring a picnic or purchase food on site to enjoy while overlooking Narragansett Bay, and an ice cream social.

The highlight of the day will be the opportunity for husbands and wives to renew their wedding vows in this idyllic setting.
. . .
Now it's time to be positive and celebrate the goodness and importance of marriage between a man and a woman. The marriage vow renewal is a chance for husbands to look into their wives eyes, and vice versa, and say, 'Sweetheart, it's been 5, 10, 15, or even 50 years, and I would marry you again.'

Again,

The highlight of the day will be the opportunity for husbands and wives to renew their wedding vows in this idyllic setting
. . .
The marriage vow renewal is a chance for husbands to look into their wives eyes, and vice versa, and say, 'Sweetheart, it's been 5, 10, 15, or even 50 years, and I would marry you again.'

So what's the deal?

In 2007 Rajan Zed, a Hindu chaplain, read the first Hindu prayer in the Senate. There was a flood of opposing reactions from the religious-right community, many of whom are supporters of NOM and FRC. Tony Perkins strongly opposed the reading of a Hindu prayer. His reaction appears on the FRC website. In part is says (full text here):

No one can legitimately challenge the fact that the God America refers to in the pledge, our national motto, and other places is the monotheistic God of the Jewish and Christian faith. There is no historic connection between America and the polytheistic creed of the Hindu faith. I seriously doubt that Americans want to change the motto, "In God we Trust, which Congress adopted in 1955, to, "In gods we Trust." That is essentially what the United States Senate did today.

In June 2000 Maggie authored an article at uexpress.com,
Why Kids in Galveston Haven't a Prayer. Reflecting on the Supreme Court's prayer decision she wrote:

"The choice between whether to attend these games to risk facing a personally offensive religious ritual is in no practical sense an easy one," Justice Stevens pontificated. Oh yeah? I've been exposed to a lot of different prayers, what with a New Age mom, nonreligious siblings, my own Catholic faith, a Buddhist sister-in-law, and a whole pack of Hindu relations (including my husband). I can't imagine taking offense because they pray to God in their own way, not mine. Far from promoting religious tolerance, the court in this decision endorsed religious bigotry, the kind of WASPY bigotry that Frederick Streets, chaplain at Yale University, explicitly endorsed the next day in a letter to The New York Times: "Every citizen must be able to attend public events free of feeling imposed upon by any expression of religion or its practice." Keep your religion in church where it belongs. What? Did you think this was a free country?

People who choose to be offended by others' diverse attempts to gain the favor of the divine, simply because they pray differently or not at all, should be exposed for the illiberal, intolerant, small-minded bigots they are, not catered to by the Supreme Court. The words "separation of church and state" never appear in the Constitution, but the "free exercise" of religion is our explicitly guaranteed birthright.

Is there a connection between Raman Srivastav's religion and his absence from Maggie's public appearances? Only Maggie knows.

For those of us in the progressive world, we embrace Raman Srivastav.


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To the extent that the RootsWeb data for Maggie & Raman's family is accurate, I find it sweet, intriguing, out-of-the-box, to see their sons' distinctive names.

It's the self-description of accepting and celebrating her diverse extended family which throws me for a loop, though.

Taking her at her word, holiday gatherings which bring atheists, agnostics, New Age folks, Catholics, Hindus together at the same table appear to be no problem. And, she insists that gay people are OK, so a same-sex couple in their midst should not be disruptive, either. The one thing that could destroy and demoralize the entire family gathering would be the gay or lesbian couple's marriage.

Dear Maggie: Congratulations to you on creating the family of your choice. Seriously, it sounds wonderful. I'd love to be a fly on the wall.

But, Maggie, you do realize that your choices don't reflect 5,000 years of tradition, right?

Is there any reason not to begin consistently using Margaret Srivastav when discussing her in our posts?

Donna Pandori Donna Pandori | October 3, 2009 3:20 PM

I think it's a great idea but I would use Maggie Srivastav or Maggie Gallagher-Srivastav or something like that.

I disagree. There is such a long history of anti-gay folks demeaning us by refusing to accept our self-chosen identification. Transgendered folks hear it the most these days, but there is no shortage of it directed at lesbians and gays as well.

I'd love to hear Maggie speak about the choices she's made in this regard. Maybe she kept her name out of concern for the child she raised for years as a self-described unwed mother; or perhaps, other concerns were active for her.

The question her personal life raises is one of hypocrisy. Has she aligned herself with "traditional" family advocates who shun her not-exactly traditional choices? Is she exploiting a somewhat closeted life in order to push lgbt folks out of the mainstream and back into their own closets?

Donna Pandori Donna Pandori | October 4, 2009 11:09 AM

I'm not sure I understand your point. ?

Sorry I wasn't clear, Donna...

My point is that it boils down to respect; in this case, respect for Maggie Gallagher and her chosen name.

A couple examples from my life...

My legal last name isn't the one I was born with, it's my stepfather's last name. To me, it's nobody else's business what my relationships have been like with my dad vs. my stepdad -- I'm not obligated to justify my choice of name. If folks who know my history referred to me publicly by my birth name, I'd feel disrespected.

Several years back, I engaged in extensive online dialogues with conservative parents whose adult kids who were lesbian or gay. Most of them refused to refer to their kids as such, though. They said their kids had SSAD (same-sex attraction disorder), or referred to them as so-called gays and lesbians, or used mock-quotes ("gay" or "lesbian"). I discussed with them that it would be more respectful and honest for them to use the identification chosen by their kids, no matter how much they disagreed.

In Maggie's case, I understand the temptation to start referring to her by her husband's name. But, I choose not to.

While I love the post - and Donna raises some interesting questions - I also worry about starting to refer to Maggie as Maggie Srivastav. It just seems a little racist since the point is to show her foreign Hindu husband's last name. I think that's a bad idea that would backfire quickly.

Donna Pandori Donna Pandori | October 5, 2009 9:38 AM

Thanks for the clarification but I think your analogy is flawed. Here’s why.

I agree one should not be obligated to justify their “choice of name”, however, once you enter the public arena to affect government policy, especially policies which affect other people’s lives, everything about you becomes relevant. Using your logic, politicians who conceal their sexual-orientation while at the same time bash the GLBT community and vote for anti-GLBT legislation should not be outed for the hypocrites they are? Why would one want to be obscure about their own “personal relationship” unless it potentially meant losing power, support, money, status?

I think you raise a relevant point here, Donna... parallel to my questions earlier on: Has she aligned herself with "traditional" family advocates who shun her not-exactly traditional choices? Is she exploiting a somewhat closeted life in order to push lgbt folks out of the mainstream and back into their own closets?

Where we might be different is that I'm not convinced that her name answers those questions yet. I haven't seen evidence that Maggie's husband is unwelcome at NOM gatherings, and his absence from the spotlight suggests that he has chosen not to be a public figure.

I need to disagree, gently, with you on this thought: ...once you enter the public arena to affect government policy, especially policies which affect other people’s lives, everything about you becomes relevant. I find it relevant that Maggie is leading a traditional marriage movement while enjoying the fruits of tolerance, acceptance, and respect which she denies us. It's even more relevant if she's leading a marriage movement whose foot-soldiers don't support her own marriage.

But, in my view, everything about Maggie's life is not relevant. Being a public person does not require her to put her family on stage; it does not mean that she must open every detail of her personal life to public scrutiny.

Donna Pandori Donna Pandori | October 5, 2009 9:56 AM

You are correct.

Actually, the other main idea I wanted to articulate is Maggie described some of the very people and organizations who support NOM when she wrote this paragraph:

People who choose to be offended by others' diverse attempts to gain the favor of the divine, simply because they pray differently or not at all, should be exposed for the illiberal, intolerant, small-minded bigots they are

Wade MacMorrighan | November 16, 2009 2:50 AM

Brilliant article! Definitely one I need to circulate ('cause, hey, I loathe what Mags' has been saying*, and her fear-mongering tactics that, without which, Cali. and Maine probably would have secured marriage equality!). But, what's weird is why she uses her Maiden Name when in a 1980s debate with Gloria Allred, Mags represented the opposition to Feminism and Feminists!

* "It's not discrimination if you treat different people differently!" while on the Dr. Phil Show (no one called her on it, or any of these!).
* Gay people do not/ cannot/ or are incapable of loving their significant other to the same emotional depths that our heterosexual counterparts do! Gee, isn't this like the slave master declaring that African's didn't have souls, so that he could subjugate them?
* And she also said that, despite the laws in one's state where Marriage Equality is legal, a Gay marriage is "not a real marriage", and that she shouldn't have to pretend that it is "real" or that it is equal to a heterosexual marriage!

Austin Rozzell | April 25, 2011 10:20 AM

I just think, her full name should be used, she has made her self a public figure, who's main job it seams, is to tell every one else how they should live.
what is she afraid of, people not liking her for being different, well she makes a point of using other peoples differences as a weapon, and often bashes them over the head with it.
if hypocrites are not called on their hypocrisy, then by all means let them continue, of course with your help.