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.'
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.