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Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D, NY-18) was sworn into the House this week. His partner Randy Florke to his right,
surrounded by their kids and Speaker Boehner.
The nationally syndicated column of Maggie Gallagher, founding president and board chair of the National Organization's (NOM), is no more. As of Wednesday, syndicator Universal Uclick will no longer be distributing it to the 25-35 papers that carried it.

This is notable because this is another data point reinforcing the conclusion that hardcore social conservatives in general, and National Organization for Marriage in particular, are increasingly becoming marginalized and irrelevant in the national political dialogue.

Speaking with Huffington Post, Gallagher says newspapers are a dying media. She seems to comprehend the gravity of the losses her cause has suffered and says, " I wanted more time to think. So many people are flailing, I want time to think," and "I'm considering other projects, but I haven't made any decisions."

After NOM experienced what can only be described as a routing in 2012, the front woman for the anti-gay marriage movement is doing a pretty terrible job maintaining her game face. She has predicted that the Defense of Marriage Act will fall at the Supreme Court, courtesy of Justice Kennedy (and maybe Justice Roberts as well, she says). And Wednesday's column seemed to be more evidence a sense of inevitable doom has overcome her, one that she can't be bothered to hide. The exact title to her column is "This I believe: Farewell to Optimism."

It isn't a particularly unique column, just sort of an overview of her philosophies with regards to the "family values" movement. She speaks in simple declarative sentences: "Every life is precious." "Men and women are different." "Sex makes babies." "On every key measure, marriage is weaker."

Her rhetorical choices have always been tailored in this way; find some simple universal truth, and lead the reader to the next conclusion. "If A, then B." The premise being her conclusion, B, can't be wrong because A is a fact. The problem is the logical leap between the common ground objective truth and her subjective conclusion has become far too vast to many Americans to make the leap with her.

She'll take what may well be an objective truth:

Since 1993, the proportion of children born out of wedlock has jumped from 31 percent to 41 percent -- mostly since about 2003. For women with only a high school degree or less, nonmarital childbearing is the new normal.
And from that she draws a flawed conclusion: It's because of Hollywood and pornography and states that are letting gay people get married (stopping the last one being her life's mission and livelihood). Empirical evidence that suggests her conclusion may be flawed is never acknowledged, like the fact that Massachusetts has enjoyed marriage equality for almost a decade and still has the lowest divorce rate in the country.

(Continues after the fold ...)

There is an underlying sexism of fundamentalist Christianity in all her writings and assumptions and it's present in Wednesday's column:

Why should young men work hard to become protectors and defenders of women and children when American culture -- and women -- tells them they are not needed in either role?
Gallagher during her "Summer for Marriage" tour
The irony has always been rich that Maggie Gallagher should come to embody a movement that espouses patriarchal traditional family values. She was an unwed single mother. She's a devout Catholic who has entered into an interfaith marriage with a man who is reportedly Hindu. She frequently travels cross-country for her job, alone. In fact, she has never been seen in public with her husband or her son. She even went stag to her organization's "Celebrate Marriage & Family Day" event. She preaches the great importance of men assuming their rightful place of family leadership, but she does not carry the name of her husband, Raman Srivastav, nor does she wear his ring. All the sort of non-traditional "lifestyle choices" one might expect of a Godless modern feminist, not a hardcore religious social conservative.

And if I may put Maggie on the couch for a moment, there is a recurrent theme that she is perhaps still processing the college boyfriend who got her pregnant and abandoned her, as examined at length in a very revealing profile at Salon. Maggie said in her column:

"Without a powerful ideal of masculinity that points men toward marriage and fatherhood, more and more young men are deciding the hard work of becoming marriageable is not worth it: Porn, beer, video games with the guys, freedom and fleeting sexual encounters are good enough.

The most urgent overlooked need is the deep need of boys for masculine ideals. If civilization refuses to provide any, porn and video-game makers will step in to fill the gap."

These passages make me want to say, "Just get over it, it isn't the gay people's fault your baby-daddy wouldn't marry you when he knocked you up in college and choose life at his fraternity over you." Her baby-daddy isn't even gay; Salon reported he's currently married.  

I will even be gracious and say, it isn't Maggie's fault she was abandoned either. Some men (or people) are just irresponsible dogs, and sometimes even the smartest among us don't figure that out until it's too late. Always has been the case. Long before the radical gay agenda arrived in America, Ben Franklin was a notorious womanizer and Thomas Jefferson scandalously carried on with a slave he acquired from his wife's family. And the Church of England broke off from the Roman Catholic Church—the greatest realigning of religion in recorded history, prompting countless bloody wars—because King Henry the VIII just couldn't commit himself to staying in a good Catholic traditional marriage. The gays didn't cause that! Straight men caused that. No. Human nature caused that.

And that is the failure of the social conservative movement to accept that alas, some people will just do what they are going to do. Liberals believe in attempting to mitigate the damage these choices may inflict. For example, by educating people on safer sex and contraception, we know if they do make these choices, the life-long consequences become less dire. Social conservatives just dig their heels in and attempt to fight human nature.

Gallagher told the Huffington Post:

Culture wars are struggles over who has the power to "name reality." We are getting swamped in this war.
But there's a big logical leap that America is no longer able to make with Gallagher; naming gays as the inherent enemies of families. It no longer makes sense that gay people who want to make their own commitment to family, are simultaneously a threat to anyone's family. They want their lifelong commitment  acknowledged, in public, by their families, friends and by the state. And in their preaching NOM frequently names gays as dangerous or scary or radicals or terrorists but that just isn't the reality that Americans see.
Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) meets supporters.
The tremendous irony is that many gay people are embracing "traditional values" in their "lifestyle choices." Recognizing the catch phrase "family values" is becoming outdated and time worn, this movement has now retiring it for a new talking point: "religious liberty." This phrase is less effective and has not resonated outside the hard right echo chamber. It also has a short shelf life as America is becoming both more secular and more diverse religiously. Their inability to include religions other than fundamentalist Christianity as deserving of "liberty" is perfectly obvious to anyone not already in their camp.

Oh Maggie. It all could have gone so differently for you.

There was a fork, and when you were lonely and abandoned, you really should have made yourself a gay BFF. You were in Princeton for chrissake, the place is lousy with them. Your new gay BFF would have dressed you up cute, taken you out, plied you with trendy drinks, and been a great sympathetic listening ear. And he would have helped you properly work through that wholly justified anger, and told you your baby-daddy was a worthless dog, and you were better off without him and that there were better things in your future. And he'd probably have been happy to babysit your kid when you went on dates, and dished with you about them when you got home. (OK, that was the plot of Object of My Affection, but it could happen.)

But you went another direction.

But it isn't too late. Life is full of second chances. Forks in the road come all the time. It seems, Ms. Gallagher, you are facing one now. How to continue to fight "for families," when the driving force of your cause—stopping the gays from marrying—is all but lost?

Gallagher signs off her column saying:

So in this, my final column, I say my farewell to optimism and my hello to hope.

What is the difference? Optimism is a prediction; hope is a virtue.

I am lucky that I have both optimism and hope. I'm optimistic for the future and that the country is heading in the right direction, as a whole, albeit far too slowly for my taste.

My hope is that the "family values" activism crowd will someday have an epiphany.

I hope they might someday come to embrace the fight for the sort of social safety net programs that keep families out of poverty and provide them with a bridge to prosperity. Someday when conservative politicians say we can't afford the Affordable Care Act, I would love to hear these family champions say, "American families can't afford healthcare without it!" ACA has already delivered significant co-pay savings to my own retired mother.

Maybe someday they'll recognize that something is hurting families more than lack of prayer in school, or loose morals, lack of spankings and corporal punishment, or men not acting like real men and women not acting like proper ladies. And that thing is considerably more concrete and fixable.

National Organization for Marriage, with their associated think tank, The Ruth Institute, fancy themselves a secular lover of empirical data. They love to quote (and misquote and misrepresent) scientific studies. But NOM all but totally ignores the elephant in the room, the effect of growing income inequality in America. A search for "income inequality" on both NOM and the Ruth Institute's sites, returns just one result. It is an ironic warning that "With constantly growing income inequality and poverty, women will increasingly be turned into breeding vessels for the financially privileged."

United States Census figures.
The data is clear that real world wages have been stagnating for generations, especially under $100K threshold. Meanwhile, the basic cost of living, for food, housing, insurance, healthcare, has been skyrocketing. Parents don't spend as much time with their kids but not because they are inherently bad parents and inherently bad people who lack family values. Where once a single breadwinner could provide, now parents may have to work two jobs each just to put food on the table. And the trend toward downsizing at the office has made the 35 hour work week a quaint memory as people are increasingly asked to perform what used to be the work of two people. They don't want to neglect family time, they want to provide decent housing, pay for extracurricular activities, save for college. It's all overwhelming and for the vast majority of Americans far out-pacing the rate that their wages are rising.

This also makes the case that sociological trends of people choosing to have fewer children is a responsible choice, not a wholesale rejection of family.

Consider that a college education is statistically unquestionably the one single greatest gift a parent can help provide to their child to avoid a life of poverty. Now, consider the skyrocketing cost of college tuition:

It's easy to see where the pressure on parents to provide a good life for their children is for many becoming an insurmountable hurdle.

Another empirical truth: couples fight about money. And the more they fight about money, the more likely they are to divorce.

And a study by Utah State University showed:
Of all these common things couples fight about, money disputes were the best harbingers of divorce. For wives, disagreements over finances and sex were good predictors of divorce, but finance disputes were much stronger predictors. For husbands, financial disagreements were the only type of common disagreement that predicted whether they would get a divorce.
I'm a gay man. No partner, no kids. But I am very sympathetic to this plight that faces all middle class families. You could consider me a strong ally in the fight for better lives for the families of America. I'd like nothing more than for mom and dad to call it a night at 5:00 PM and rush home to spend quality time with the kids. I'd love it if every family could afford for one parent to stay home full-time with the kids. (Although I don't care if it's mom or dad.)

My concern for American families is precisely why I stood up and gave a standing ovation when Sen. Gillibrand fought for food stamps on the Senate floor saying the cuts made would mean "in the third week of the month, many families' children will go to school hungry and that's a high concern for me as a mother."

Gillibrand said,

So I urge my colleagues who are looking for places where we need to tighten our belts, please do not ask that of hungry children. It is the one place where we should not be tightening a belt. These are children who need this food.
But the "family values" crowd is entirely silent as we have these national debates about where the Federal government should be making budget cuts. And watch, they will continue to be silent as the talks become increasingly heated in the next 90 days. There will be no statements from National Organization for Marriage, American Family Association, Family Research Council or other "family values" leaders discouraging these sorts of cuts. I rarely go on record with predictions, but on this one I'm very confident.

But this "radical gay activist," like most is committed to fighting for programs like Social Security, Social Security disability, Medicare and Medicaid, food stamps, Head Start, generously funded public schools, school meals programs, cheaper college tuition, more and better avenues for grants and cheaper college loans, affordable housing, paid sick leave for wage workers. These are things that provide real pragmatic relief to families and will buy them more time to play Yahtzee, throw the ball in the back yard or attend the church ice cream socials, instead of having to take a shift greeting strangers at Walmart.

I hope someday these "defenders of families" will come to realize the socially conservative politicians they favor basically oppose anything that could make life easier for families, and are working only to benefit the already insanely rich. The conservative's chosen candidate for president recommended borrowing money from your parents to escape poverty, a insanely oblivious declaration they all but ignored.

And I hope as Maggie Gallagher soul searches and begins a new chapter she will reconsider her real goals and task herself to fighting the real cause of the deterioration of the American family as we've known it.

And hopefully she'll realize the gays aren't the real problem.

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