Maggie Gallagher has an editorial in the the NY Post in which she denies her battle against marriage equality has any effect on gay teen suicides. Let’s have a look. Maggie’s statements are in bold.
Do I have blood on my hands?
Ooo, pick me, I know!
Major gay-rights groups are saying so. Each of us who opposes gay marriage, they say, is responsible for the terrible and tragic suicides of gay teens that recently hit the news.
I can’t speak for the major gay groups, but personally I’ve always made a distinction between people who earn 6-figure salaries by spreading lies about gays and lesbians and marriage, and the voters who oppose marriage equality as a result. But this is one of your favorite tactics, Maggie: any criticism of you is actually an attack on millions of people. Delusions of grandeur much?
San Francisco just filed a brief in the Prop 8 case, saying 7 million Californians who voted to protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman are responsible for high rates of suicide among gay people.
Actually, the brief says:
The net effect of discrimination against lesbians and gay men in society, according to Dr. Meyer, is a disproportionate incidence of mental and physical health problems, substance abuse, depression, and suicide.
“Discrimination against gays and lesbians in society” includes not just gay marriage, but job discrimination, housing discrimination, immigration, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, beatings, arson, and parental abandonment. The San Francisco brief doesn’t even mention the 7 million people, but you want your readers to believe the brief “says” what you claims it “says.”
You’d have been more accurate here if you said some of us believe that those 7 million voters contributed to the problem. But not nearly as much as people like you who lied to get their votes. Or who spend their lives stripping gays and lesbians of even the smallest legal recognition.
Evan Wolfson, one of the leading architects of the gay marriage movement, calls me out personally: “National Organization for Marriage Chairman Maggie Gallagher is among those who, with reckless disregard, attacks LGBT youth.”
I’ve never met Evan Wolfson and can’t comment on his claim. But I do know we’re right to call you out personally, especially when you tell people that same-sex couples can’t love each other the way opposite-sex couples can. That we can’t love our children the way straight couples can. You don’t think that sends a message of despair to gay kids? Really?
Former Clinton adviser Richard Socarides told the AP these suicides demonstrate why gays should be allowed to marry: “When you speak out for full equality now, as opposed to partial equality, or incremental equality, you send a message to everybody, including the bullies, that everyone is equal.”
Apparently, either we all agree that gay marriage is good or gay children will die.
Actually, either we all stop saying that gays are inferior to straights, or gay children will die.
It’s a horrific charge to levy in response to some pretty horrifying stories. Will gay marriage really reduce or prevent gay teen suicide? I felt a moral obligation to find out.
Or a financial obligation to keep your money rolling in.
Massachusetts has been tracking gay high school students for a decade using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
LGBT teens were roughly four times as likely as other students to attempt suicide in the last year. They’re also about twice as likely to report being in a physical fight at school, three times more likely to say they were injured by a weapon and almost four times as likely to say they missed school because they felt physically unsafe, compared to other teens.
These kinds of negative outcomes are consistent with the idea that anti-gay bullying is mainly responsible for the higher suicide rate among gay teens.
I hear a “but” coming…
But as I kept reading, I kept finding pieces of the puzzle that don’t seem to fit the “it’s homophobia pulling the trigger” narrative.
Not hard to do when your income depends on it.
Gay students are also more than twice as likely to report having had sexual intercourse before age 13 — that is, to be sexually abused as children. They are three times as likely to report being the victims of dating violence, and nearly four times as likely to report forced sexual contact.
Teens who are open enough to identify themselves as gay might also be open enough to reveal things the average teen would hide. At least, that’s one answer.
An alternative is that people like you have so consistently and thoroughly demeaned gay people that gay kids are more confused, conflicted, and vulnerable to abuse than straight kids.
A majority of LGBT teens in Massachusetts reported using illegal drugs in the last month.
Congratulations – your message of despair is having an impact!
(Perhaps most oddly, gay teens are also three times as likely as non-gay teens to report either becoming pregnant or getting someone else pregnant.)
Does it seem odd? You don’t think gay teens could be eager to prove to themselves they’re not gay in a culture that demeans their sexual orientation? If you disagree, then you’d best improve your case so it can account for this oddity.
Forced sex, childhood sexual abuse, dating violence, early unwed pregnancy, substance abuse — could these be a more important factor in the increased suicide risk of LGBT high schoolers than anything people like me ever said?
Maggie, this defense amounts to nothing more than, I’m not the only thing pushing gay kids to suicide, and other things are even worse! That doesn’t relieve you of your culpability. And again, you should look at your role in making gay kids more vulnerable to these forces.
The deeper you look, the more you see kids who are generally unprotected in horrifying ways that make it hard to believe — if you are really focusing on these kids’ well-being — that gay marriage is the answer.
Nice straw man, Maggie. Who said gay marriage is “the answer”? Marriage discrimination is one facet of anti-gay discrimination. You take comfort in the idea that you’re not the entire problem, but you’re still part of the problem.
And that’s exactly what the Youth Risk Behavior data also shows: In 2001, gay teens in Massachussetts were almost four times more likely to have attempted suicide (31 percent versus 8 percent). In 2007 — after four years of legalized gay marriage in that state — gay teens were still about four times more likely to attempt suicide than non-gay teens (29 percent versus 6 percent).
Or, perhaps, after six years of increasing visibility in the youth media, gay teens were more willing to talk about being gay 2007 than they were in 2001 (or 1991 or 1981 or 1951).
Of course, another difference between 2001 and 2007 is that NOM (or Protect Marriage or Stand For Marriage Maine) didn’t exist in 2001, getting national attention. And it’s well-documented that anti-gay abuse and violence increase during the campaigns against marriage equality spear-headed by, well, you. Could there be a connection?
Whether you are looking at their faces or looking at the statistics, one thing is clear: These kids need help, real help. They should not become a mere rhetorical strategy, a plaything in our adult battles.
If you see gays and lesbians battling the forces that drive kids to suicide, it takes willful blindness for you to reduce those kids to “a mere rhetorical strategy, a plaything in our adult battles.” You’re demanding we fight crime while ignoring the forces that cause crime.
Each of these teens is a child of God. And each one deserves better from all of us than becoming a “teachable moment” in someone else’s culture war.
And yet here you are, using them as a “teachable moment” in your culture war. You’re right about one thing – they deserved better than that. They deserved rich lives in a society where people don’t demean them or strip away their rights or bully them to death. You should work toward that world instead of scrambling to avoid your share of the blame.
Maggie Gallagher is president of the National Organization for Marriage.
National Organization “for” Marriage? I don’t think so. Have you ever counted up the number of marriages you’ve prevented versus the number you’ve saved? Or have you been too busy lately washing that mysterious red stuff off your hands?