Imagine my surprise when I woke up this morning to find out I had been designated face No. 4 of the New Faces of the Christian Right by Newsweek magazine.
Don't get me wrong, I'm flattered; still, as I told the reporter, "I don't object to the Christian right label, but it's not how I think of myself."
I mean, I'm conservative and I'm Christian, of the Roman Catholic persuasion. But I became a political conservative in 1976 after reading "Atlas Shrugged," long before I or anybody at Newsweek had ever heard of Jerry Falwell. (I was a 16-year-old atheist at the time.)
I am not now a pastor, nor do I consider myself a religious leader of any kind. Nothing I do is based on the delusion that I am especially called to lead by any unusual personal holiness or knowledge of God. Atheists like my younger self are welcome to join us in the fight for marriage.
Nor am I even a "longtime activist," as the reporter kindly called me.
Truthfully, I never did anything concretely activist before I founded the National Organization for Marriage three years ago. I just wrote things. For the first 25 years of my life, it was my job to write truthfully and other people's job to make stuff happen as a result of what they read.
This is the writer's dream division of labor, incidentally.
It was only after repeatedly observing that, on the marriage issue, no large, effective, grassroots, activist organization existed that I sat down with Princeton professor Robby George and improbably said to one of the world's great natural law philosophers: "Robby, we have to start an activist organization to fight for marriage."
I do consider it a kind of special providence that, thankfully, just about this time I ran into Brian Brown, the brilliant "happy warrior" who really deserves the credit for building NOM in just three years into one of the largest and most effective social conservative organizations in the country; he's the guy who ought to be on Newsweek's list of new faces.
"She's been accused of bigotry at worst and insensitivity at best," Newsweek went on to say, citing a New York Post op-ed I wrote in which I took the claim that gay marriage would reduce gay teen suicides seriously enough to investigate whether that had in fact happened in Massachusetts -- all allegedly "on a day set aside to mourn them." (The answer, in case you are wondering, is there is no evidence that gay marriage has any influence on LGBT teen suicide attempts; if we really want to help these suffering children, we have to find a better answer than involving them in our culture wars.) The latter idea, that a special day of mourning had been called for gay teen suicides, or by whom, I can say honestly I was and am unaware of. I certainly would have postponed any comment until the following week had I known (is it true?) that a day of mourning had been called.
I have carried into this "controversial" fight two consistent messages: To make a marriage, you need a husband and wife because these unions give the children they alone can create a loving tie to their mom and dad. Second, if we accept that opposition to gay marriage is like opposition to interracial marriage, then gay marriage will clearly lead to a renewed use of government and social power to marginalize, stigmatize and repress traditional faith communities. Christianity itself will get redefined as bigotry.
A few weeks ago, an app for the Manhattan Declaration, a thoughtful and civil statement calling on Christians to speak for life, for marriage and for religious liberty, signed by major religious leaders and a half-million Americans, was abruptly yanked from the Apple store on the grounds that it was "offensive." This was after Apple's own reviewers certified it was free from offensive comment. Gay rights leaders decided they would rather censor than argue. And Steve Jobs agreed.
(For NOM's Internet video response see www.youtube.com/.)
The America into which Steve Jobs and I were born would not have considered either idea bigoted or insensitive.
The America of tomorrow? That's the open question about which we fight.
(Maggie Gallagher is the founder of the National Organization for Marriage and has been a syndicated columnist for 14 years.)