CPAC speakers: Marriage equality is irrelevant

A major theme at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., was that the Republican Party should once and for all erase the line between social and fiscal issues and further the argument that conservative social policies benefit the economy.

Same-sex marriage opponents participating in a Saturday panel took that message to heart, arguing that their opposition has everything to do with the country’s fiscal health and with helping straight couples and their families, while dismissing same-sex equality arguments as irrelevant.

Conservative leaders speak against same-sex marriage at CPAC 2012, Feb. 11, 2012; from left to right: Maggie Gallagher, Phyllis Schlafly, Tim Goeglein, John Eastman, David McIntosh (AMERICAN INDEPENDENT/Sofia Resnick).

But just minutes after moderating the panel, the National Organization for Marriage’s co-founder Maggie Gallagher told The American Independent she does not believe that same-sex couples have the right to the same marital benefits as straight couples, even if they form civil unions and don’t use the word “marriage.”

“I don’t think it’s required,” Gallagher said, referring to civil unions. “But if we won the marriage debate, I could understand why – this is a small group of the population; marriage doesn’t fit it very well – then maybe you need to step in and do something extra for these people. … It would depend how you do it and how you structure it. But no, I don’t think that we’re required to, that equality requires us to. But I would understand why, out of respect and concern for our fellow citizens, that we might want to do that.”

Gallagher also told TAI that her life’s work to preserve the heterosexual standard of marriage is based on ideas and ideals, and “I don’t disconnect those from people.” (Audio from our conversation is embedded below.)

Gallagher’s panel – titled “The Phony Divide Between Fiscal & Social Conservatives: Protecting Marriage as a Case Study” included Eagle Forum founder and conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly, Focus on the Family Vice President of External Relations Tim Goeglein, NOM board chair and Chapman University professor John Eastman, and former U.S. Rep. David McIntosh (R-Ind.), who is again running for Congress, to represent Indiana’s 5th District.

Schlafly and Goeglein talked about how important opposite-sex marriage is to America’s fiscal health, because single-parent-run households receive welfare benefits at higher rates than two-parent-run households. Eastman, who has done some work for the defense team in the Proposition 8 lawsuit, spoke of trial evidence in that case, which he says proves why same-sex marriage should never be legal.

“Marriage is and always has been an institution core to civil society, grounded in the nature of human beings: Men and women are necessary to make babies,” Eastman said, quoting 18th Century English jurist William Blackstone.

Gallagher also veered the conversation away from fiscal policy, arguing that same-sex marriage goes against the biblical teachings from Genesis.

Phyllis Schlafly and Tim Goeglein on an anti-gay-marriage panel at CPAC 2012, Feb. 11, 2012 (AMERICAN INDEPENDENT/Sofia Resnick).

After the talk, TAI asked Gallagher to address the negative reputation the NOM has among most same-sex-marriage supporters. Recently, TAI’s Andy Birkey reported that NOM hired a lobbyist who instructed the group on how to use a campaign-finance loophole in Minnesota to avoid disclosing donors in the campaign to pass a constitutional gay-marriage ban. And NOM is currently fighting charges in Maine that it violated the state’s campaign finance disclosure law. An appeals court ruled against the organization last month, but NOM is planning to take the fight to the Supreme Court to keep its donor list secret.

“The Human Rights Campaign doesn’t release its donors either, you know?” Gallagher said. “The National Organization for Marriage obeys all laws, and we don’t voluntarily reveal our donors’ names so people can go out and harass them. And that makes some people mad, but it’s what is typically done at nonprofit organizations, whether it’s gay rights organizations or our side of the debate.”

“It is not normal to release the names of your donors,” she continued. “People give you money; they don’t necessarily want to be solicited by 100,000 other groups. So that’s the first reason we don’t do it. I’m just saying the push for us to do it, I believe, is that people would like to go out and harass and make it hard for us to raise money. Of course, we’re not volunteering for that. … We have some major donors, you know who certainly help up the total, but I believe we have close to 30 or 40,000 donors at this point. Most of them give much smaller amounts of money, so that they’re not the big chunk of what we raise.”

Gallagher on whether gay couples should have partner benefits:

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Gallagher on NOM’s reputation:

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