Maggie Gallagher
After the Rev. Walter Fauntroy, a black civil rights leader, joined an interfaith, multicultural coalition supporting a Federal Marriage Amendment that would block court-imposed gay marriage, Rick Rosendall, vice president of the Gay and Lesbian Activist Alliance, circulated the following e-mail:

"I wish to thank Mark Thompson, chair of the NAACP-DC Police Task Force, who called Rev. Fauntroy to convey my objections to Fauntroy's participation in such an attack on the gay community. Mark reports that Fauntroy expressed strong feelings about marriage and is immovable on the subject. So Fauntroy wraps himself in democracy and the civil rights movement while seeking to disenfranchise a group of Americans. Truly obscene.

"Call Rev. Fauntroy ... and register your objection to his alliance with anti-gay bigots. Tell him how offensive it is that he -- a civil rights veteran, of all people -- would deny to others freedoms that he himself enjoys."

Here's the question: Will these kinds of uncivil, name-calling, harassment tactics, demonizing those who disagree, ultimately succeed? If decent people permit these tactics to be used against a man called a "civil rights legend," who is safe?

My own column opposing gay marriage provoked curiously uniform responses from gay activists. Fauntroy is a black conservative, they told me, not a real civil rights leader, like Coretta Scott King.

Curiouser and curiouser. In August 2000 you could find Rev. Fauntroy at a press conference denouncing racial profiling organized by the Rev. Al Sharpton. In January, he was again shoulder to shoulder with Sharpton, denouncing Bush's illegitimate election. A founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, current president of the National Black Leadership Council (an arm of the CBC), Rev. Fauntroy probably agrees with me about very little politically, except for the importance of protecting marriage.

Makes sense to me. Marriage is neither a conservative nor a liberal issue; it is a universal human institution, guaranteeing children fathers, and pointing men and women toward a special kind of socially as well as personally fruitful sexual relationship.

Gay marriage is the final step down a long road America has already traveled toward deinstitutionalizing, denuding and privatizing marriage. It would set in legal stone some of the most destructive ideas of the sexual revolution: There are no differences between men and women that matter, marriage has nothing to do with procreation, children do not really need mothers and fathers, the diverse family forms adults choose are all equally good for children.

One reason that all major world religions strive to channel human sexuality toward this relatively narrow definition of marriage -- fruitful, potentially procreative sex between men and women (while either discouraging or merely tolerating other forms of sexual expression) -- is that only societies that adopt this sexual ethic grow to become large, complex cultures in the first place. If I am right, gays as much as any other Americans have a stake in the re-creation of a functioning marriage culture.

The quiet, back-door demonization and harassment of Fauntroy is consistent with the ongoing attempt by certain gay organizations to shut down debate over this dangerous transformation that the courts are wreaking on our marriage laws. Increasingly, gay activists are the self-righteous zealots, stigmatizing any disagreement with their point of view, no matter how reasoned and civil, as bigotry, hate speech and discrimination.

In the civil rights movement, it was the racial bigots who engaged in such name-calling. In the gay marriage movement, it is increasingly the advocates of gay marriage who claim the right to hate and stigmatize Americans who have a different point of view.

I don't know what to call a group that feels free to dub a civil rights legend a bigot because he does not support same-sex marriage, and to circulate his home phone number over an Internet list so broad that one of them even ended up in my mailbox. Tolerant isn't the word that comes to mind.


Maggie Gallagher

Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.