The Nanny State

Update: Broken WaPo link fixed.

What do Maggie Gallagher of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, Phil Burress of Citizens for Community Values, and Jan LaRue of Concerned Women for America have in common? Besides leading organizations dedicated to maintaining gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people as second-class citizens, they all explain their activism through personal narratives of the self-destructive choices they have made, and have devoted their lives to reordering the society that they feel is responsible for those choices.

Maggie Gallagher told her personal story at the Cato Institute forum in June. It seems that she had premarital sex, was impregnated, and was unable to convince the father to marry her. Her feeling of victimization as a single mother is what drives her mission to return the institution of marriage to its former role as authoritarian regulator of all sexuality. If same sex couples are denied the dignity and security of legal recognition, and GLBT people are demonized in the process, that’s just collateral damage.

Phil Burress is the founder and director of the Ohio group Citizens for Community Values, and “is behind almost every anti-gay effort in Ohio,” according to the Gay People’s Chronicle. He is on his third marriage. He freely admits that his first two marriages were destroyed by his addiction to pornography. According to a profile on Burress in the New York Times:

Mr. Burress was raised on a farm in Hamilton County outside Cincinnati. He attended a small Evangelical church two and sometimes three times a week, and married a fellow parishioner when he was 18.

At 14, he said, he found a pornographic magazine on the roadside and became obsessed with seeing more. Every chance he got, he said, he drove into Cincinnati to buy, and sometimes steal, magazines or videos.

Over the next two decades, he had four daughters from two marriages. But he says his obsession with the raunchy fantasy world of pornography ruined both marriages and drove him away from religion.

What his chance encounter with a pornographic magazine, and subsequent choice to obtain more (and more, and more), have to do with equality for GLBT people is never made clear. “By age 16, I was driving to downtown Cincinnati, where you could find adult bookstores on every corner and strip bars,” Burress tells Focus on the Family. “If I didn’t have the money, I’d steal it. I was totally obsessed.”

Jan LaRue, chief legal counsel for CWA, tells the strangest story of all. You can read the whole thing in a profile by the Washington Post.

Apparently, Mrs. LaRue had an abortion when she was a young woman. She made this choice because, although she was engaged to be married to the father, she was embarrassed and worried that if she carried the pregnancy to term, “people [would] be able to count back and know the truth about her: She had sex before marriage.”

Because she made the arguably stupid and immoral decision to terminate her pregnancy, just to erase the evidence that she had premarital sex with the man she was going to marry, she has made it her life’s work to deny other women any reproductive autonomy at all.

Like Burress and Gallagher, LaRue holds society responsible for her bad decision. She made a choice that she now regrets. One way of dealing with such regret might be to take responsibility for one’s actions, learn, accept the scars, and move on. These three authoritarians, however, encourage a different path. They don’t feel responsible for their mistakes. If the Nanny State had regulated their choices better, Gallagher and LaRue wouldn’t have gotten pregnant out of wedlock, and Burress wouldn’t have chosen pornography over his first two marriages. They couldn’t control their own sexual behavior, and feel it was the responsibility of the Nanny State to do it for them. They believe they can somehow put things right in their own lives by making sure the Nanny State is rigidly regulating all sexuality.

The disturbed relationship of these three individuals with the concept of “choice” helps to explain some of the Anti-Gay Industry’s rhetoric in that area.

Doug Mataconis has another example of the Nanny State in action at Below the Beltway.

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2 Responses to The Nanny State

  1. Maura says:

    This is one of the best pieces I’ve read on the Web in a long time. Great job!!! Thank you.