This afternoon, I attended a policy forum at the Cato Institution titled “Is There a Place for Gay People in Conservatism and Conservative Politics?”
It was quite the interesting dais – Andrew Sullivan of The Daily Dish Blog, The Atlantic on one side, Maggie Gallagher, President, National Organization for Marriage on the other, and Nick Herbert, MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Conservative Party, United Kingdom in the middle. Moderator David Boaz was quite right to separate the two.
One of the first things I noticed was the considerable number of media in the audience, as well as left-leaning activists, in attendance. The DC Agenda, Metro Weekly, The Advocate and the New Republic were all present.
Herbert gave an impassionate speech on being gay and being conservative. You can read the text here. Sullivan spoke more off the cuff and gave some good remarks. Gallagher, who was clearly in enemy territory, was warmly received and was given polite applause both before and after her remarks, even after what my friend Chris Geidner (@chrisgeidner) called were “half-true factual anecdotes as broad principles that religious views are being thwarted.”
And then the fireworks began.
There were questions about adoption, hate crimes, and the Catholic Charities, to which, we were entertained by the following banter…
Sullivan: “You don’t know the truth.”
Gallagher: “Let me speak!”
Sullivan: “Only if you’re coherent.”
At another point, after Sullivan compared the marriage amendment push by Karl Rove in 2004 to Jim Crow, Gallagher retorted, “I can’t take morally serious someone who compares the Federal Marriage Amendment to Jim Crow laws.
All in all, it was a lively and entertaining debate. And in the end, I was able to get my copy of Andrew Sullivan’s book, The Conservative Soul autographed.