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Garance Franke-Ruta’s article about the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians’ (PLAGAL’s) threat of arrest from the upper echelons of the March for Life (“Roe v. Gay,” 2/11) will open some eyes. Long gone are the days when in order to be a good little gay or lesbian you had to buy unthinkingly into abortion rights. PLAGAL’s existence proves that there’s as much healthy diversity of opinion on this subject in our community as on anything else. While it’s an eye-opener, however, the article offers only the bad part of the total picture.
Yes, we were threatened with arrest. Yes, we marched. Yes, we’ll be back at the March for Life next year, in full force and prepared for whatever may happen. But what readers also should know—and what the article failed almost completely to mention—is that the threats and bigotry we faced came from a tiny group of control freaks at the march’s top, who can’t get it through their heads that being pro-life does not instantly involve being anti-gay, David Smith of the Human Rights Campaign (who is no expert on the pro-life movement and would do better to stick to topics he at least knows about) notwithstanding.
It’s understandable that the article would thump on about the bigots at the march’s helm and our refusal to kowtow to them; conflict and controversy are news, after all. But what went almost completely unnoted was just as important: the warm support, born of justice and fairness, given us at the march by practically all the other pro-lifers around us. When they realized that the march’s organizers were trying to hassle us out of Dodge, they planted themselves immediately on our side. The article did mention people shouting, “Let them march!” and “What about free speech?” but failed to point out the larger groundswell underneath. Our sexual orientation made no difference to these friends; all they cared about was that we were there for the same reason they were. Nothing else mattered. We were pro-life. That was enough for them.
This is typical of grass-roots pro-lifers. Sure, you have the stray malcontent who chafes at the mere sight of PLAGAL (we have just as many, if not more, anti-life bigots in the gay and lesbian communities), but by and large, pro-lifers simply don’t care. We stand with them in solidarity for the lives of unborn children, they welcome us, and that’s that. The regular Joe and Jane Pro-Lifer couldn’t care less about checking our credentials or suspecting our “agenda.” And with only a few exceptions, this has been our experience at every March for Life since we became involved in 1991. (I was at that 1991 march. As we strode along bearing signs reading, “Gay and Pro-Life,” a group of college students rushed us, shouting, “We don’t believe we’re seeing this! Can we shake your hands?” And they did.)
This doesn’t make news, but it should. A sea change is starting to unfold both in the mainstream perception of the pro-life movement and in the pro-life movement itself. The days are numbered for the old view, that the movement is made up only of die-hard, closed-minded dogmatists, as PLAGAL and other groups such as Feminists for Life make their presence in it widely and consistently known. And the movement itself is responding to our presence: As more pro-lifers become aware of us, any lingering questions about us are fading. Of its own weight, the movement is shedding its monolithic image and opening itself up to pro-lifers it never dreamed existed 10 or 15 years ago. This is nothing but good news for the unborn child’s life, because it means she has ever more defenders flocking to her and her mother’s side—defenders who previously might never have realized how important their untraditional voices are.
In my small and humble way, I pride myself that I can take some credit for that. I am the founder of PLAGAL. I do not speak for PLAGAL, but PLAGAL certainly speaks for me—and for all the rest of us in our community who are brave enough to think for ourselves about abortion and speak out against it. I submit that the real story here is the transformation of the pro-life movement itself, not the dinosaurs who head the March for Life only for the time being.