Maggie Gallagher, who founded the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), had some choice words for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, the crucial vote on the Supreme Court to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Or really, a choice word: fatwa. But don’t let me quote her out of context or anything. Here is her quote from an interview in the conservative National Review Online (NRO):
NRO: Are last week’s rulings on marriage as monumental, with the staying power, of Roe v. Wade?
GALLAGHER: What you are really asking is: Will we concede the legitimacy of Kennedy’s fatwa against us, or will we respond with a sustained opposition — legal, political, cultural, and of the moral imagination?
So, Gallagher and NOM don’t like the decision to strike down DOMA, because NOM is essentially code for “maintain homophobia in U.S. culture and laws.” But why “fatwa?” A fatwa is a Muslim term that is translated literally as “opinion.” If Gallagher were a scholar of Islam, we could give her the benefit of the doubt and say that maybe that’s all she meant: Justice Kennedy gave an opinion on DOMA. Except when conservative white people say fatwa, they are referring to the sort of fatwa like the one on Salman Rushdie: fatwa can also mean a declaration of violence or even death against a specific person.
Also, let’s not shy away from the obvious: if Kennedy had decided to uphold DOMA, Gallagher would not have called it a fatwa against gay couples. Fatwa is a Muslim word, and so it can only be used for un-American things like giving gay people the same rights as straight people.
Gays are finally getting mainstream respect in the U.S. The fact that there is so much crossover between homophobics and anti-Muslim racists is a good sign for Muslim Americans that they will see a similar level of cultural respects as the generations turn over.