(Originally published in The American Conservative)
When Katy Faust spoke at the third National Conservative conference in Florida in 2022, her speech had a simple refrain: “This is a child.” Applying the Vince Lombardi Green Bay Packers story (“Gentlemen, this is a football!”) to the marriage debate, Faust sought to recenter a movement she described as distracted and bring it back to the fundamentals. Propping a posterboard picture of a little girl next to the podium, she proceeded to repeat the phrase some 30 or more times: “This is a child.”
For all her verbal punch, Faust is surprisingly feminine when we meet up at her hotel in Nashville, Tennessee. She has just come from breakfast with Carl Trueman and his wife on morning two of a Lutheran conference where both she and Trueman spoke and admits to feeling like a fan girl around the Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self author.
Faust is not a woman who has become like a man in order to win her argument. The effect is undeniably matriarchal as she glides from a pocket explanation of natural rights theory to images of child exploitation at the hands of the surrogacy industry, neither missing a word nor filling the air with empty ones, all while fishing a pen from her purse when she notices my ink running out. It’s a rhetorical strength that has set her apart from almost any other voice on the subject. There are countless conservative commentators, advocates, and politicians with less zeal and less finesse than this pastor’s wife from Seattle.
It seems to come naturally, but Faust has also had a decade or more of practice. Years before founding her child’s rights organization, Them Before Us, and co-authoring a book by the same title with a foreword written by Robert P. George, Faust was raising her kids in Seattle and debating with her friends in Facebook threads.
“I was so naive,” Faust says. “I thought, ‘They can’t really believe that bigotry is behind traditional marriage support. I mean, kids need moms and dads!’”
It was 2012, and President Barack Obama had just switched his position on gay marriage. Faust described sensing a “sea change” in media. Overnight, anyone who did not support same-sex marriage could only be described as unreasonable. Her response was to try to find ways to convince her friends of the legitimate reasons marriage advantages children. Keeping her Christian faith out of the picture, focusing solely on social science studies and data, and being as gracious and understanding as possible, Faust sought to win them to her side.
“In the end, they were like, ‘So, you’re a bigot. What you’re saying is you’re a bigot. You’re a bigot, bigot, bigot.’ And it broke me,” she said.