The Making of Gay Marriage's Top Foe: How Maggie Gallagher's College Pregnancy Made Her a Traditional Marriage Zealot
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The party’s intentional eccentricity — when I was at Yale, in the 1990s, several Party of the Right men affected hats and trench coats — helps explain its reputation for cultishness. For many members, the party becomes their entire social world, and so it is not surprising that party romances are common. As a senior, Gallagher began seeing a fellow party member, a sophomore who wrote conservative editorials for a campus magazine and dreamed of being a doctor.
Today, they have different memories of the relationship — how long they had been dating, how close they were — but on one fact they agree: 30 years ago this spring, months before she was supposed to graduate, Gallagher discovered she was pregnant. Then, as now, Yale students did not get pregnant — or if they did, no baby came of it. But Gallagher knew she would have this baby. At first, she planned to give the baby up for adoption, but she soon changed her mind. The father, however, was not interested in being a father. Or so she says.
On a mild November day, Gallagher and I are upstairs at City Bakery, near Union Square in Manhattan, where after months of requests she has agreed to meet me. As Gallagher tells it, she and the baby’s father were close; they had been together “on the order of one year,” she says, so he might have been expected to stand by her. “My son’s father was my boyfriend at Yale,” is how she describes their relationship. But when she told him she was pregnant, right before spring break in 1982, he vanished on her. “I was in his room and he had to go do something, and I was going to fly out in a couple of hours, had to get to the airport. And the last thing he said to me was, ‘I’ll be back in 30 minutes.’ And then he wasn’t.”
He just left her sitting in his room. And that was the end of them. When summer came, Gallagher moved home to Oregon and took some classes to finish her degree. In the fall, she gave birth to a baby boy, Patrick.
The next year, Gallagher says, she and the father reconciled and moved in together. He was still in school, and they shared a house by the Connecticut shore with some other undergraduates. “It was one of those things that you have to be pretty young and stupid to think is going to work, because it was a very collegiate environment and, you know, basically my parents were supporting me. And so, you know, we, we broke up. I moved into a separate apartment, and he came by occasionally.” He graduated, and soon they were living near one another — she was commuting from Jersey City to Manhattan, to work at National Review, the conservative magazine, and he was in Harlem. He occasionally baby-sat for Patrick, until one day, after staying with his son while she attended a conference, he decided he wanted out. “He called me up the next day, or the next, and said that he couldn’t do it anymore, and that he didn’t really want to have anything to do with either of us,” Gallagher says. “And that was it.”
The father remembers it differently. When I ask if he and the woman he got pregnant in college were indeed a couple, he thinks for a moment, then says, “Sort of.”
He is not pleased to have been found after all these years. To get him to speak, I have promised to keep his identity secret. He became a doctor, as planned. He lives in a small town on the East Coast with his wife and family. He has not spoken to his son or to his son’s mother since that final break in the mid-1980s. He knows who she has become — she is in the newspaper and on television — but he does not pay much attention to her writings. “I don’t read them extensively, because I don’t agree with them, and I find it personally painful to do so, as you might imagine.”