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The Making of Gay Marriage's Top Foe: How Maggie Gallagher's College Pregnancy Made Her a Traditional Marriage Zealot

Maggie Gallagher has devoted herself to stopping same-sex marriage.

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His memories are vague, and rather self-serving. It seems that he did not work very hard to stay in his son’s life, but after thinking on it he apportions some of the blame to the boy’s mother. “To the best that I can recall,” he says, “initially she did want both of us to be involved in parental responsibilities, but from the beginning it was always on her terms. It’s hard to describe. It seemed to me at the time that she had an idea of how she wanted things to go, and it was not particularly important whether I had an idea of how things would go or not.” I ask if he might have done more, 30 years ago, to make the three of them into a family. “There’s a million things I wish I’d done differently back then,” but, he adds, “it would have required me to be a different person.”

That was not really his fault, Gallagher says. Neither of them thought they should get married. Nobody did. “There was literally no one — not his mother, not my parents, not the counselor I talked to, none of my friends, nobody in that world,” she says, who suggested they get married. “And in fact I would say the concern was that we not get married” — that they avoid the mistake of marrying too young.

“But I think, looking back, that if he had said, ‘You know, Maggie, I love you, I love you, let’s get married,’ I would’ve been thrilled. You know, he was my boyfriend.”

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Counterfactual history is a dangerous business, but it seems fair to say that Gallagher’s was the non-marriage that changed the world. If that sophomore cad had married Gallagher, she might never have become a writer. “I don’t know what I would have done,” she tells me. “I became a writer because I had a baby and had to make money.” And what she writes about is same-sex marriage: why it’s bad for children, bad for America, simply bad. In her books and newspaper columns, and above all in her fundraising and political organizing, Gallagher has done more than any American to stop same-sex marriage. The organization she founded in 2007, the National Organization for Marriage,  helped organize the successful effort in 2008 to pass Proposition 8 in California, overturning that state’s same-sex-marriage statute. (A federal appeals court  ruled Tuesday that it violated the Constitution, setting up a likely appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.) In 2009, her organization contributed over 60 percent of the  entire budget of Stand for Marriage Maine, the primary organization behind Proposition 1, the referendum that overturned Maine’s same-sex marriage law. In 2010, National Organization for Marriage money  helped determine the election that ousted three Iowa Supreme Court justices who had upheld same-sex marriage.

Gallagher stepped down as president of the National Organization for Marriage in 2010 — before it made news by doctoring a photograph of a thronging Obama rally to make an anti-gay-marriage rally look well attended. She was its chairwoman until last August, but now writes a blog called  Culture War Victory Fund, which offers commentary on “marriage, life [and] religious liberty.” The organizations Gallagher founded, and the fundraising and activist networks she continues to build, are active everywhere that same-sex marriage — currently legal in six states and Washington, D.C. — is being contested. Her armies are working to pass anti-gay-marriage amendments in  North Carolina and Minnesota and to stop gay-marriage bills or referendums in  MarylandNew JerseyRhode Islandand Washington state. In 2011, when New York state passed its gay-marriage law, the number of people living in states that permitted same-sex marriage doubled; in 2012, the number could double again. The issue has not yet dominated the presidential race, largely because the Republican candidates are uniform in their opposition; but it’s hard to see how same-sex marriage will not roar back in the general election.

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