The Making of Gay Marriage's Top Foe: How Maggie Gallagher's College Pregnancy Made Her a Traditional Marriage Zealot
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Which means this could be the year of Maggie Gallagher. Among the leading generals in the fight against same-sex marriage, she is not as cerebral as Robert P. George, the Princeton professor whose articles provide intellectual ammo for the movement; and she does not move as smoothly across enemy lines as her former boss David Blankenhorn, whose politic tone makes him gay-marriage supporters’ friendliest enemy. But Gallagher is shrewd, she is indefatigable and she is everywhere, from Fox News to a campus near you. If you turn on C-SPAN and see a stout, black-haired, middle-aged woman in modest clothing — the stern elementary school teacher who, you later realized, taught you all the grammar you know — patiently explaining to a campus auditorium of skeptical, liberal collegians why the definition of marriage is immutable, you are watching Maggie Gallagher.
Gallagher’s unplanned pregnancy — so great a rupture in a young conservative woman’s sense of life’s proper path, coming at so young an age — focused her politics, and gave her traditional-family conservatism a messianic tinge. But her path to marriage activism was not quite so straight and uncomplicated. When Gallagher returned to the New Haven area the year after graduation, to live with her son’s father, she continued to socialize with her conservative crowd. One of her fellow campus conservatives, Charles Bork, the son of the future Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork, got Gallagher her first work in journalism. Along with another student, Bork had sneaked into Afghanistan one spring break to take pictures of the anti-Communist mujahedin. When Bork’s traveling companion failed to produce the accompanying article he had promised to write, Bork asked Gallagher to step in, and on Aug. 28, 1983, the New Republic published her article “Inside Afghanistan.” Gallagher was soon hired at National Review, where her early pieces included articles on pro-life politics, attacks on Legal Services, an essay about the nascent “men’s movement,” a review of a book about Afghanistan, a penetrating analysis of the “Baby M” surrogacy case, and a sympathetic obituary for the Bork nomination (in which she never mentions that Bork’s son was her close friend and patron).
As a Yale-educated journalist living in Brooklyn, Gallagher was an enviable type. Although being a young single mother made her unusual, nothing about her situation was an obvious prescription for bitterness. But in 1989, when Patrick was 7, Gallagher published a book that remains startling for its combination of sadness and anger; it’s hard to believe any author can sound so hopelessly disappointed before the age of 30. In a sense, “Enemies of Eros,” a jeremiad about the sorry state of sexual culture and gender relationships, must have been gestating since her son was born. Its author is sad that lifelong marriage is no longer an accepted norm; that many children do not grow up with fathers; that sex has been decoupled from marriage and parenthood. And she is angry at everyone she finds culpable for these changes, including “elite women, magazine editors, book publishers, screenwriters, advice columnists, and auteurs who are the moral guardians of the new generation, mentors to guide young women through the thickets of modernity into a sexual utopia that seems to be receding ever further into the horizon.”
Gallagher charges these women, sitting in “their perch atop the towers of Manhattan,” with conspiring — “conspiracy” is indeed her word — to delude women into thinking that the sexes are basically the same. But the sexes are obviously not the same, Gallagher argues. Men are different. “Sometimes they prefer a hotel room to a house in the suburbs, or beg us to exchange bodily fluids without ever exchanging phone numbers. Sometimes they do not appreciate that making a baby is making a long-term commitment you cannot just walk out on when you’re feeling unfulfilled.” Because men are so different, society developed norms to pressure men to take responsibility they might wish to avoid. The naive hope of the women’s movement, that gender roles could wither away, has only tangled ladies’ stockings in a hopeless knot: Without marriage norms, and the sex norms that go with them, men can get away with anything — all the sex they want, and no more of the housework than before.