How Maggie Gallagher Became Maggie F*cking Gallagher of NOM

To begin, three anecdotes I’d like to tell you about from Mark Oppenheimer‘s excellent article on National Organization for Marriage founder Maggie Gallagher entitled the “The Making of Gay Marriage’s Top Foe“:

1. After her third marriage fell apart and “traumatized” her family, Sherry Weaver moved in temporarily with Maggie Gallagher, a mother she’d met at their sons’ first day of kindergarten in Park Slope. Weaver ended up staying with Gallagher for seven months and she gives Gallagher’s “happy home” a sparkling review: Maggie paid the bills, did the cooking, “nurtured” Weaver’s family with “unbelivable kindness,” slept on the couch with “grace and generosity” and was “happy to blend their families for months on end.” Weaver told Oppenheimer that “this time with Maggie was a time of healing for us.”

2. While an undergraduate at Yale, Gallagher says she was impregnated by her boyfriend of a year. Oppenheimer spoke to the alleged boyfriend (who is now a doctor with a family of his own) for this article and when Oppenheimer asked him if he and Gallagher had been a “couple,” he answered “sort of.” In fact, in 1982 when Maggie told her alleged boyfriend that she’d gotten pregnant and wasn’t interested in abortion or adoption, this alleged boyfriend “vanished,” as she told Oppenheimer: “The last thing he said to me was, ‘I’ll be back in 30 minutes.’ And then he wasn’t.”

Maggie returned home to Portland during her pregnancy while completing some coursework towards graduation, and then — with her parents’ complete financial support — returned to Connecticut to live with the boyfriend and other undergrads. They quickly broke up and she moved out. He remained ambiently in his son’s life for a little while before allegedly telling her that “he didn’t really want to have anything to do with either of us.”

He remembers it differently: “To the best that I can recall, 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.”

Despite all of these indicators that this maybe-boyfriend was perhaps a douchebag and definitely uninterested in parenting, Maggie told Oppenhemier: “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.”

3.  So, after graduating from Yale, Maggie almost instantly snagged a job writing for The National Review, where she wrote anti-abortion, pro “traditional marriage” and anti-feminist shit. Oppenheimer:

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.”

In her book, Gallagher asserted: “We will never find a solution to the New Man shortage, unless we jettison gender neutrality. Men need a role in the family. What men need, loath though we are to utter the word, is a sex role.”

But Patrick, who lived the first 11 years of his life without a father figure, seems to have turned out okay — he graduated from NYU and works in musical theater (he identifies as straight but undoubtedly interacts with LGBTs on the daily). As you may recall, Maggie’s friend Sherry Weaver describes the home Maggie and Patrick shared as “a happy house filled with guests.”

4. In 1993, Maggie married Raman Srivastav, a friend she’d known since they were both involved in Yale’s “The Party of the Right.” They had a son together and at some point separated but did not divorce because Maggie doesn’t believe in divorce. She moved from New York to Washington DC in 2008 so her second son could attend The Heights School in Maryland, an exclusive Catholic boys school. Maggie can do things like move to a new state to enroll her son in a prep school known for educating the children of conservative politicians & pundits that charges over $20k a year in tuition because she profits generously from her work against same-sex marriage.

Thus: the current state of her relationship with her husband is unclear, but it seems The Kids, at least, are All Right.

a bio from one of patrick's theater jobs

Here’s the thing about Maggie Gallagher: she wasn’t actively anti-gay before becoming anti-gay marriage. She’s just been “pro-marriage” for a long time. Before same-sex marriage became an issue, Maggie wrote and cared mostly about “easy divorce, out-of-wedlock births, and the high costs of feminism.” She didn’t ever anticipate same-sex marriage becoming a thing until it did and then it became her everything. She told Oppenheimer:

“The questions began by talking about what people think about homosexuality. And I said that’s a perfectly legitimate question, but that’s not my concern. My concern is that marriage really matters because children need a mom and a dad, and after gay marriage, I can’t say that anymore. I won’t be allowed to say it. Marriage will not be about that anymore. We will not have an institution dedicated to putting together mothers and fathers and children.”

I implore you to read Oppenheimer’s entire article, which leaves very few stones unturned and therefore I have little to add (Although it doesn’t really go into her various financial swindles, like that time the Department of Health and Human Services paid her to use her syndicated column to promote George W.Bush’s $300 million initiative “encouraging marriage as a way of strengthening families,” which is obviously against the rules of journalism.)

But as I asked in this article about how NOM is really sketchy and makes a shit-ton of money, “what’s Maggie Gallagher’s damage?” I ranted as follows:

NOM’s entire campaign against us is based in lies. Their leaders are probably all closeted homosexuals. They have deep ties to religious groups with deep pockets who prey on their uneducated flocks, sucking them dry of funds in an effort to support NOM’s campaign against same-sex marriage, which, as we all know, has absolutely no tangible impact on these people’s lives whatsoever.

I wondered what drove Gallagher to be so obsessed with “traditional marriage” and so uninterested in evidence that proves all her theoretical claims wrong? She definitely dosen’t ping as a lesbian, so that’s not it. The Salon piece started to answer that question for me, but it’s such a Byzantine situation to break down! I can feel my head running in circles when I think about it.

Maggie Gallagher was a single mother who chose to keep her baby and not put it up for adoption, despite her son’s father’s indifference to the pregnancy. Lucky to have affluent parents and a Yale education that connected her instantly to a prestigious and flexible job at the country’s leading conservative publication, she was able to raise her son and pursue a prolific career. She now makes shit-tons of money and despite being separated from the man she married in 1993, is now raising yet another human child who seems, like his brother before him (who was adopted by Maggie’s husband when they married), to be turning out okay.

When a reporter from Talk About Equality contacted Patrick Gallagher, he declined to comment at length about his Mom, but offered this:

According to Patrick, Maggie has been very supportive of his career and has not obstructed her son’s goals and dreams – like a mother should. One thing Patrick did say, which I don’t think he’d mind sharing is “Maybe one day I’ll write a hell of a musical about this.” Patrick’s a good guy who doesn’t deserve to be in the middle of this – but we feel that his and Maggie’s story is an important one that demonstrates the strength of a “non-traditional” family.

When Maggie’s friend Sherry Weaver got divorced and moved in with Maggie, they became an immediate example of how a fatherless home is better than no home and maybe even better than a father-full home, in their case. Weaver remembers it as “a crowded and happy house, filled with guests, many of them from the conservative movement.” They weren’t lesbians, but they were two women supporting children happily, with perhaps some help from the village.

Despite this experience, Gallagher believes that “like no-fault divorce, the welfare state and the normalization of single parenting, same-sex marriage challenges the idea that every child should be with its biological mother and father.” Despite the fact that her son’s father was a douchebag with barely any interest in Maggie at all, she still thinks she would’ve been “thrilled” if he’d asked to marry her and seemingly believes doing so would’ve been better than what actually happened.

She’s got no personal experience with the Biological Mother + Biological Father + Children = Happy situation in her own life as a mother (even when married, her husband had to adopt Patrick, so that’s not his “biological father”). Furthermore, it would appear that unlike many single moms, Maggie’s incredible privilege (which she recognizes, in a roundabout way) meant that having a kid out of wedlock had no detrimental impact on her career or financial situation. For her to trumpet her own experience with single motherhood, as difficult as single mothering always is, as a typical example of a woman experiencing the many struggles Single Mothers face is practically offensive.

Only 14.3% of unmarried non-cohabiting single mothers have a Bachelors Degree, let alone a Bachelor’s Degree from the U.S.’s third-most-competitive university, like Maggie does. Many single moms also lack cushy media jobs and affluent parents. For them, I imagine “the nights when your child cries himself to sleep in your arms, wondering why his father doesn’t love him” Maggie claims to have experienced rank pretty low on their list of Parenting Challenges.

Now, rather than seek to level that playing field to enable less fortunate single mothers to succeed, she just runs around screaming about gay people ruining marriage all day. She apparently thinks that being separated from her husband is better than being divorced, even though honestly separation is way more confusing for a kid than divorce is, ultimately, assuming the separation is never re-joined. (Neither Gallagher or her husband would comment on the current state of their marriage for Oppenheimer’s article.)

In other words, Gallagher isn’t just ignoring social science and other “evidence” that her “traditional marriage” obsession is warranted, she’s ignoring her own life.

I don’t know about you, but I’m eagerly anticipating the possibility of Patrick Gallagher’s musical, although I fear it could be quite sad. I can’t imagine it’s healthy for any child to grow up in a home led by a mother who dedicated her entire life to lamenting your conception, being angry at your missing father and admonishing your childhood — simply by virtue of being father-free — as inadequate. Maybe he could call it “A Gathering Storm.” Something like that.

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Riese is the 33-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York City, and now lives in The Bay Area. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are!

Riese has written 1781 articles for us.

49 Comments

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    First off, this was super fascinating! Thanks for putting it together. Secondly, I had to chortle at this: “In 1993, Maggie married Raman Srivastav, a friend she’d known since they were both involved in Yale’s “The Party of the Right.”” The PoR is well known at Yale for being…shall we say…batshit. Not at ALL surprised she started out there.

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      my best friend’s older sister was the chairman (not chair, not chairwoman, chairman) of the party of the right. i went on vacation with all of them (including said chairman’s boyfriend) once. there were some pretty interesting discussions. also, both my best friend and her sister identify as bisexual. really not sure how she reconciles her identity with the policies of her colleagues. something about constitutional originalism?

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    Such an awesome article, Riese! So obviously, Maggie Gallagher’s views are all kinds of hypocritical, but I found her being okay with separating with her husband but not divorce especially weird. Like, it seems that ‘being separated’ entails the exact things that are the reasons why she would be against divorce (if that makes any sense).

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      Probably the husband left and she’s refusing to give him a legal divorce cause she’s against it. But obviously she can’t force him to live with her. (I have no idea, but from things I’ve heard about I think this is kind of a thing?)

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          oh this is good!!! –> ” Really, she’s about the closest thing that modern life has to one version of the movie villain, the person whose profound evil is rooted in a single trauma, and who without that might have been a really good person. Darth Vader, all vampires, you know the kind of villains I’m talking about …. One of the most important, prominent myths the anti-choice movement pushes is that babies turn reticient men into loving husbands and fathers…Hey, I’m not in Gallagher’s head, but it seems likely that the reason she’s so bitter is she bought the myth that patriarchy is about providing and protecting women, and that as long as you’re a good girl who refuses to separate sex from procreation, you’ll be rewarded with a handsome husband and a beautiful wedding gown. But what she got instead was a swift lesson in how patriarchy is actually just about men dominating women. (Well, and it is also about creating a pecking order amongst men, often by using women’s bodies for status.) You can lead a man to engagement water, but you can’t make him drink.”

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    You say she has no experience of the bio father + bio mother + children = happy situation in her own life, but was that how her own childhood was? So, basically her life is a psychodrama over not replicating her expectations for herself of something like her parent’s marriage? (I realize just now saying that I should go read the articles which presumably gives me the answer, but, eh, I imagine this post adds to some autostraddle traffic ad sales matrix-thingy or something, so I’m rolling with it). Also: very interesting article.

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      yeah what’s interesting is that it seems like she actually had begun to lament her parents’ lack of conservative religious passion?

      When she was young, her parents, a financial planner and a housewife, had been active in their local Catholic parish, and Gallagher and her siblings spent some years in Catholic elementary school. As Gallagher got older, her parents began to drift away from the church, and Gallagher’s mother became something of a spiritual seeker (“She once took me to an Up With People concert,” Gallagher now recalls, ruefully.) But Gallagher herself moved to the right in high school.

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        Yeah, she sounds based on the testimony of the people she knew in college in the article like she was a pretty straight-laced Catholic girl by natural inclination who had an ill-advised one-nighter/casual affair (reading between the lines on the “boyfriend” situation described) and got pregnant. Cue Catholic guilt psychodrama.

        I wish I was a better human and felt more compassion about that, but given how hateful she is . . . . Plus she’s been doing the whole shilling-writer-for-conservative-causes job deal as a career and it sounds like she may have been inclined towards that anyway. Her personal history is just something that has caused her to choose gay marriage, instead of I dunno, the evils of universal healthcare, as her particular money-spinner/crusade.

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    Fascinating and extraordinary. But…why form an entire organization focused on gay people, when her own home was like an affluent lesbian parenting example, only without the sex?

    That makes no sense. Normally I’d say closeted homo..but nope, she doesn’t ping my gaydar either.

    And the separated is better than divorced part is just weird. However, the whole Party of the Right part makes it all make perfect sense, since they are nuts.

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      ‘And the separated is better than divorced part is just weird.’
      It’s actually very, very Catholic. It makes very little sense in the context of her arguments about why marriage is important, but a lot of really committed Catholics are horrified by divorce. Because (catholic) marriage is a promise you make to god, as well as your spouse, to be faithful to one another all your lives.

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    I’m lucky I’ve been brought up in an affluent, loving two-parent household, but my cousin spent two years as a single mother with a son while trying to get a uni degree, and it wasn’t like Gallagher. Money was tight, and eventually she had to drop out of education because her son’s father had no interest in the kid, but her ex’s mother fought a really vicious custody battle, saying my cousin was a bad role model and an unfit mother. So fuck you for your privilege, Maggie Gallagher.

    As long as a kid grows up in a loving home there’s no issue, but I know I’m preaching to the converted here.

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    First of all, she’s a bitch! Thank you, Riese, for having the patience and clarity of mind to actually write about this miserable and dispicable woman. She needs to see a therapist and talk about her man issues rather than shout from a podium about how we don’t deserve basic rights. Fuck NOM and all their stupid ideas.

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    Maggie Gallagher is to marriage like Dolores Umbridge is to education – willing to hurt anyone and destroy anything to ensure reality doesn’t interfere with her ideas/delusions.

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    Her behavior could also be a result of shame, you know. She raised her kid in a way and became everything she hates. Single mother. Failed marriage. Nothing about the way she raised her son is traditional. Furthermore, the system of “the way things should be” failed her miserably. She has nothing to hold on to, and, let’s face it, to conservatives, tradition and holding on to what they think works/the way things should be is important. Also, the fact that she couldn’t snag a man, nor keep one means that she failed in that system, rather than the system failing her. She became what she hated the most, and she needs to hate someone more than herself. Gay people fit the bill- totally non traditional by the standards of folks like her, and we are an easy target.

    So, in a really twisted way, I get what she is doing. She’s still a batshit asshat, though, and needs to stop taking her personal issues out on other people.

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    That picture of her at the top will forever haunt my dreams. She looks like she wants to reach into my mom’s uterus 20 years ago and kill me before I was even born.

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    Maggie Gallagher was on Up with Chris Hayes on Saturday, I got as far as her saying she’s for marriage equality, she’s just against same sex marriage (which was the first thing she said) before I muted it and refused to listen to any more of her bullshit.

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    Your article is great, and so are all the ones excerpted or to which links are provided, but what if this isn’t true? I mean, what if this is actually too sympathetic, giving her a back story she doesn’t deserve? What if she came from an affluent family, Yale, became a writer and threw stones because she just doesn’t give a shit about what it does to anybody else? Peddling a story about her “unhappy umarried pregnancy” is kind of her street cred/cautionary tale for the religious right or, to put it more crudely, her meal ticket. I’m inclined to say she says this shit because it gets her paid and keeps her in the news. The fact that she used to be a Randian only stokes my suspicions.

    Not all people who had their lives opened by the civil rights movements of the past half century are going be shining. Gallagher’s a reminder that even empowered, Yale educated single mothers can be pigs.

    And incidentally (though Darth Vader was cited!) it’s still more common to apply the “sad and warped for reason x” narrative to female public figures than to men. The practice smells faintly of misogyny.

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      i didn’t realize this article offered any sympathy for maggie — i don’t have any sympathy for her, so if any came through it wasn’t intentional. backstory can explain how somebody became the terrible person that they are without excusing or condoning any of that explanation. i don’t buy that people just throw stones because they don’t give a shit, very little that any sane human being does comes from just being an asshole. usually if someone throws stones without any backstory to explain how they picked up those stones in the first place, it’s a good sign that they’re either intoxicated, a drug addict, or suffering from an untreated mental illness of some kind.

      i think the main point i was making here is that her whole belief system is completely backwards and really obnoxiously self-centered, especially when you know the root of it all. it’s just fucked.

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        well, maybe sympathy’s not the best word, but it gives her a context I feel she simply doesn’t deserve. She already leaned right before the pregnancy, and after the pregnancy she had to justify it in a way that was going to be palatable if she had an ambition to remain in those circles. Some of it may have been expectation, but just as much, if not more of it was self-interest.

        I’m growing wary and suspicious of conservative leaders who live as single parents, or have gay siblings or spouses, or multiple divorces, and continue to say what they do. I used to think they had a back story and just weren’t in touch with themselves (and maybe they do/aren’t) but it just as easily may be people who have aquired a certain status for peddling the shit they do while living well and not living by it. Whatever else one wants to say about the Right, between its grants, foundations and magazines it’s a gargantuan welfare state of lifelong proportions for many of its participants. We’re going to have to disagree on this one but I don’t necessarily think that all hypocrites either have a festering wound within them or are mentally ill. There are simply too many of them to think it.

        (And arguably, if we’re gonna tea leaf read that Maggie is sick or why she’s sick, maybe it infuses her with self-importance, that she lives one way and can push so hard so that people are forced to live another. She could be a meglomaniac and may always have been. She was a Randian?)

        Anyway, I admired the article, I really did. But don’t mind me dismissing this woman as one of the many opportunistic asshats to spring off the right wing conveyor belt these last 4 decades.

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