Understanding Maggie

Timothy Kincaid

February 8th, 2012

Maggie Gallagher doesn’t hate you. She doesn’t even hate your marriage. Because hate is an emotion, a passionate feeling, and emotion simply doesn’t enter into Maggie’s approach to her work. Hers is a world of thought, of commitment to an ideal, the concept of marriage, and her analytical approach to affirming its unquestionable attributes and values.

Or so finds Mark Oppenheimer in a new Slate article that seeks to understand the motivations and drives of Maggie Gallagher the author and activist and how that person differs from Maggie Gallagher the mother, wife, and friend. This is a valuable look into Maggie’s world, one that each of us should know as we continue our fight for equality.

Priya Lynn

February 8th, 2012

Oppenheimer claims Gallagher isn’t anti-gay, that she’s “pure thought” but he’s trying to find deepness where none exists. Gallagher has said that gayness is sad and unfortunate, that its a disorder and that gays should learn to control their behavior. Oppenheimer is wrong and has overlooked the obvious, Maggie Gallagher most certainly is anti-gay.

Timothy Kincaid

February 8th, 2012

Priya Lynn,

I think we all agree that Maggie’s views are not supportive of gay people even outside the issue of marriage.

But I think Oppenheimer’s point is that she isn’t driven by anti-gay bigotry. This is something I’ve heard from a number of people who have interacted with her. Other than the marriage/family structure issue, she would not have any interest in anti-gay politics.

It isn’t hatred of gays that drive her to oppose our equality, oddly enough, but her own heterosexual disappointments.


February 8th, 2012

That article appears in Salon.com, not Slate.

Good article! While it sometimes borders on armchair psychoanalysis, Oppenheimer’s article is a good portrait of a profoundly deluded person.

People who advocate bigoted things never think they’re doing it out of spite or hate – they usually think they’re acting from sweet reason.

So when anti-gay advocates say they’re “protecting marriage,” consider that they really mean it. The “logic” might be all wrong, but the belief that the logic is perfect is hard to fight.

Emotion has its uses! If we see the total legal acceptance of gay marriage in this country, it’ll be thanks to the sight of countless happy gay couples and their children in people’s lives. It’s the best gut-level way for people to see what a delusion the NOM line really is.


Priya Lynn

February 8th, 2012

Timothy, I think Gallagher’s personal disappointments may be part of what drives her but I think anti-gay animus does as well or she wouldn’t have made such anti-gay comments.


February 8th, 2012

When I look into Maggie’s eyes, or read her words in the Salon article, I find myself face to face with JUNO, the Roman Goddess of Marriage. Everthing she does seems reduced to that one frequency.

And boy is Zeus in trouble!


Richard Rush

February 8th, 2012

I think that fanatical Christians, in general, are driven by a powerful need to persecute. It’s just who they are. But they also have a need to view themselves, and to have others view them, as loving Christians. The result is that they persecute in the most loving possible way – a dichotomy invisible to themselves, but obvious to most others – except those who are duped by their loving Christian window dressing.


February 8th, 2012

I will never understand this woman. She and her organization have stretched the truth, told bold-faced lies, doctored images of their rallies, downplayed studies that contradict their beliefs, and continued to hide the identities of their financial donors. All this to keep the government(notice I didn’t type “religious institutions”) from recognizing ANY form of gay and lesbian relationships. It boggles my mind.

Tony P

February 8th, 2012

She’s compartmentalizing the whole thing. This is something they teach priests to do in the Catholic church. They call it ‘forming’.

That said, he base motivation is animus. There’s no doubt on that. But the animus is anti-male for the most part. After all, she was wronged by a man in the past if you recall. He knocked her up and didn’t marry her. Oh bother!

Timothy Kincaid

February 8th, 2012


Perhaps it makes sense in this context:

Those would seem to be the hard facts, the evidence on which pure thought would operate. But for Gallagher these facts are temporal, contingent and ultimately meaningless. They just appear to be facts.

The truth is irrelevant when you know the TRUTH. And that mindset is both the most dangerous and most pathetic. It drives jihadists who might really like you but KNOW that you are Satan. It drives otherwise credible scientists to fudge results because the KNOW their conclusions must be correct. It drives sweet young ladies to marry Trouble because they KNOW that they can tame him.


February 8th, 2012

What really struck me about the article is that Ms. Gallagher keeps talking about how the problem she sees in society is the separation of sex from procreation, when really her own life problems stemmed from separating sex from commitment. Clearly Ms. Gallagher and her mystery partner (who sounds like a total POS for abandoning his son, by the way) did not separate sex from procreation or her son Patrick would not exist.

But if one is going to separate sex from commitment (and we can certainly debate whether that is emotionally healthy) and one is heterosexual, the only responsible move is to ensure procreation cannot occur, by using birth control. Although it is not expressed, my impression is that Ms. Gallagher is like a lot of Catholics, they have premarital sex, but don’t use contraception (which, as a former Catholic, I simply never understood – it’s not like there’s an express elevator to Hell if you commit two sins at once). The risk they then run, as is the case here, is that an unwanted child comes along and can easily doom the relationship. We don’t know what would have happened to the relationship if Ms. Gallagher had not gotten pregnant, but methinks the relationship would have had better odds of a successful outcome without the added stress of an unwanted child.

The real irony is, of course, that same-sex couples who want to marry are not separating sex from commitment, even though they cannot reproduce through sex. They are seeking a very traditional relationship where sexual intimacy is used to strengthen the relationship – and that includes someone like Dan Savage, who argues his “monogamish” marriage (he and his husband occassionally engage in three-ways) is stregthened by not demanding full monogamy. Even the Catholic Church has acknowledged the importance of sex within a marriage as a means to strengthen intimacy and commitment, which is one reason they argue sex can continue beyond fertility.

Priya Lynn

February 9th, 2012

Cpt_Doom said “What really struck me about the article is that Ms. Gallagher keeps talking about how the problem she sees in society is the separation of sex from procreation, when really her own life problems stemmed from separating sex from commitment.”.



February 9th, 2012

I understand her perfectly. She has found a well-paying career. That’s it. If I’m not mistaken, the article said she is an Ivy-League educated woman. Maybe that is more impressive than it should be, but something with those kind of brains has to know “Heterosexual marriage brings together the two great halves of humanity” does not cut it as a logical, legal argument to deny same sex couples a function of law to establish legal kinship. She says anything, her not so bright supporters can agree with so they’ll continue to donate money so she’ll continue to collect a pay check. Just like Perkins is just another corrupt politician that found out which issue in his part of the country gets people all fired up about. I’m sorry, but both of these well-educated, intelligent people know better when all they can say about us is easily debunkable appeals to bigotry that usually don’t even address the issue of gay marriage.

Andrew M.

February 9th, 2012

I disagree.

She is driven by money, and the need to feel important. It just so happens to be our misfortune that this zealot chose us to be her enemy in order to support herself financially and give her life some semblance of direction and meaning.


February 9th, 2012

Exactly Andrew. She said in the article she started writing because she was trying to make money for the kid. It’s always been a hot-button issue that gets a lot of people fired up. She knew it would get her attention.

Richard Rush

February 9th, 2012

Erin said, “If I’m not mistaken, the article said she is an Ivy-League educated woman.”

Ummmmm . . . well, yes, if you consider this to be an “Ivy-League education:”

In 1982, she earned a B.A. in Religious Studies from Yale University, where she belonged to the Party of the Right in the Yale Political Union.

(from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maggie_Gallagher )

The overwhelming anecdotal evidence seems to show that religious studies makes one a vocal expert in nearly every aspect of human existence and endeavor.

Andrew M.

February 9th, 2012

Yup Erin, except I would not necessarily associate Ivy-League with intelligent. I think she truly does believe the nonsense she spouts. How else could she go around the country stripping Americans of their freedoms and equality for money? She makes herself believe she’s doing the right thing. No one likes to be the villain.

Regan DuCasse

February 9th, 2012

@Timothy: Oppenheimer’s point that MG isn’t driven by anti gay bigotry, tends to make me believe he doesn’t understand that, a bigoted person IN THEIR MINDS, isn’t a bigot, but all of their actions, motivations, statements, intentions and results DO point in that direction.
She, like many of her ilk, are virtually single minded in attacking each and every thing that supports gay people.
Of course someone like MG is going to reject being called that, and will be offended by it.
But she refuses to understand WHY, nor will she own all of the evidence leading up to the conclusions for it.

During the height of the racial divide, especially during the Jim Crow era, whites who supported segregation thought THEMSELVES good people. They thought the system was working, and that blacks themselves had no reason to hate Jim Crow, nor fight it because it was a rightful system according to whatever the understandings that whites had of black temperament and ability at the time.
And perhaps to blacks, they thought themselves GOOD to blacks, as long as they didn’t participate in actual lynch parties or do actual PHYSICAL harm to a black person.
In other words, as long as blacks, ‘knew their place’, a white person had nothing to challenge what they thought of themselves and how it affected actual black people.

I see a similar delusion in MG. Her statements are similar to those who hold SUPREMACIST beliefs.
“We invented marriage, therefore we OWN it. We’re the BEST for it, we are the ONLY kinds of people who can appreciate it, and therefore should benefit the most from it.”
That was how whites thought of Jim Crow, when Jim Crow itself was on the chopping block.
There were white people distressed, upset and even SAD, to find out that any of the black people they’d known, would support civil rights, or participate in any movements to change Jim Crow.
Then, those whites were ANGRY, and expressed the view that it was THEY who were under attack.
After all, they were GOOD people, who’d done NOTHING to warrant this challenge from blacks.

I have listened VERY carefully to the meaning behind MG’s words, and NOM’s general ideals.
I’ve read between the lines of their articles and newsletters. It’s a calculation, why they are engaging CIVIL RIGHTS ICONS, or at least such ICONIC imaging to their cause.

But to us, they’ve perverted what it means to be the MINORITY threatened by a CONTINUED effort at systemic oppression and to challenge it’s unfair advantage.

In part, because engaging blacks to their cause makes them APPEAR to not be bigots, and by saying they are ‘simply’ disagreeing and want to ‘preserve’ marriage, they take the impact of their actions from it’s actual result.

In another lengthy article on MG at Salon, the author concluded that MG is indifferent to another’s pain.
And that too, is a signal to her pathology with this.
And it’s infection throughout those who support their agenda.

Not only is there indifference to the harm all of this causes gay people, there is a determination that gay people DESERVE to be treated this way.
Which is more of the ideal of supremacists.
The most reprobate white man had more rights and protections than the most exemplary black one.
Proof that contradicts NOM’s motives as noble ones.
The most reprobate het, has no need to qualify for his rights and protections than the most exemplary gay people do.

In her own head, and typical of clueless bigots, they aren’t bigots, but are good people following a standard that’s only a reality for THEM, but if they don’t EVER have to truly confront the damage they are doing, then to them, they aren’t doing it.

Just as, ‘never to be heard’ blacks always knew more about whites, back in the day, gays know more about hets than hets know about gay people.
They just don’t care to know how and why.
The FOOL’S PARADISE at work.
So utterly selfish and self centered, that their delusion of doing good and being good does make fools of them all.

Priya Lynn

February 9th, 2012

Tremendous insight, Regan – thanks for that.


February 9th, 2012

Who wants to understand her? What I understand is that she thinks she has some right to legally dictate how other people can/should live their lives. What does it matter what her motivations are, hidden or otherwise?

Timothy Kincaid

February 9th, 2012


I don’t measure Maggie on whether she thinks shes bigoted. Few people, even real dedicated haters, do. That’s irrelevant.

I think that Maggie’s motivations are based in her own desire to advance this ideal of God designed and Catholic Church protected marriage and we only are of interest to her because we are (among a good many others) fighting against her ideal.

Though it may seem like an obvious answer that any person who takes actions that are contrary to the goals of the gay community are, by necessity, engaging in bigotry, that is not always the case. One can oppose our goals due to their own agenda based on their own objective which impact their own worldview and which are based in their own values, needs, goals, experiences and emotional wastelands.

And while some might argue that perception trumps reality and painting Maggie as a bigot is all that matters, that thinking suffers from a fatal flaw: it leads to our misunderstanding our opponents. And if we do not understand Maggie, or choose to misunderstand Maggie, then we cannot respond effectively.

I have long thought that hate or bigotry were not significant players in her own personal drive. Years of observing her, what she says, how she responds, suggests to me that if such motivations play a role in her activism, it is a small role.

I think that you err in assigning to Maggie a “birds of a feather” stereotype. Because she affiliates with raging homophobes then she must be one as well.

So you assert that “She, like many of her ilk, are virtually single minded in attacking each and every thing that supports gay people.” But that isn’t correct. Maggie doesw not single mindedly attack anything outside of the marriage / family structure area.

She may have views about DADT or ENDA. She may even have expressed those views (I really don’t know). But these are not on her radar and she spends no time on these matters.

And, unlike other anti-gay activists that truly are motivated by hate, Maggie does not limit her activism to gay people. She also has for a very long time been an activist on how heterosexuals should be limited. She opposes no-fault divorce (and probably most other kinds as well). She opposes cohabitation. She opposes non-procreative sex for straights. It isn’t anti-gay animus that fuels those positions.

I strongly caution that we not just say, “Maggie’s a bigot” and traipse on having applied our label and feeling satisfied. For one thing, it’s unfair to Maggie (not that this is much of a concern considering her wholesale disregard for the rights of others). But more importantly, it dismisses us.

Maggie is not unknown. She is well connected and has had interaction with a lot of people who we need to influence.

If we come in and make grand declarations which they know to be untrue, then we have no credibility. They know her, they know she isn’t your garden variety homophobe. They know that her speeches, her persuasions, her writing about gay marriage are not based in “gay is bad”. She doesn’t trot out the “die 20 years younger” bullsh!t. She doesn’t trot out anti-gay stuff much at all. For her it’s all about her definition of marriage and how we are getting in the way.

If we claim otherwise, we will lose. Because we are wrong. Because it is us that are making stereotypes and refusing to “really get to know me” and who would rather just fling an insult than listen to her arguments.

And we don’t need to do that. We have the moral authority, we have the truth, we have the appeal to fairness. Let’s not squander it.

Priya Lynn

February 9th, 2012

Maggie occaisionally lets slip bigotted anti-gay statements which is telling given that she knows such statments counter her claims to not hate gays and have rational reasons to oppose marriage equality. While her past personal circumstance may help her craft specious arguments against marriage equality and her personal circumstance may be part of what motivates her anti-gay campaign Oppenheimer greatly overblows this connection and it isn’t credible that anti-gay animus isn’t a major motivation for her opposition to marriage. Gallagher intentionally and deceptively downplayed her answers to Oppenheimer’s questions about whether or not she thinks gayness is a sin because she knows admitting to this hurts the image she’s trying to build as a person who has rational concerns about heterosexual marriage. She played Oppenheimer for a fool and he fell for it – let’s not do the same.

Ultimately, as John said, it doesn’t matter what motivates her, particularly if it were personal heterosexual disappointments, there’s no reasoning with her, she’ll never let go of her bigotry and we’ll always need to move forward by countering her specious anti-marriage arguments.

Just because Maggie may lie to herself and claim she’s not a bigot doesn’t mean we have to tell the same lie she does. We don’t do ourselves any favours by going along with the misrepresentation she makes of herself and her fellow bigots.

Priya Lynn

February 9th, 2012

Per my previous comment:

From Good As You

“For instance, Maggie has called homosexuality an “unfortunate thing” and “at a minimum, a sexual dysfunction much as impotence or infertility.” Maggie has also suggested that gays “can always control their behavior,” and even called on a sitting President to give more funding to scientifically-shunned “ex-gay” research. Again, I have a tough time as seeing that as purely political, don’t know about you.

Then there is the Catholic factor. Maggie has not only said she would want gay people to not have sex, she has also said that even people who support marriage equality are committing “several kinds of very serious sins.””


Once again, given that she knows such anti-gay statements harm the image she’s trying to create as someone with rational concerns for heterosexual marriage, and that she no doubt does her best to avoid making such statements the fact that she can’t help but let them slip shows anti-gay animus and religious motivations form a large part, if not all of her motivation to oppose marriage.


February 9th, 2012

Erin = “I understand her perfectly. She has found a well-paying career. That’s it….”

StraightGrandmother =I am with Erin on this one. She hit the nail on the head. It is all about cha-ching! All those lofty ideals, blah, blah, blah. She has an obvious over inflated ego and is good at playing on the fears of wealthy Christians. She has found that fear mongering pays very well. She carved out a well paying niche for herself and will never voluntarily back down.


February 9th, 2012

And I also agree with
Regan D = “I see a similar delusion in MG. Her statements are similar to those who hold SUPREMACIST beliefs.”

Timothy Kincaid

February 9th, 2012

Sigh… okay, I guess that the folks who never met Maggie, never interviewed her friends, her family, her old employers, her old boyfriend, and who spent zero time investigating know more about her than Oppenheimer does after his months of research. Yeah, that’s it. Sigh.


February 9th, 2012

It’s simple: Maggie has tapped in to a Cash Cow that pays. All. About. The. Money.


February 9th, 2012

I’m sorry Timothy, but I refuse to believe the woman is stupid enough to think some of the things she says constitute cogent arguments. She has to know she can’t come up with a solid legal argument against gay rights. I could be wrong, but she’d have to be not very smart to believe the things she says.

Timothy Kincaid

February 9th, 2012


her comments don’t make sense from the perspective of logic and reason. But if your perspective is that God has declared his divine wisdom through the teachings of the Church, then it makes perfect sense.

It doesn’t matter what studies say or what testimony reports or what observation reveals. And differences are transitory and based on man’s inability to see as God sees.

To her this is perfect logic and the height of intellectualism. What could be more thoughtful than a principled quest for knowledge based on absolute truth? To us it is turning off your brain and inviting abuse.

Which is why we don’t let churches dictate law. We tried that for a millennium or so and it didn’t work out so well.


February 9th, 2012

She’s a massive case of projection. She projects her own failed relationships, her screwed up family life and her opinions about that on everyone else

Ben in Oakland

February 9th, 2012

I’m on vacation, so I’m not following much.

Something you wrote once Timothy opened my eyes. Not all bigotry is hate. A good deal of it is thE blind, unwarranted belief in your own wholly imaginary superiority.

Whatever else is going on with her, I think that constitutes a good portion of it.


February 9th, 2012

She has had two failed relationships with men. That, unfortunately, has ruined her. Her vendetta, to make sure gays and lesbians can not have successful marriages, is just pathetic.

Reed Boyer

February 9th, 2012

I don’t want to give Gallagher any more time rent-free in my head. Oppenheimer’s insights may be fascinating, but I’m declaring the rest of February a Maggie-free time for myself.


February 9th, 2012

Amanda Marcotte has the best interpretation I’ve seen online:

Reed Boyer

February 9th, 2012


Yes, I AM inconsistent. \

Timothy Kincaid

February 9th, 2012


I agree. Very well written. I don’t agree entirely with Marcotte’s premise, but she flays the flaws in Maggie’s thinking.


February 10th, 2012

@ Timothy:
“Which is why we don’t let churches dictate law. We tried that for a millennium or so and it didn’t work out so well.” And I think this is simply another example of something Maggie already knows rather well. Her job is to stop gay marriage under the law. She knows she can’t make a legal argument for it, that’s why she keeps going back to the “children need the two great halves of humanity coming together to raise them” crap.


February 10th, 2012

“By their fruits ye shall know them.” Maggie Gallagher is a despicable human being, selling hatred and intolerance to earn her daily bread. She will, one day, answer to God, and He will not be pleased.


February 10th, 2012

She wasnt the first woman to get dumped by a man after getting knocked up, and she wont be the last.

Robert Goodman

February 10th, 2012

As a counselor, this article validates something I have felt about Ms. G. for some time: that she is driven primarily by the trauma of an unplanned pregnancy and the fact that the father did not want to marry her. Like most conservatives, she is unable to face her own trauma (and the responsibility for how she contributed to it), and instead focuses her attention on projecting her pain onto innocent others.

Second, to say, as this article does, that Ms. G. is not anti-gay is ridiculous. NONE of NOM’s projects are directed toward strengthening heterosexual marriage: they are ALL focused on denying marriage equality to Gay and Lesbian people.

Third, I have also suspected for sometime that Ms. G. has a Gay child. So, imagine my pleasure when I read in the article: “Patrick, now 31, a New York University graduate and aspiring MUSICAL THERATER LIBRETTIST, would not be interviewed.” When I read this, I thought of an old exchange between Mary Jo and Suzanne on “Designing Women” when they saw two men shopping together, and Suzanne said, “Two men, one cart, fresh pasta, you tell me!”


February 11th, 2012

I don’t care what Galagher believes or why she believes it. The issue isn’t about belief it’s about law and a civil society. Since she makes her living off the backs of gay people she must be viewed as an anti-gay entrepreneur. She has moved on from NOM to launch two more anti-gay money-raising ‘movements’. I don’t care if, in her heart of hearts, she doesn’t hate me when her daily actions harm my life and the lives of those like me.

Had I written this article, which is fine as far as it goes, I would have wanted to know what her income is; why none of her family would speak; why she won’t answer questions about her own marriage; why she doesn’t wear a ring; and why she doesn’t call herself by her married name. I would also have asked her why NOM refuses to obey court orders to release their donors’ names.

She mis-characterizes what marriage was and is and uses a definition based on her beliefs – offered without a shred of actual evidence – to try to shape public policy. In the past she hid the fact that she was paid by the Bush white house to spread propaganda about marriage. Which makes it hard to maintain the position that she acts from some disinterested, non-political place. She is leading a forum at CPAC which is an assault on the president couched in the terms of the fight to ‘save’ marriage. That very expression, ‘the fight to save marriage’ is profoundly offensive expressing as it does the idea that because I married my partner of 43 years I will wreck the foundation of our society. Whether not she’s personally a bigot is irrelevant and the writer of the article’s need to ‘humanize’ her is journalistic schlock.

Let me couch ‘the fight to save marriage’ in more traditional terms: “Though I personally hold no animus towards Jews they clearly must not be allowed to get their hands on the banking system. If they do that within minutes they will control Hollywood and the very life-breath of our culture will be in their hands. I’m sure they can be very nice people but they are not to be trusted with something so foundational as our money supply.”

That is Gallagher’s argument.

She shouldn’t be underestimated, I agree. Nor should we be required to feel for her. I don’t buy for one minute that she does what she does because her boyfriend knocked her up and walked out on her. I don’t believe that’s how human nature works. That’s how movies on WE work. If she can’t deal with reality that’s her problem.

I don’t need to understand her. I need to observe her actions. I don’t care what she believes. I don’t expect her to care what I believe. I do expect my civil rights to be respected among which being my right to be part of the nation’s diverse community at large. This issue of marriage masks the deeper desire for us to become part of the mainstream, to stop being marginalized, to be allowed to live in the open air with our lives respected. No more nor less than any other group.

Robert Goodman

February 17th, 2012

Dear Stephen,

I agree whole heartedly with everything you said, with one exception: that her motivations don’t matter. I don’t think we need to know her motivations so that we can empathize with her. Knowing her motivations can help us identify her vulnerabilites and we can use this as a weapon against her (and people like her), if we have the balls to do so.

All the best.

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