National Review’s Publisher, Gayly Married?

By Peter Wolfgang Published on May 20, 2022

The publisher of the most important conservative magazine of the last sixty years, National Review, is gay-married? Garrett Bewkes, the man overseeing the magazine once edited by William F. Buckley, has a husband. He’s been the publisher for five years. How did this happen? And what does it mean for the conservative movement and the Republican party?

I suspect a lot of NR’s long-time readers don’t know this. I wouldn’t have known if a local newspaper hadn’t run an article by Bewkes’ “husband” Bradley.

Together they’re starting a Connecticut chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans. That’s a group “dedicated to representing LGBT conservatives and allies” in the Republican party, as they explain on their homepage. I wrote about the whole sorry affair in “Free Marketers Forget Freedom.”

Bradley Bewkes will be point man for the efforts to subvert what little opposition there is to the LGBT agenda within the Connecticut GOP. Garrett will apparently continue subverting what little belief in marriage remains on the American right.

Bewkes and Bewkes

In his op-ed article in the Stamford Advocate, Bradley equated support for the traditional definition of marriage with being “anti-LGBTQ.” He wanted his readers to know “Republicans are not anti-LGBTQ.” We can safely assume he speaks for Garrett as well.

“Here’s another fact,” he writes. “The Republican Party is moving forward. While there are many religious conservatives who still may take issue with gay marriage — which I fully respect as it is their God-given right to do so — the future of the party is one of inclusion and acceptance.”

In other words, “nobody here but us pro-gay marriage Republicans.” What does that say to the thousands of Connecticut residents who fought for traditional marriage throughout the 2000s? Who still stand for traditional marriage and make up a significant part of the Republican vote in this state?

But what about all the evidence that children need a father and a mother? That natural marriage best gives children what they need to grow and flourish?

What is the Republican party — and National Review’s publisher — saying to them by promoting this agenda? As is so often the case, religious conservatives hear in these words and actions a Republican establishment that despises its own base. And increasingly a conservative movement that rejects them as well.

Will they defend the religious liberty of Christians who do not want to be complicit in a gay wedding? Will they support parents who do not want LGBT curricula to be taught to their kindergarten children in public schools? The more likely scenario is that this kind of conservative and Republican will operate as a fifth column within the GOP, undermining the very grassroots social conservative activism of parents that the movement and the party both claim to champion.

Party of Parents?

National Review doesn’t equal the Republican party. The magazine often criticizes the party for deviating from conservative principles. But have they on this issue? Not that I’ve seen.

The Republican party wants to be “the party of parents.” But only because they see it as a winning issue (and it is), as I wrote here.

At the same time, the party’s eager to develop a gay wing. The head of the Republican National Committee recently pushed  an “RNC Pride Coalition.” She even spoke at the Log Cabin Republicans’ annual fund-raising dinner, telling them how much they “enrich” the party. They add “unique perspectives” and bring the party “even more diverse candidates and supporters.” As Bradley Bewkes notes in his article, “currently, on the RNC website, there is an area for Republican Gay Outreach with the statement, “The GOP is the Party for all.”

The Connecticut GOP wants to be “the parents’ party” while embracing the Log Cabin agenda? They are talking out of both sides of their mouth.

If challenged, they would probably say they can be the party of parents without imposing a single definition of the family. They’d say the real issue is protecting the family from the state, whether gay or straight. (Polyamorous families too? If same-sex marriage makes a family, why not “throuples”?)

But what about all the evidence that children need a father and a mother? That natural marriage best gives children what they need to grow and flourish? The Republican leadership here in my home state of Connecticut don’t care about that, because they want the LGBT members more. The party’s trying to be “the party of parents” without being “the party of children.”

NR Then and NR Today

It pains me to criticize National Review. Conservatives who make a career out of attacking NR remind me, in a way, of the protesters who tear down statues of the Founding Fathers. It’s a lack of pietas. Every conservative in politics today is there by standing on William F. Buckley’s shoulders. On what National Review accomplished in the before-times.

But what are we to make of the political activity of NR’s new management? Of the magazine’s choosing as its overseer a man in a homosexual marriage?

Are we still to believe that the 2015 “conservative case for gay marriage” cover story, written by the managing editor, no less, was a one-off? The article declared gay marriage “an equal chance at love,” giving a new and unconservative meaning to the word “love.”

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And the 2018 column calling for a “compromise” on transgenderism? That article called for accepting transgenderism because “Cautious conservatives should work to preserve a peaceful and free social order.”

These articles were presented as offering one point of view, one not explicitly endorsed by the magazine. Not then, maybe, but how strongly is any magazine going to hold to a position its publisher rejects? Indeed, a position that itself rejects one of his most fundamental commitments?

National Review’s board certainly knew what editorial policy they were setting when they chose Garrett Bewkes. A magazine run by a gay-married man may not become openly pro-gay marriage. But it will almost certainly step back from defending traditional marriage. Silence, in this case, will mean consent.

Institutions and Values

In a fund-raising article last year, Bewkes described the magazine’s mission this way: “National Review does not do what is popular for revenue or accolades. We do not waver in our principles for convenience. We defend our national institutions and conservative values.”

The form of marriage our nation believed normal and proper until very recently, not a “national institution”? The marriage of one man to one woman, not a “conservative value”? What do those terms mean, if they don’t include marriage?


Peter Wolfgang is president of Family Institute of Connecticut Action. He lives in Waterbury, Connecticut, with his wife and their seven children. The views expressed on The Stream are solely his own.

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