8. Maggie Gallagher
The passage of California’s Proposition 8, a ballot measure that banned gay marriage in the state, was one of the few conservative victories of 2008. In its wake, gay activists pledged never to be taken by surprise again, while Gallagher, founder of the National Organization for Marriage, knuckled down to keep conservative victories rolling. Fueled by $9 million in expenditures in 2009, NOM defeated state gay marriage measures again and again — by ballot measure in Maine, by legislative pressure in New York and New Jersey — telling fellow social conservatives that the “inevitable” march toward gay marriage was nothing of the sort. As the year went on, anti-abortion groups, bolstered by poll numbers showing a slip in public acceptance of gay marriage, began making similar arguments. In a year when conservative activism was largely defined by economic issues, social conservatives racked up victories and proved their relevance.