And in those four weeks, some gay-marriage backers, feeling more than a little red-faced, have called for the zealots in their camp to get a grip. The treatment of Eich was an example of what happens when bad-apple activists turn crazily self-righteous, they say. British-American writer Andrew Sullivan says the witch-hunting of Eich speaks to the ‘fanaticism’ of certain campaigners, which apparently runs counter to the gay-marriage movement’s desire to create a more ‘tolerant and diverse society’. This week, prominent American liberals and libertarians published an open letter headlined ‘Freedom to Marry, Freedom to Dissent: Why We Must Have Both’, which says the Eich episode showed the ‘eagerness [of] some supporters of same-sex marriage to punish rather than to criticise or to persuade those who disagree’. ‘Enforcing orthodoxy hurts everyone’, the letter says, and gay-marriage campaigners must lobby for the ‘freedom to marry’ in a less hysterical fashion.
It is always refreshing to see people stand up for the freedom to dissent, especially on an issue like gay marriage, on which there’s an astounding amount of nodding-dog conformity. But there is nonetheless something off, something problematic, something wrong about the past month’s burgeoning critical response to the Eich affair. And it’s this: it treats the illiberalism and intolerance hurled Eich’s way as a one-off, an extreme case, an instance of ‘some activists’ going too far, when in truth what happened to Eich is entirely in keeping with the coercive culture of the politics of gay marriage more broadly. To view the hounding of Eich as an aberration, as a veering off the alleged path of diversity mapped out by the gay-marriage campaign, is utterly to miss the point – Eich’s treatment is better seen as the logical conclusion to what has been a strikingly illiberal movement from the get-go.
This is the thing no one in the gay-marriage lobby, or in political and media circles more broadly, seems to want to talk about - the fact that in every jurisdiction in which it has been introduced, gay marriage has been heavily attended by authoritarianism and coercion.
Sometimes the coercion is soft, taking the form of what John Stuart Mill called ‘the tyranny of custom’, where those who refuse to embrace gay marriage - the most speedily formed custom of modern times - will be branded phobic and hateful and perhaps boycotted by agitators, pressured to choose between their moral opposition to same-sex marriage and their place in polite society; you absolutely cannot have both. And sometimes the coercion is hard, involving, in the case of France most obviously, actual state violence against opponents of gay marriage. But whatever form it has taken, coercion has been the order of the day in every campaign to legalise gay marriage, meaning Eich’s fate wasn’t some abnormality - it was part of a pretty scary ‘new normal’, of a sweeping culture of intolerance that has been fostered by the political set pushing gay marriage.
The push for gay "marriage" is inherently coercive and authoritarian, O'Neill says, and its bitter fruit is having devastating consequences throughout the Western world.
Anyone who over the past few years has paid attention to the moral delegitimation of critics of gay marriage, to the state attacks on anti-gay marriage protesters, to the social ostracism of those who favour traditional marriage, to the attempt to force religious schools to teach about gay marriage, and to the Orwellian airbrushing from history of the words and identities cleaved to by the already married, cannot have been surprised by what happened to Eich. His fate wasn’t the product of a handful of zealous campaigners going too far on Twitter - it was the end result of an intolerant culture, sometimes mob-like, sometimes state-enforced, that has been gaining ground for years, and which showed long before the elbowing aside of Eich that it was more than happy to ostracise, punish, criminalise and censor anyone who dared raise a peep of opposition to gay marriage. Coercion is built into gay marriage. They used to say love and marriage went together - in the gay-marriage movement, it’s authoritarianism and marriage that are bedfellows.
The question is: why? Why has the gay-marriage issue been such a shrill and intolerant affair? It isn’t because some campaigners are overly keen and a bit hotheaded; it’s because gay marriage is not actually a campaign to expand equality, far less freedom, but is better seen as the main mechanism through which modern society now challenges traditional cultural norms, through which society expresses its dislocation from, and its growing disdain for, the old-world values of family life, family sovereignty, long-term commitment, loyalty, and so on.
Gay marriage has emerged as the perfect means through which our post-traditional, relativistic elites can both subtly denigrate older values and also impose a set of whole new values, related to viewing traditional married life and family integrity as problematic, and therefore more individuated, changeable forms of human relationships as good. And because this is fundamentally about eradicating old moral values and enforcing new ones, it constantly verges on being coercive, expressing a hostility towards its opponents that tends to treat them, not simply as wrong or pesky, but as actual blocks, as ‘ideological enemies’, to the elite’s attempted enforcement of a new moral outlook.
One of the most striking developments in Western societies in recent years has been the sacralisation of homosexuality, the transformation of sexuality from a simple matter of who you have sex with into a set of values and behaviours. In a very short period of time, historically speaking, homosexuality has gone from being a crime to being possibly the most celebrated way of life in modern Western nations. Indeed, such has been the sacralisation of homosexuality, everywhere from popular culture to the political sphere, that the criminals are now those who criticise gay sex, not those who have it - as witnessed in such acts of authoritarianism as the imposing of a one-month prison sentence on a Swedish pastor who preached against homosexuality, the arrest of a preacher in Dundee for saying homosexuality was a sin, the banning of an advert in London that offended gays, the sending of American experts to Africa to preach about the virtues of homosexuality (in a similar way that Christian colonialists used to preach to Africans about the virtues of the Bible, including, er, anti-homosexual views), and so on. Gay-friendliness has become probably the key barometer of decency in the modern West; and those who fail the test can expect censorship or some other form of punishment.
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