You see this kind of thing a lot on the conservative side of the argument:
I’m 26 years old and my generation holds very strong views on this topic… in my experience, mostly in support of same-sex marriage. Personally, I’m on the fence about it. But for most people my age, that is not good enough. The peer pressure to support gay marriage is enormous. Which is precisely why I refuse to give my (socially mandatory in many circles) full-throated support to it. When friends tell me it’s a civil right and denying gays their “universal right to marriage” is the same as forbidding whites and blacks to marry, it makes my skin crawl . . . but I don’t know how to argue against these points. I just know deep down there’s something fishy about the arguments.
The way defenders of traditional marriage are treated appalls me, but the reason is simple. Gay marriage activists have dehumanized them totally in their own minds, which of course justifies anything. There can be no debate; for so many people I know, the “universal right to marriage” is as settled as the law of gravity, and anyone who disagrees is evil. A big reason why I’m on the fence is because there is only one “legitimate” opinion among my peers and supporting same-sex marriage is meaningless when it’s the only choice and the alternative is to be called a bigot. In the climate I live in, even to say, “Maybe they have a point” is risky and an easy way to lose a friend. I admire the courage of those on your side of the issue who take the stand publicly and accept all the heat that goes with it.
Understand: Opponents of gay marriage — though they’ve won every election where the issue was put to a statewide referendum — really believe they’re the victims in this debate. It doesn’t make any sense, really, unless those opponents feel like they need to claim the victim status in order to hold onto some kind of moral high ground.
But what evidence does the correspondent above present in support of his case that “defenders of traditional marriage” are treated poorly? That they have to face peer pressure? Well, boo hoo. Gay marriage opponents don’t want to just win the policy battle; they’d rather not get their feelings hurt by criticism. Oh, the oppression! This is what is known in politics as “having your cake and eating it, too.”
(On a related note, does anybody believe the correspondent above is “on the fence” regarding this issue? Seems like he/she has already taken sides … and lacks the courage of his/her convictions.)
It’s worth noting that if gay marriage opponents eventually lose this battle — and I believe they will, eventually, in most states — they lose nothing tangible. Nothing about heterosexual marriage will change at all. And despite the alarms, they won’t lose their First Amendment freedoms to think or say that homosexual marriage is bad. And churches will not lose their First Amendment freedoms not to offer religious ceremonies for gay unions.
Right now, though, proponents of gay marriage are losing most of the big battles. And while you can’t lose what you’ve never had, they are in many cases being deprived of more tangible benefits: The joint tax filing, the sharing of child custody, the ability to navigate sickness and end-of-life issues are all off-limits to gay couples — or, at least, much more difficult to come by. Heterosexual couples would never stand for it.
One hesitates to turn public policy into a victimization-off: Everybody loses. But the only thing that gay marriage opponents really stand to lose is the satisfaction of having lots of people agree with them. Gay couples, though, live daily under a legal regime that makes it more difficult to conduct their lives normally. It’s no contest.