Frank Furedi, writing for Spiked Online, offers this solid and rather chilling analysis of the passage of "same-sex marriage" legislation in New York State:
From a sociological perspective, the rise of the campaign for gay marriage provides a fascinating insight into the dynamics of the cultural conflicts that prevail in Western society. Indeed, over the past decade the issue of gay marriage has been transformed into a cultural weapon, which explicitly challenges prevailing norms through condemning those who oppose it. This is not so much a call for legal change as a cause, a crusade – and one which endows its supporters with moral superiority while demoting its opponents with the status of moral inferiority.
The campaign for the legalisation of gay marriage does not simply represent a claim for a right; it also represents a demand for the institutionalisation of new moral and cultural values. This attitude was clearly expressed last weekend by Trevor Phillips, chairman of the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission. He argued that Christians, particularly evangelical ones, are more troublesome than Muslims in their attitudes towards mainstream views. In particular he warned that ‘an old-time religion incompatible with modern society’ was driving Christians to clash with mainstream views, especially on gay issues. Incidentally, by ‘mainstream’ he of course means views which he endorses.
Phillips’ choice of words implies that opponents of gay marriage are likely to be motivated by ‘old-time religion’, which is by definition ‘incompatible with modern society’. From this standpoint, criticising or questioning the moral status of gay marriage is a violation of the cultural standards of ‘modern society’. What we have here is the casual affirmation of a double standard: tolerance towards supporters of gay marriage, and intolerance towards opponents of gay marriage.
And so soft totalitarianism slowly hardens into overt discrimination, even oppression:
In the US, questioning the status of gay marriage is often depicted, not simply as an expression of disagreement, but as a direct form of discrimination. The mere expression of opposition towards a particular ritual, in this case gay marriage, is recast as more than a verbal statement – it is itself an act of discrimination, if not outright oppression.
So American journalist Hadley Freeman recently argued in the UK Guardian that gay marriage is not a suitable subject for debate. ‘There are some subjects that should be discussed in shades of grey, with acknowledgment of subtleties and cultural differences’, she wrote. But ‘same-sex marriage is not one of those’. Why? Because ‘there is a right answer’, she hectored, in a censorious tone. The phrase ‘there is a right answer’ is really a demand for the silencing of discussion. And just in case you missed the point, Freeman concluded that opposition to her favourite cause should be seen for what it was: ‘as shocking as racism, as unforgivable as anti-Semitism’.
It is worth noting that the rise of support for gay marriage, the emergence of this elite crusade against sexual heresy, coincides with the cultural devaluation of heterosexual marriage. Today, heterosexual marriage is frequently depicted as a site for domestic violence and child abuse. A review of academic literature on the subject would indicate a preoccupation with the damaging consequences of heterosexual marriage. Terms such as the ‘dark side of the family’ invoke a sense of dread about an institution where dominating men allegedly brutalise their partners and their children.
Do read the entire piece, "The unholy marriage of snobbery and snideyness" (June 27, 2011).