… far from mirroring the blacks who marched for their rights [in Selma], the gay-marriage movement … looks a lot more like the Montgomery cops who batoned those marchers off the streetswrote Spiked Online's Brendan O'Neill prior to the Irish vote. (Subsequently, he would write that the State recognises, at a gut level, that unlike pretty much every other demand for liberty or equality in modern times, the campaign for gay marriage does nothing to threaten their authority — on the contrary, it extends it.)
The run-up to the referendum has been about as far from a fair or open debate as it’s possible to get. One side in the debate — the side that is critical of gay marriage — is demonised daily, treated virtually as heretics, almost as criminals. It’s accused of causing psychological harm, branded as ‘hate speakers’, and frequently forced to make public apologies simply for expressing its belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman. And as a writer for the Irish Independent says, ‘It’s not a debate if one side can’t speak’. The public discussion before the Irish referendum has not been a debate, she says — it’s been ‘a Two Minutes Hate’ against anyone who doesn’t think gay marriage is the greatest idea ever.
Pretty much the entire establishment in Ireland, aside from the increasingly uninfluential bishops and priests, backs gay marriage (giving the lie to the gay-marriage movement’s depiction of itself as a beleaguered minority bravely battling The Man for its civil rights). … barely a week passes when they don’t demonise the other side, the smaller, less powerful side, the side which, in opposing gay marriage, is apparently harming citizens, causing violence and, worst of all, jeopardising Ireland’s political future.
As with all heretics in history, Ireland’s opponents of gay marriage stand accused of directly harming the public. … the Psychological Society of Ireland … chastised opponents of gay marriage for promoting ideas that ‘run contrary to the positions of professional bodies’ — that is, for daring to defy the new priests: the expert class — and said their words could wreak mental and moral havoc.Previously, Jason Smith pointed out that
… So discussion is dangerous; positing a view that runs counter to the elite’s outlook could cause emotional damage. It’s remarkable how much the authoritarian boot has shifted: once it was those who denied Biblical truths who were accused of doing moral harm to citizens; now it is those who cleave to Christian views and doubt gay marriage whose words, whose desire to have a debate, are depicted as dangerous, warping things.
… The Irish Times has gone further, publishing a piece calling for the establishment of a ‘homophobia watchdog’ in the run-up to the referendum, so that the authorities can ‘monitor the inevitable destructive rhetoric that will colour one side of the debate’. And to those who cry ‘what about free speech?’, the Irish Times has a simple answer: ‘“Free speech” is not a free pass to inflict psychological trauma.’ That is, your words, your very thoughts, are traumatic, even socially destabilising, and thus they must not enjoy liberty; they should not be expressed.
Echoing those eco-illiberals in the UK and elsewhere who slam media outlets that offer a ‘balanced’ view in the debate on climate change, the Irish Times has also called into question the need for media balance on gay marriage in the run-up to the referendum. Too much of the media have ‘a skewed view of what balance is’, it says, feeling the need to offer a platform to ‘Middle Ireland’, ‘the silent majority’, ‘the mainstream’, when the only consequence of such ‘polarised conversations’ is that ‘facts and reason are drowned out by emotional arguments and inaccuracies’. ‘It’s pointless’, it concludes. It means, amazingly, that debate is pointless. Gay-marriage activists see themselves as ‘factual and reasoned’ and anyone who criticises them as emotional, inaccurate, traumatising, psychologically harmful.
… Experts’ and observers’ depiction of gay marriage’s opponents as emotionally harmful is having a direct impact on how the debate is, or rather isn’t, panning out. It is strangling discussion, stifling the expression of what are increasingly depicted as deviant views.
… The bishop of Kildare, Denis Nulty, had a point when he recently warned against ‘the danger of groupthink’ on gay marriage. As O’Hanlon says, through groupthink ‘outsiders are demonised and hounded’. Referring to the Twittermobs that formed during a heated debate on gay marriage last year, she says ‘anyone who expressed the slightest reservations about same-sex marriage was howled down as a homophobe and pelted with hashtags and slogans until they either submitted to the mob or were driven offline’.
… It seems the old bishops have heeded the warnings of the new secular bishops that make up Ireland’s expert and chattering classes, and have agreed to genuflect at the altar of safe, stultified discussion on gay marriage.
… Around the world, the institutionalisation of gay marriage has been attended by authoritarianism, whether of the violent state variety or what John Stuart Mill called ‘the tyranny of prevailing opinion’. From French riot police’s tear-gassing of protesters against gay marriage to American activists’ witch-hunting of corporate bosses or small-town restaurants that refuse to cheer gay marriage, this supposedly great civil-rights issue of our age has a powerful intolerant streak to it. (The recent fiftieth anniversary of the Selma march really exposed gay-marriage activists’ claims to be the new civil-rights movement: far from mirroring the blacks who marched for their rights, the gay-marriage movement, most notably in France, looks a lot more like the Montgomery cops who batoned those marchers off the streets.)
Why is the gay-marriage movement so intolerant? Despite winning the backing of almost every powerful figure in the West, from Barack Obama to David Cameron, from Apple to Goldman Sachs, and despite being turned by the media into the great unquestionable, almost sacrilegious cause of our age, still gay-marriage activists hilariously fancy themselves as underdogs and, worse, seek to shush or shame out of existence anyone who opposes them.
… What’s this all about? Why the illiberalism, the intolerance, the ugliness? It’s because gay marriage is not really about expanding freedom at all. Rather, it represents the emergence of a new, post-traditonalist morality, an attempt by at-sea elites across the West to redefine themselves and their moral missions through the gay issue. Gay marriage has become the favoured means through which our rulers, feeling ever-more detached from their old moral worldview, are institutionalising a new, pseudo-progressive, seemingly consensual morality, based, not around the old ideals of family, commitment and privacy, but around the new po-mo values of relativism (all relationships are the same), non-judgementalism (who are we to say that a mum and dad are better than two mums?), and illiberal liberalism, the central political outlook of our times, which under the guise of building a new liberal consensus seeks to censure and punish anyone who deviates from that consensus. The reason the elites, from the political classes to the influential opinion-forming set, are so instinctually hostile to criticism of gay marriage is because they have invested their very moral rehabilitation, their future political and moral legitimacy, into this issue more than in any other. And thus no ridicule of it can be tolerated. For if you knock gay marriage you are not only knocking gay marriage — you are upsetting Western elites’ efforts to establish a new morality that simplistically distinguishes between Us (good, kind, liberal backers of gay marriage) and Them (the old, the religious, the outdated, the Other).
… All this talk of ‘sending signals’ to the world shows how absolutely central gay marriage has become to the project of Western elites making themselves over in these post-Cold War, post-traditionalist, post-political times. The Irish state needs gay marriage for the same reason Obama and Cameron need it — to fashion a new moral worldview and ‘send a signal’ about its elitist progressivism, its decency in comparison to the old world, the old people, the old outlook.
When I used to run a pub, I told a representative of Wells and Young’s Brewery that I would not stock its Bombardier bitter because the accompanying advertising campaign was anti-German. Was this also unacceptable? There are many more scenarios. Should a West Indian or Asian business be forced to make a product featuring British National Party (BNP) or English Defence League (EDL) slogans? Should a Jewish-run business be able to decline an order from a Holocaust denier? And so on. In short, where does freedom of conscience end and equality legislation begin?
If freedom of conscience, the right to follow one’s own beliefs in matters of religion and morality, means anything, people have to be able to act on their beliefs as they see fit.
• 5 Gay Marriage Myths: "It is those who oppose same-sex marriage who are the true champions of liberty"
• Marriage has always been a forward-looking institution aimed at nurturing the next generation of children, not a love license for the adults of the present
• To Understand Liberal Issues Like Gay Marriage Correctly, It Is Vital to Get the Basic Premises Right
• What If Someone Told You That "Homosexuals" Do Not Exist? And What If They Were Right?