Remember "live and let live" — or, as the gay-rights variation goes, "live and let love?" Remember that heady time not so long ago when Americans concerned about the unintended consequences of same-sex marriage were told that we had nothing to fear because the redefinition of marriage to accommodate gays and lesbians would not affect our families or our freedoms? You and your churches and businesses can go on believing what you want about marriage, we were told; just let us do our thing and we'll let you do yours.
How times have changed. In just a few short years, a movement once known for championing tolerance has become the epitome of intolerance. Using their culturally sanctioned victim status as cover, America's gay-rights leaders have become the iron-fisted enforcers of a strict new speech code in which anyone who questions same-sex marriage is denounced as a hateful, homophobic bigot. Erstwhile pleas for "dialogue" about the best way to protect both the institution of marriage and gay and lesbian interests have been replaced by blatant bullying and vicious personal attacks. Its 'silence = death" slogan notwithstanding, today's gay-marriage movement seems far more eager to silence its critics than debate them.
Those who doubt that intimidation has replaced argumentation as the tool of choice in the pro-gay-marriage arsenal need only consider the recent brouhaha over Chick-fil-A. In the wake of some fairly anodyne comments about marriage from CEO Dan Cathy — in a Baptist journal interview, he opted to support for "the biblical definition of the family unit" — the company has found itself under siege.
Mayors in Chicago, Boston and San Francisco pronounced Chick-fil-A unwelcome in their communities. Gay-rights activists planned boycotts and kiss-ins. A flurry of media reports questioned the propriety of Cathy wading into the same-sex marriage debate, even as they gushed with enthusiasm over Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' decision to donate $2.5 million to a pro-gay-marriage referendum in Washington state.
As for those few public figures who dared to defend Chick-fil-A, their treatment was unsurprising: CNN introduced a segment about Sarah Palin's support of the fast-food chain by playing the pop song "Stupid Girls." Facebook, meanwhile, suffered a mysterious glitch that made Mike Huckabee's "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" page disappear from the social media site for 12 hours at the height of the controversy. (Facebook's anti-Chick-fil-A pages somehow escaped attacks from the mystery "bug.")
All in all, it was another predictable chapter in America's increasingly one-sided same-sex marriage debate — if you still could call our national discussion of the subject a debate. These days, the push for a new, unisex definition of marriage seems more like a mandate. And anyone who publicly objects to it can bank on vilification, harassment, threats to his livelihood, even attempts to curb his fundamental liberties. The message from the "love is love" crowd is chillingly clear: Get on board with our vision of social progress, or get ready to be steamrolled.
There are exceptions, of course. The marriage views that prompted Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (pictured) to denounce Chick-fil-A and its jobs as unwelcome in a city plagued by crime and unemployment apparently did not bother Emanuel when spouted by his former boss, President Barack Obama, who embraced same-sex marriage only three months ago. As for those "Chicago values" of which Chick-fil-A ran afoul, don't ask Emanuel to explain how a family-owned company that graciously serves gays and lesbians along with anyone else willing to buy its chicken sandwiches offends Windy City ideals but anti-Semitic Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan — whom Emanuel embraced the same week he was chiding Chick-fil-A —does not.
Consistency never has been the strong suit of the marriage redefinition crowd. Nor has respect for diversity — if by the term one means ideological, not simply sexual, difference.
Still, the hostility, contempt and even outright bullying directed at those who oppose same-sex marriage has exploded in recent years. Back in 2009, Miss USA runner-up Carrie Prejean found herself at the center of a national feeding frenzy after uttering a few words on national television in favor of man-woman marriage. These days, concern about Prejean's plight seems almost quaint, given how often we now see ordinary Americans — including small-business owners with no desire to make a political statement — dragged into the limelight and slapped with lawsuits and boycotts for the mildest of infractions: a New Mexico photographer's refusal to shoot a lesbian commitment ceremony, a Colorado baker's choice not to create a wedding cake for a gay couple.
Then there is the proliferation of "anti-gay" blacklists such as GLAAD's "Commentator Accountability Project," which singles out nearly four-dozen prominent defenders of man-woman marriage to discourage journalists from quoting them. Add to that the recent closure of several Catholic adoption agencies in cities where religious liberty has become an early casualty of the push to enshrine new rights for same-sex couples, and the picture is clear: The silencing of critics is not an unhappy byproduct of the same-sex marriage movement. It has become an end in itself.
All Americans worried about what that means for our future freedoms should stand up and speak out now, while they still can.
Colleen Carroll Campbell is a St. Louis-based author, former presidential speechwriter and television and radio host of "Faith & Culture" on EWTN. Her website is www.colleen-campbell.com This article was first published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2 August 2012.