In November 2012, same-sex marriage was legalized at the ballot box in Maryland, Maine, and Washington, while Minnesota defeated a constitutional ban. Since then, bills legalizing same-sex marriage have been passed in Rhode Island and Delaware. Courts in deeply conservative states like Utah, Oklahoma, Texas, and Kentucky have ruled that marriage bans violate the Constitution. Nearly every Democratic officeholder in the land supports same-sex marriage, and each day seems to bring another Republican over.
Savvy conservatives and evangelicals are acknowledging, often privately, that public opinion is not in their favor. And they fear what will happen in the future to those who fought against the rising tide of public opinion.
“We have people who are losing their jobs, being smeared publicly because they hold the view that marriage is a union between one man and one woman,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, an evangelical think tank and lobbying organization. “They are called bigots. Homophobes. That is not the way we operate in a free society.”
Perkins was speaking to The Daily Beast in the lobby of a New Orleans hotel in between sessions of the Republican Leadership Conference, a semi-annual gathering of conservatives from around the country. At an address to the delegates earlier in the day, Perkins railed against what he called “The New McCarthyism,” which “would force every corporate leader, university official, public contractor, or media figure to answer a question: ‘Are you now or have you ever been involved in an effort to preserve marriage as the union of a man and a woman?’”
“No, I’ll go further than that,” Perkins continued. “This New McCarthyism demands, ‘Do you now think or have you ever thought that marriage should remain the union of a man and a woman?’ Answer incorrectly, and watch your career be taken from you and your reputation smeared on a thousand websites.”
Many of these fears burst out into the open earlier this year when Brendan Eich, the CEO of Mozilla, was run out of his position after it was revealed that he had donated money to the anti-gay marriage cause in California. Although some supporters of gay rights even thought the Eich affair was handled poorly, it sent a signal “that you have to be politically correct if you want to attain a higher position,” said Warner Todd Huston, a conservative activist and writer.
“That is the fear, that traditional American values are being criminalized as opposed to simply being out of fashion,” he said.
For gay rights activists, such concerns appear overblown and can be used to stoke paranoia on the right.
“This is a tactic. We have to call this out,” said Alvin McEwan, author of How They See Us: Unmasking the Religious Right War on Gay America and a blogger at Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters, a site, he says, that is dedicated to showing “how religious-right groups distort legitimate research and rely on junk studies to stigmatize the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities.” The Eich case, McEwan said, was not proof of a witch hunt but proof that the American free enterprise system that conservatives extol was working properly.
“People have a right to boycott a business if they don’t like you,” he said.
And even though McEwan said he does not think that gay-marriage opponents should be cast out of public life, conservatives, he added, have been warning the citizenry about “the gay agenda” for years.
“They have this entitlement thing,” he said. “They have a right to believe what they want to believe, but they have to share the country.”
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