Rather than striking a blow for individual liberties, the dogma of gay marriage is stifling them/>
By Brendan O’Neill
Has there ever been a sweeter-sounding, more goosebump-inducing phrase than ‘Freedom to marry’? Everyone likes freedom (even illiberal politicians pay lip service to liberty), and who doesn’t love a good wedding? Marry these two things together (pun intended) and you end up with an endorphin-releasing buzzphrase that will make anyone grin wildly.
So it has been following Senator David Leyonhjelm’s unveiling of the Freedom to Marry Bill. Across Oz, right-minded people who think gays must be allowed to get hitched experienced paroxysms of joy at the introduction of this new phrase into the political vernacular. Sure, those of a leftish bent had trouble computing the fact that it’s a classical liberal politician who’s championing their most beloved cause. But the instant they made peace with this seeming anomaly, they, together with small-l liberals, gay-rights activists and the Age-reading patrons of non-chain coffee shops across the land (well, in Melbourne), were giving themselves adrenalin rushes by whispering those three magic words: ‘Freedom to marry…’
I hate to rain on this fabulous parade, but there’s a massive problem with this happy-clappy rallying cry. And it’s this: everywhere gay marriage has been introduced it has battered freedom, not boosted it. Debate has been chilled, dissenters harried, critics tear-gassed. Love and marriage might go together like horse and carriage, but freedom and gay marriage certainly do not. The double-thinking ‘freedom to marry’ has done more to power the elbow of the state than it has to expand the liberty of men and women. There are awkward questions the ‘freedom to marry’ folks just can’t answer. Like: if gay marriage is a liberal cause, how come it’s been attended by authoritarianism wherever it’s been introduced?
Consider France. Hundreds of thousands of French people — or ‘bigots’, as the gay-marriage lobby brands anyone who disagrees with it — marched against the legalisation of gay marriage in 2013. And they were beaten and tear-gassed by riot cops. Parisians in t-shirts celebrating traditional marriage were arrested for holding ‘unauthorised protests’. In the words of Parisian writer John Laughland, critics of gay marriage were turned into ‘ideological enemies’ of the French state. It’s a funny expansion of freedom that so violently pummels the right to protest.
Consider America. The authorities there haven’t had to whip out their truncheons because non-state mobs have policed the opponents of gay marriage on their behalf. In the words of the author Damon Linker, a supporter of gay marriage, Americans who raise even a peep of criticism of gay marriage face ‘ostracism from public life’. We saw this with the medieval hounding of Brendan Eich out of his job at Mozilla after it was revealed that — oh, the humanity! — he isn’t a massive fan of gays getting married. Linker says the gay-marriage brigade has created a menacing climate, where the aim seems to be to ‘stamp out rival visions’. Americans who fail to bow at the altar of same-sex hitching, from wedding photographers to cake-makers, are harassed and boycotted and sometimes put out of business. The ‘freedom to marry’ clearly trumps the freedom of conscience.
Consider Britain. One of the first things gay campaigners here did when they won the right to marry was demand Catholic schools be forced to teach that gay marriage is as good as straight; even though they don’t believe this. Screw you, freedom of religion. Perhaps Catholic schools should bring back ‘priest holes’ to discuss their beliefs free from the watchful stare of the gay-marriage lobby, which, in Linker’s words, demands ‘psychological acceptance’ of gay marriage from all.
Why is this alleged freedom so feverishly embraced by politicians who can’t spell the word freedom? There’s David Cameron, demolisher of press freedom; French officials, so allergic to liberty that they won’t let Muslim women wear what they want; Obama, Christendom’s spymaster-in-general. What draws such freedom-fearing rulers to the ‘freedom to marry’? It’s simple: gay marriage has diddly-squat to do with freedom. Rather, this new institution, invented from pure cloth by tiny numbers of sharp-suited lawyers and agitators, is better seen as a Trojan horse for the enforcement of a new morality, one which calls into question the old virtues of lifelong commitment and familial sovereignty and replaces them with the flightiness and flexibility more commonly associated with gay relationships. ‘Gay marriage’ is the lick of paint modern society gives to its own discomfort with the traditional family set-up and its desire to dismantle, or at least dent, that set-up in favour of pushing new, post-traditional, state-defined hook-ups.
Twenty-five years ago, American thinker Christopher Lasch argued that ‘progressive rhetoric has the effect of concealing social crisis and moral breakdown by presenting them as the birth pangs of a new order’. Bingo! There’s no better description of gay marriage. Here, too, progressive-sounding rhetoric is really the dolling-up of our atomised, risk-averse societies’ growing disdain for those deep relationships in which families and communities traditionally socialised the next generation, mostly away from the prying eyes of the state. This is why the gay-marriage campaign is so contradictorily illiberal, so hostile to dissent, and so attractive to petty-authoritarian politicians: because it isn’t about expanding liberty at all; it’s about unilaterally overhauling the moral outlook of the traditionalist sections of society and elevating the commitment-phobic, passion-lite, short-termist values of the chattering classes instead. Aussie campaigners for the ‘Freedom to marry’ are actually lucky that the PM isn’t cheering their moral crusade. Because this means that when they finally win this illiberal liberty — which they unquestionably will — they’ll be able to present it as a great victory for civil libertarians who bravely took on The Man. When in truth, their victory will be built on the spilt blood of French protesters and the trampled-upon right to dissent of Americans and Britons and the transformation of gay marriage by Western political elites into a new orthodoxy that you question at your peril.
Poor Mr Leyonhjelm — he thinks he’s striking a blow for liberty, when really he’s completing the final act in a pink-tinged tyranny kickstarted by the new authoritarians of the modern West.
This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated 6 December 2014 Aus
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