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.Well, of course that's the case. You don't fire up people to support a cause without convincing them they will hold the higher moral ground by doing so. In case it has escaped your attention, Mr. Furedi, that's what the opponents of gay marriage do, too.
In the Anglo-American world, gay marriage has become one of those causes through which the cosmopolitan cultural elites define themselves and construct a moral contrast between their kind and ordinary folk. What’s really important for them is the sense of superiority experienced through the conviction that ‘we’ are not like ‘them’. In this way, a clear moral distinction can be drawn between the forward-looking attitudes of an enlightened, courageous minority and the backward-looking prejudices of a homophobic majority.And I suppose that agitation in favor of equal rights for blacks in the 1950s and 1960s was also an elitist movement because it confronted the backward-looking prejudices of a racist majority?
Furedi's language invites us to see support for gay marriage as a way for so-called cultural elites to make themselves feel superior to the masses. It seems to annoy him most especially that celebrities like Britney Spears and Tracy Morgan have made noises in favor of gay marriage, Morgan's remarks in particular seemingly issued for the purpose of damage control after he was lambasted for earlier antigay remarks. Well, they may or may not be opportunists. However, that doesn't mean that support for gay marriage is a feel-good exercise for everyone who advocates it.
It is, in fact, the height of "snobbery and snideyness" to imply as much.
I don't care one way or the other about gay marriage. As long as gays have the same rights under the law as straights (e.g., they can get the same tax breaks), I don't much see the point of having the right to marry versus, say, the right to enter into civil unions. But the argument for "equal rights" makes a lot more sense to me than the argument that "gay marriage would hurt society," which seems to be the only reason opponents of gay marriage can muster, and never with a follow-on explanation of how gay marriage would hurt society (more than a 50% divorce rate does, for instance).
Furedi claims at the outset, "Whatever one thinks about the pros and cons of gay marriage, a tolerant society cannot deny the right of homosexual couples to formalise their relationships." Yet what he writes suggests he has little respect for those who support codifying that right.