I was in Maine on the day that marriage qualified for the ballot this November. I went to Maine as president and founder of the National Organization for Marriage, which helped local groups organize the signature drive in Maine, as we did in California for Proposition 8.
Most of the people in Maine were enthusiastic, but one clergyman asked me, "Shouldn't we live with our neighbors in peace?"
His question haunts me for its debased presumptions: Is using democracy to fight for shared values somehow an act of war against our neighbors? "Agree with me or you're a hater" is not the authentic voice of peace and tolerance. But the question underscored an increasingly obvious truth: Gay marriage advocates now rage against Americans who disagree with them, no matter how civilly we conduct the debate. They believe only one side has the moral right to be heard.
Witness what happened to poor Monica Hesse, a Washington Post reporter who wrote a profile on NOM's executive director, Brian Brown. The profile was (in my view) clearly written by someone who supports gay marriage. She began by assuming gay marriage opponents were ugly, mean and stupid, and then presented Brian Brown as the surprising exception. That's why Monica expected outrage from social conservatives for her "snideness." Instead, she was shocked by the tidal wave of rage directed at her for publishing anything even remotely expressing human sympathy for a guy who effectively fights to promote marriage as the union of husband and wife.
I'm not the person calling this "rage." That's what The Washington Post called it in a piece by their own ombudsman on Monica, "'Sanity & a Smile' and an Outpouring of Rage."
Here's how weird things have gotten: The ombudsman of the Post felt he had to step in to defend Monica by credentialing her as a pro-gay marriage bisexual.
Reading her angry e-mails, Monica "wept." She won't care for my sympathy, but nonetheless, she has it. You have to experience it to understand -- it is shocking to discover the waves of hatred now aimed at forcing conformity with the gay marriage party line. Either you are for gay marriage or you are a bad person who should be repressed, humiliated, hurt, marginalized and excluded. "What's next, a piece on how a KKK leader is just 'someone next door' and 'really a nice person'?" as one outraged Post reader put it.
Here's the truth: You will now be called a hater and a bigot merely for standing for marriage as one woman and one man. What do we make of this sad truth? So far, the bullies pay no price for their meanness and their rage.
This is not an issue of free speech but of neighborliness. Fundamental decency requires that we treat each other with respect, especially when we disagree deeply on hot moral issues. Sadly, I've grown used to the reality that tolerance is now a one-way street for gay marriage advocates. It no longer matters how respectfully and civilly one makes the case for humanity's marriage tradition.
So Fred Karger gets quoted in The Washington Post calling Brian Brown "just as shrill, just as anti-gay as any of the leading gay-bashers." Fred doesn't provide any examples because he can't. Fred doesn't have to. The Washington Post does not feel any obligation to ask Fred Karger for proof. Being pro-gay marriage, Fred doesn't need proof as he hurls his charges like brickbats at Americans who disagree with him.
I know that not every gay person agrees with the tactics of hate currently employed by this powerful steamroller of a political movement to suppress dissent, just as I know some gay people don't support gay marriage. (Not many, but I've met 'em!) And I do know this: Bullies don't stop as long as bullying works. Gay marriage advocates have to rein in their movement, or people in Maine and elsewhere are going to draw the natural conclusion: When the law endorses gay marriage advocates like Fred Karger and their ideas, it will have consequences.
(Maggie Gallagher is president of the National Organization for Marriage and has been a syndicated columnist for 14 years.)