A few years ago, beauty queen Carrie Prejean innocently answered a question about gay marriage with a polite 'no.' She was viciously personally attacked by Miss USA pageant judge Perez Hilton, who posted a video of himself cursing at her.
Prejean was eventually stripped of her crown, and as for Perez Hilton? 'I'd love to have him back,' pageant owner Donald Trump once said. 'I mean, I'd love to have him back' -- although he didn't actually do it.
That was a seminal moment for American culture wars. Nobody could protect Prejean, while Hilton suffered no visible consequences for his grotesque violation of civilized norms of behavior.
That, of course, was in the entertainment business.
Still, we should not be that surprised that just three years later, sex columnist Dan Savage used an invitation to address a high school journalists conference to curse and swear at students who hold to traditional views of Christianity.
Savage is no marginal figure.
He visits the White House. His anti-bullying project has its own corner on President Obama's website. He has a syndicated newspaper column, and a television show on MTV.
Prediction: None of that will change because he is taking a little media hit for inexcusably bad behavior in front of other people's captive schoolchildren.
Savage, who apologized only for calling the students who walked out 'pansy-assed' (pardon me), has only this to say in his own defense: 'It wasn't like I sneaked up on a Bible study class and commandeered the podium. I'm like the devil. You have to invite me in.'
Yes, of course. Normal standards of civilized behavior are apparently not required of Savage. Nothing he has done before, including denouncing norms of monogamy or boasting about spitting on the doorknob of a presidential candidate to make him sick, led the conference organizers to pause before inviting him to speak -- none of that has led to anything for Savage but greater acclaim, money, power, prestige and applause.
Why in the world would he stop now, for goodness' sake?
Savage has a clear vision for America: It will be a place where, in order to remain respectable citizens, Christians (and others with traditional moral views) will simply have to drop not only Leviticus, but Genesis, and oh by the way, Jesus' own words in Matthew 19.
Christian moral understanding of sex, gender and marriage will simply have to change, Savage asserts. Why? Because he and others say so. To do otherwise is to be mean to him and other gay people. Our very existence, our identity as both good Christians and good citizens is an offense to him.
Once it was enough to accept norms of civility -- to speak and treat each other with respect in spite of our important moral differences and disagreements. That was so 2003. Now gay leaders expect that those who disagree with them will be silent or face a wall of wrath.
The American people are not yet on board with this historic re-valuation of values. That's clear from two new polls this week showing that the Marriage Amendment in North Carolina, despite being outspent and virtually orphaned by national conservative figures, is set to win by anywhere from 14 points to 20 points.
This is the same week when Rod Dreher wrote a blog post, 'The Rout of the Right on Gay Marriage,' claiming, 'I know my fellow social and religious conservatives don't like to hear this, but Daniel McCarthy explains why we can't win the gay marriage fight.'
Actually, Rod, I understand your pessimism, but please drop the 'nobody likes to hear this, I'm being brave' pose. You are among a large number of conservative elites who want to declare the war over and get out of the way. Everyone looking at the wall of hatred coming our way wants to duck, including me.
But the American people have not yet gotten the memo.
The will to lose on gay marriage among conservative elites is palpable. But thankfully, the consequences of permitting marriage to be remade in the image of the Dan Savages of America are now equally clear. When Dan Savage's side wins, support for gay sex and marriage will not be optional.
Even a schoolchild can see that.
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.