You may recall Brendan Eich. The cofounder and CEO of Mozilla was dismissed from his company in 2014 when it was discovered that, six years earlier, he had donated $1,000 to California’s Proposition 8 campaign. That ballot initiative, limiting marriage to one man and one woman, passed with a larger percentage of the vote in California than Barack Obama received nationally in 2012. No one who knew Eich accused him of treating his gay coworkers badly—by all accounts he was kind and generous to his colleagues. Nonetheless, having provided modest financial support to a lawful ballot initiative that passed with a majority vote was deemed horrible enough to deprive Eich of his livelihood. Which is one thing.
What is quite another is the manner in which Eich has been treated since. A year after Eich’s firing, for instance, Hampton Catlin, a Silicon Valley programmer who was one of the first to demand Eich’s resignation, took to Twitter to bait Eich:
Hampton @hcatlin Apr 2
It had been a couple weeks since I’d gotten some sort of @BrendanEich related hate mail. How things going over there on your side, Brendan?
@hcatlin You demanded I be “completely removed from any day to day activities at Mozilla” & got your wish. I’m still unemployed. How’re you?
Hampton @hcatlin Apr 2
@BrendanEich married and able to live in the USA! . . . and working together on open source stuff! In like, a loving, happy gay married way!
It’s a small thing, to be sure. But telling. Because it shows that the same-sex marriage movement is interested in a great deal more than just the freedom to form marital unions. It is also interested, quite keenly, in punishing dissenters. But the ambitions of the movement go further than that, even. It’s about revisiting legal notions of freedom of speech and association, constitutional protections for religious freedom, and cultural norms concerning the family. And most Americans are only just realizing that these are the societal compacts that have been pried open for negotiation.
Same-sex marriage supporters see this cascade of changes as necessary for safeguarding progress against retrograde elements in society. People less deeply invested in same-sex marriage might see it as a bait-and-switch. And they would be correct. But this is hardly new. Bait-and-switch has been the modus operandi of the gay rights movement not, perhaps, from the start, but for a good long while.
It began at the most elementary factual level: How many Americans are gay? For decades, gay-rights activists pushed the line that 1 out of every 10 people is homosexual. This statistic belied all evidence but was necessary in order to imbue the cause with a sense of ubiquity and urgency. The public fell so hard for this propaganda that in 2012 Gallup did a poll asking people what percentage of the country they thought was gay. The responses were amazing. Women and young adults were the most gullible, saying, on average, that they thought 30 percent of the population was gay. The average American thought that 24 percent of the population—one quarter—was gay. Only 4 percent of respondents said they thought homosexuals made up less than 5 percent of the population.
But even 5 percent turns out to be an exaggeration. The best research to date on American sexual preference is a 2014 study from the Centers for Disease Control with a monster sample of 34,557 adults. It found that 96.6 percent of Americans identified as heterosexual, 1.6 percent identified as gay or lesbian, and 0.7 percent as bisexual. The percentage of gays and lesbians isn’t much higher than the percentage of folks who refused to answer the question (1.1 percent).
Then there’s the matter of the roots of homosexuality. Important to the narrative behind the same-sex marriage movement has been the insistence that sexual orientation is genetically determined and not a choice. But now that same-sex marriage is a reality, some activists are admitting that this view might not, strictly speaking, be true. For instance, in the avant-garde webzine n+1, Alexander Borinsky argued that sexuality is a characteristic to be actively constructed by the self. He was making a philosophical argument from the safety of gay marriage’s now-dominant position. Others were less philosophical and more practical. Here, for instance, is how the dancer and writer Brandon Ambrosino tackled the subject in the New Republic in January 2014:
[I]t’s time for the LGBT community to start moving beyond genetic predisposition as a tool for gaining mainstream acceptance of gay rights. . . .