Caldwell lays out these arguments in a Claremont Review of Books article on the newly released From the Closet to the Altar: Courts, Backlash, and the Struggle for Same-Sex Marriage by Michael J. Klarman. I haven't read the book, so I won't comment on it. But it evidently compares the same-sex-marriage fight to the civil-rights movement, a comparison to which Caldwell objects:
Civil rights movements are about liberation. The old campaigns for
repeal of sodomy laws, while they hardly won majority approval, fit that
description. They were at least intelligible to mainstream Americans
who view the history of their country as a steady progress towards
liberty. The gay-marriage movement works in the opposite direction.
Marriage is a regulation. It recognizes one aspect of people's
sexual lives as so important that authorities must monitor it. That
aspect is the bearing of the next generation, a task to which homosexual
relations are irrelevant. Marriage has plenty of mystical, communal,
and spiritual associations. It may be a means to offer homosexuals
recognition, or validation, from the wider society.
But not liberation.
It is more accurate to characterize the civil-rights movement as being about equality under the law than about liberation. (And almost no one in America favors a marriage regime in which authorities monitor childbearing.)
"Civil rights movements arise to defend the downtrodden," Caldwell continues. "But never since
the Progressive Era has there been a social movement as elite-driven as
the one for gay marriage." But gays were undeniably downtrodden when the marriage-equality movement began. As for recent social movements as driven by elites as gay marriage, here are a few: environmentalism, meritocracy, post-modernism, third-wave feminism, the Slow Food Movement, Nudism, transgender rights, the no-smoking movement, Occupy Wall Street, the Tea Party, and neoconservatism.
The most troubling aspect of the gay-marriage movement is that, more
than any social movement in living memory, more than feminism at its
bra-burning peak in the 1970s, it aims not to engage in lively debate
but to shut it down. Scurrility has become a norm. In April 2009, Miss
California, Carrie Prejean, told a Miss America judge she thought
marriage should be between a man and a woman and got called a "dumb
bitch" for it on the judge's website. If it is now easier to call people
dumb bitches, then it makes no sense at all to extol the gay marriage
movement as a moral advance.
Okay, this is just silly. Come on, Claremont Review. First of all, Carrie Prejean was competing in the Miss USA pageant, not the Miss America Pageant. Second of all, the Miss USA judge in question was outlandish gossip blogger Perez Hilton -- "the judge's Web site" was PerezHilton.com. Caldwell would have us believe that Hilton calling Prejean a "dumb bitch" is evidence that, thanks to the gay marriage movement, "it is now easier to call people dumb bitches." And that the all-important "ease of calling people dumb bitches" metric, sure to be adopted any day now at the Vatican and UN, can alone determine if a moral advance has occurred. "Shutting down debate can be more effectively done now that the internet has solved the organizing problem of mobs," he continues, mischaracterizing the technological advance that has made shutting down debate much, much harder than ever before. There is actually a credible argument to be made that some gay marriage opponents are being unfairly stigmatized. The foregoing takes as strange a route to that conclusion as I've ever seen or imagined.