Doubtless intimidation is one factor. Chicago and Boston aren't the only places where to publicly oppose same-sex "marriage" risks all sorts of unpleasant consequences, both economic and personal. And then, there's the extreme social liberalism of the media. Hard to have an meaningful debate on an issue when one side controls virtually the entire apparatus by which the other side can make its arguments known. Harder still when to take the politically incorrect position is to be villified and slandered as a hater and a "homophobe."
The Mighty Ad Hominem is a tough opponent to beat when it's advanced in lock-step by so many with louder voices than one's own. That only one side of the issue is being presented to the American public- and the barrage of one-sided propaganda is constant- is the biggest reason why supporters of same-sex "marriage" have suddenly become a majority, according to most polls.
And then, there's the personal factor. From Rob Portman and Dick Cheney down the line, a great many conservative politicians (and other conservative) have changed their position on gay "marriage" not because they've been convinced by the arguments, but because their children or others close to them are gay. This is understandable, to say the least. But it also isn't a valid argument tor refute the premise that changing the definition of marriage is bad public policy.
Anti-Christian bigotry, and even more the unhistorical and logically defective understanding of the relationship between Church and State in American legal and social history, also play a big role. President Obama's carefully-reasoned speech on the subject back when he was in the Senate has been read by entirely too few liberals and conservatives. No, the fact that a position or proposal originates in the realm of religous believe does not mean that to advance it in the public square is to cross the constitutional divide, or to seek to impose one's religious beliefs upon others. The fact is that virtual every major social reform not only in American history, but in the history of the Western world, has originated from Christian religious convictions. The movements against child labor and slavery, for civil rights and against the war in Vietnam, are only some of the religious crusades which have come to embrace a following far beyond those who share the religions in which they originated. In each case, this has occured because the movement in question met the test then-Senator Obama set for a religiously-motivated movement's legitimate participation in public policy debate: it has been possible to phrase the argument for it in purely secular, religiously neutral terms, thus engaging those who do not share one's religion but do share one's interest in good public policy (I respond to the Obama speech- in my opinion, one of the most important given by an American politician in my lifetime- here).
What Mr. Obama (as well as a great many who- often rightly- criticize the zanier examples of Christian political activism and then tar it all with the same brush) miss is that where this condition is not met- in the vanishingly rare percentage of such cases in which a concern is purely theological and cannot be defended on secular terms, the very pluralism of our society prevents the matter from going any further. Nobody is apt to find the teachings of somebody else's religion to be convincing in the absence of viable secular arguments. It is that pluralism which makes the hysteria about theocracy one so often hears on he social Left so silly and so unworthy of those who make it.
But that doesn't make it any easier for opponents of same-sex "marriage" to advance their arguments in a situation in which the de facto gatekeepers of the public square naively believe that it is possible, much less desirable, to separate one's religious beliefs from one's public policy positions, and in effect that the First Amendment establishes agnosticism as our national religion, ruling all ideas originating in religion out of bounds. And then, there's that matter of intimidation. We've seen the mayors of at least two American cities take the position that businesses whose owners disagree with same-sex "marriage" are not welcome in their cities. One has gone so far as to become complicit in an undoubtedly unconstitutional legal denial of the right of a company owned by a supporter of traditional marriage to do so.
The arguments, to be sure, are there- and need to be made. We need to have the debate that has effectively been short-circuited. The tendency even for "committed" male homosexual relationships not to be sexually monogamous is an issue. So is the fact that gay couples have even more trouble than straights staying together; it takes considerable digging on the Internet to document something this fact, which is clearly supported by the best study thus far done on the subject (I tend to be amused at the response among supporters of same-sex marriage to that study. Religious people in America may have slightly higher divorce rates than non-religious people, and "red" states a higher rate than "blue" states, but neither group has a divorce rate that's 50% higher, much less 167%!).
The tendency for male homosexual relationships to often be non-monogamous is something about which the gay community has been laudably open in the past- though now that this tendency poses a threat to the acceptance of same-sex activity as the moral equivalent of sexual activities between heterosexual couples, this openness is sometimes becoming less evident. Oddly, the main tactic of the homosexualist movement seems actually be to promote the lack of sexual exclusivity among gay men as a model for the rest of us
But the biggest obstacle to a real debate on same-sex "marriage" comes from a battle marriage long ago lost.
The notion that marriage is based on romantic love is a relatively recent development in history. It is the most important reason why the institution of marriage is in trouble today across the board. As everyone who has ever been married knows, the emotional "rush" of romantic love- aptly described by some as a form of temporary insanity- doesn't last. If all goes well, it is replaced in time with a deep friendship and commitment which accomplishes what "love" never could: binds a couple together into a unit stronger than the individuals that compose it. Loyalty, obligation, and duty to one's children once held marriages together; now, we base our marriages on emotion. One's greatest duty is now seen as being to the self, not even to one's offspring. The result is predictable: a divorce rate somewhere north of 50%, and an institution which itself is in deep, deep trouble.
A thoughtful examination of the data available for same-sex relationships certainly creates legitimate reason, to say the least, to fear that further and possibly catastrophic damage is being done to the institution of marriage by extending it to gay and lesbian couples.
Gay men are, first and foremost, men- and male sexuality simply does not easily conform to the requirements of monogamy. In the case of heterosexuals males, there is an imperative to spread one's genes as widely as possible; that genes are not being spread when the object of one's sexual attentions is a member of the same sex does not change the inherent nature of male sexuality. That gay male couples are not exactly notorious for monogamy shouldn't be a surprise, and it has nothing to do with homosexuality per se. It's just that in relationships between two people whose sexuality naturally inclines to plural partners, it shouldn't be a surprise when monogamy as the concept is generally understood is often not embraced.
Similarly, a disproportionate number of heterosexual divorces are instituted by women. Why should it be surprising that, in Sweden, the divorce rate among lesbian couples is 167% higher than that of heterosexual couples?
Estimates of the percentages of gay couples who marry vary, but in Europe the number seems to average between one and five percent. In Massachusetts and in Canada, some statistics estimate that percentage as being as high as 17% or so. But it seems clear that there is no particular demand for marriage among gays. The issue, rather, is achieving a legal basis for putting homosexual behavior on the same social level as heterosexual behavior- an entirely different issue.
. Yet where are the television and newspaper and TVads educating the public? Where is the public explication of the powerful case that same-sex "marriage" is a disaster for the beleaguered institution of marriage itself, an institution in fact which may well not survive it? The answer is simple: Any such systematic attempt to make the opposing case from the one so passionately espoused by the opinion makers inside and outside the liberal media would be instantly and univerally labled a manifestation of "hate" and "homophobia."
To aggressively oppose same-sex "marriage" is as much as one's reputation- and in many cases one's livelihood- is worth.
And in a society which has long since bought into the fable that marriage is- or even can be- based on love, the task of restoring a more realistic and historically viable view of humanity's most basic institution is a daunting one. But such a task would probably have to be undertaken successfully in order for the superficial, self-defeating and self-destructive arguments for same-sex "marriage" to be seen for what they are.
We have become a nation, a society, which does not believe that there is such a thing as truth- or at least as a truth that is true universally and objectively, and not merely subjective to the individual. That alone is one reason why I'm afraid that American society is already beyond the point where it can be saved.
But perhaps the most discouraging thing is that even those who place a value on our traditions and institutions are simply too intimidated to fight for them.
ADDENDUM: NRO has an interesting article on the defection of "conservatives' to the pro gay"marriage" camp. Frank Schubert ends his article with an interesting observation: "I am still waiting for the newspaper headline that says, 'Large Percentage of Democrats Oppose Gay Marriage' Somehow, I suspect it will never appear."