I have some personal experience that I should probably add (if only for the sake of honesty – “conflict of interest”, you might say). I have experienced firsthand the part about being the one everyone must pretend to be okay with, even when they’re not.
The problem is that it requires the constant application of force.
When the force is not available anymore, it’s like a pressure cooker blowing up.
This contradicts what most people think happened during the supposedly-analogous civil rights movement. We like to try to make heroes out of the men and women who “made” everyone to be nice to black people (which man is really responsible for the Civil Rights Act legislation?) while underestimating the real change-makers. Like Sidney Poitier:
This is how you fight for change – not with enforced lies and suppressed dissent, but with cultural dialog. (It only works if both sides of any given debate are free to express themselves openly, and without fear.)
It is a myth to argue that interracial marriage bans collapsed because of coercion. Those laws collapsed because there was never any logic to them anyway. Nobody ever seriously held “genetic purity” as an important value – least of all the bigots, the grandsons of slaveholders who notoriously had no qualms about mixing their own genes with black genes.
There was never a good reason for interracial marriage bans, but what’s more important is this: nobody ever sincerely believed there were good reasons for interracial marriage bans. (At least not that they were willing to admit to openly.)
Bigots used thinly veiled arguments to hide the reality that their real motive involved not wanting blacks to be equal. It is not therefore true that every other dispute over marriage is going to involve the same motives. That wouldn’t be a fair assumption to make under any circumstances (it’s an ad hominem – a logical fallacy), but it’s especially unfair when one looks at the genuine point of dispute: gay marriage really does involve trade-offs. It is not like interracial marriage. It is actually more like a disability claim than a racial one.
I just thought of another example of this problem – in this case, I was the perpetrator rather than the victim. There was a little girl with some really disgusting, creepy disease. Her skin was coming off in chunks, and she smelled. The grownups made us play with her. I didn’t want to. I wish I had done everything I was told, because later this girl died, and I would feel so much better today if I’d been the friend she so desperately wanted. But I didn’t, and I wasn’t. I played with her, but she knew. At least, I think – I fear – she did. (I’ll never really know.)
Nobody thought to even bother trying persuasion. Just force. The girl needed someone to play with, and therefore she shall have playmates.
To this day, I wonder how much of the motivation in that incident involved genuine concern for that poor lonely girl, and how much involved appearance (can’t have the visual of a lonely child on the edge of a playground, can we?) or even using that child to teach the rest of us right from wrong – that is, how we ought to be thinking and what we ought to value. If the goal had genuinely been about the girl, was the way they went about it really a good way?