In a speech to August’s CPAC gathering in Dallas, Hungarian president Viktor Orbán said a good many admirable things about the importance of liberty and the tyranny of the globalist left, and the audience was gratifyingly receptive. But the biggest cheers and the most prolonged applause came in response to Orbán’s citation of a line from the Hungarian constitution: “Hungary shall protect the institution of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”

Not so long ago, that enthusiasm might have raised eyebrows. To be sure, the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges ruling caused widespread rancor:...

In a speech to August’s CPAC gathering in Dallas, Hungarian president Viktor Orbán said a good many admirable things about the importance of liberty and the tyranny of the globalist left, and the audience was gratifyingly receptive. But the biggest cheers and the most prolonged applause came in response to Orbán’s citation of a line from the Hungarian constitution: “Hungary shall protect the institution of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”

Not so long ago, that enthusiasm might have raised eyebrows. To be sure, the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges ruling caused widespread rancor: at a moment in history when the fifty states and DC were struggling over — and making their own decisions about — the question of same-sex marriage, many conservatives were furious at the Supreme Court for claiming to find a constitutional basis for it and thereby taking the issue suddenly and dramatically off the table.

But the anger died down soon enough. Most of those who’d opposed gay marriage seemed to accept it as settled law. The nation moved on. In this process, Donald Trump played a decisive role. For a quarter century, gay-bashing had been a constant feature of GOP presidential campaigns; today, #NeverTrump Republicans pretend that until Trump came along, their party embodied decency and class. On the contrary, it was the party that could always be relied on to whip up anti-gay bigotry to win elections, thereby alienating gay voters who otherwise might readily have given it their support.

Trump changed that overnight. He’d supported gay marriage for years and, unlike others before him, he didn’t change his stripes when he ran for office. The main reason he emerged from the pack to become the GOP’s standard bearer was that he was fixated on the real challenges and injustices facing hard-up conservative voters; he had no interest in pushing phony issues or tapping into voter prejudices.

At first, it was almost impossible to believe. Following his campaign closely, I kept waiting for that first anti-gay applause line. It never came. Barack Obama, who’d lit up the White House in rainbow colors when the Obergefell ruling came down, had run as an opponent of gay marriage. (He later said that he’d “evolved” on the issue — yes, and with impeccable timing, to boot.) Trump was the first president to be a supporter of gay marriage the moment he took the oath of office.

And that support cemented its status as a nonissue. Which was good for everybody. One function of anti-gay Republican rhetoric had been to distract voters from GOP legislation that, by welcoming cheap labor into the United States and encouraging the exportation of jobs, doomed many of those voters to a lifetime of low wages, if not outright unemployment and penury.

Trump helped those voters to see, at long last, what establishment Republicans, in collusion with Democrats, had done to them. He made it clear that his mission was to undo all that economic devastation. And part and parcel of his plan included setting aside, once and for all, the absurd, distracting and (frankly) cruel sound and fury about gay rights.

As a consequence, Trump’s presidency witnessed a sudden flowering of high-profile openly gay conservatives in the media, people like Guy Benson, Rob Smith, Dave Rubin, Brandon Straka, The Spectator’s own Chadwick Moore and Douglas Murray, Andy Ngo, and (not least) the magnificent Tammy Bruce. If you’d told me thirty years ago that in 2022 I’d be able to turn on a conservative discussion show (I’m thinking specifically of Fox News’s Gutfeld! here) and see openly gay people debating everything except gay rights, I’d never have believed you.

So it’s been deeply dismaying to see anti-gay sentiment bubbling up again on the right. Last December, Kevin Roberts, the new head of the Heritage Foundation, contended that no true conservative can support gay marriage; in the Hill in July, he reiterated that view at length, citing court cases over gay wedding cakes. I suspect that most gay Americans agree with him about the cakes. So, as it happens, does the Supreme Court, which in 2018 and 2019 sided with bakers who refused to provide pastry for same-sex nuptials. It’s hard not to see Roberts’s focus on this piddling issue as an attempt to bring back the bad old pre-Trump days of inane, reflexive GOP gay-bashing.

For Heaven’s sake, there’s even a frequent guest on Tim Pool’s popular podcast — a young guy in his twenties named Seamus Coughlin — who the other day broke into a rant about “homosexual behavior.” Still, not all the current anti-gay grumbling is inexplicable. Radical “queer” activists — who stalled gay-rights progress for years by foregrounding flamboyant fools as representative of the “community” while smearing solid gay citizens as “straight-acting” and “assimilationist” — now test the limits of heterosexual tolerance with nonsense like “Drag Queen Story Hour,” which unapologetically attempts to sexualize small children.

This year especially, Pride Month came off like a thirty-day-long act of aggression. Once upon a time, the sight of a small rainbow flag outside a bar could make a gay person feel less alone in an unfamiliar city; now, mass displays of that flag — which during the entire month of June seemed ubiquitous — came off as fascistic attempts to compel public obeisance. The unfortunate fact is that all too many radical gays — the same kind who fought against gay marriage and other mainstream goals — have exploited the mainstreaming of homosexuality to their own autocratic ends.

Then there’s the dangerous, ideology-driven transgender movement, which has nothing to do with being gay but that its proponents have strategically — and with immense success — hitched to the cart of gay rights. This linkage could not be more irrational, given that the current practice of telling effeminate boys that they’re really girls – rather than budding gay men, which is infinitely more likely — is nothing less than a noxious way of trying to eradicate homosexuality. (Plus a fact, let’s face it: there’s nobody who’s less interested in trespassing on a women’s locker room than a gay man.)

The image of gays hasn’t been done any favors, either, by the widely reported refusal of a few promiscuous, puerile and staggeringly entitled gays to alter their grotesquely self-indulgent sexual habits to help contain monkeypox. Similarly, the reluctance of many medical authorities to be straightforward about the way in which the monkeypox virus is spread reinforces the impression that an exceedingly delicate concern for gay sensitivities is being given priority over honest diagnosis and responsible healthcare. Can anyone be surprised when supposedly free people who for over two years were subjected to illogical government restrictions on their daily activities, purportedly because of the Covid virus, aren’t exactly delighted to see the CDC being suddenly hesitant to tell gay people to avoid activities that demonstrably lead to the spread of the monkeypox?

Last but not least, of course, there’s the overturning of Roe v. Wade. When Clarence Thomas, in his Dobbs v. Jackson opinion, suggested that Obergefell might be next, the floodgates opened. Ted Cruz was only one of many leading Republicans who expressed enthusiasm over the prospect. Hence the Respect for Marriage Act, which seeks to enshrine gay marriage in federal law, and which passed the House on July 19 with the support of fewer than one in four Republicans.

By all accounts, it faces steep odds in the Senate. Given that gay marriage enjoys majority (or at least plurality) support in all but two states – Arkansas and Mississippi – this opposition is not just ugly, it’s stupid. For at a time when the Democrats are increasingly ruthless in their use of power against political opponents, it’s vital that Republicans stand up for individual liberty and equal treatment under the law – and that they not foul up their chance to regain the White House and Congress by returning to their old anti-gay playbook.

This article was originally published in The Spectator’s September 2022 World edition.