Matthew Yglesias nails it:
I think this explains a lot about the appeal of anti-gay crusades to social conservative leaders. Most of what “traditional values” asks of people is pretty hard. All the infidelity and divorce and premarital sex and bad parenting and whatnot take place because people actually want to do the things traditional values is telling them not to do. And the same goes for most of the rest of the Christian recipe. Acting in a charitable and forgiving manner all the time is hard. Loving your enemies is hard. Turning the other cheek is hard.Human nature being what it is, we can pretty easily imagine the anti-gay crusaders having NO problem with taking up the banner for this cause, probably in a sense of relief that they aren't asked to really address anything that might actually affect them.
Homosexuality is totally different. For a small minority of the population, of course, the injunction “don’t have sex with other men!” (or, as the case may be, other women) is painfully difficult to live up to. But for the vast majority of people this is really, really easy to do. Campaigns against gay rights, gay people, and gay sex thus have a lot of the structural elements of other forms of crusading against sexual excess or immorality, but they’re not really asking most people to do anything other than become self-righteous about their pre-existing preferences.
It's very easy to tell someone else to suck it up and carry a cross--as long as you don't have to carry it with them.
My mom used to exhort me to consider "walking a mile in the other person's moccasins" (something I'm still not very good at; BP will tell you that I am an opinionated and fierce partisan). But really, isn't that what we all have to struggle to do before we judge anyone?
Yglesias in turn points us to a column by Ross Douthat in the NY Times:
More than most Westerners, Americans believe — deeply, madly, truly — in the sanctity of marriage. But we also have some of the most liberal divorce laws in the developed world, and one of the highest divorce rates. We sentimentalize the family, but boast one of the highest rates of unwed births. We’re more pro-life than Europeans, but we tolerate a much more permissive abortion regime than countries like Germany or France. We wring our hands over stem cell research, but our fertility clinics are among the least regulated in the world.
In other words, we’re conservative right up until the moment that it costs us.