Most people have probably ran across the Milgram Experiment, no?
Simply, Milgram brought into his lab subjects ostensibly for a test on learning. He also hired actors to play the subjects of the leaning experiment; they were ostensibly the "learner". The subjects were told by the experimenter their job was to be the teacher and to give the learner, held in the next room, a shock for poor performance. As the experiment progressed the simulated shocks were to be turned up by the teacher and went from mild to, eventually, deadly. In short, the majority of "teachers" were willing to subject the "learners" to enough voltage to cause apparent agony, and eventually death, while under the supervision of a trusted authority figure.
These are regular people off the street, willing to torture and murder their fellow human beings. What's worse is that most people could not resist authority.
"Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority."
65% of the subjects went all the way to the end of the experiment.
When the experiment was repeated with the "learner" being a puppy instead of an actor, 77% of the subject went all the way to the end.
So what kind of chance does a guy, a "learner" who's truly hooked up to the voltage, have? Particularly when he's trying to get equal treatment for his family and keep his marriage from being debased and annulled, not anything as extreme as to keep from dying (and I'm not as cute as a puppy)?
What are the odds of changing another person's mind, a teacher's mind, and keep them from pushing that button on the voting machine, particularly when the authority figure in their head speaks for God? That's right, God! What chance does a regular guy have?
Sure, I have some sympathy for the teacher's predicament, and how can you judge a human quality most of us own? Most people are susceptible to this.
Nevertheless, they know they're hurting us in ways they'd never want their family hurt, that their actions are "incompatible with fundamental standards of morality". Some of them will excuse their conscience to do it and, as the subjects in this experiment did, some will do it with great regret and hesitation. But most will be damned sure to do it, and regret means little when the shocks are real. The worst part is that our families are not actors behind a wall, undergoing simulated harm. No matter how much they try to talk themselves into thinking domestic partnerships hold the same rights as marriage, we are trapped at their whim and the harm is still real and here.
Closer to home, it seems over a third of the money for Proposition 8 has come from the LDS. I'm simultaneously heartened and sad to think most all of them probably feel they are doing what they should here. I'm sure most think they are doing what's right and by their own free will (if an experimenter just told a teacher to kill a man, or puppy they surely would not choose to; he must see himself as having chosen to be a part of something first).
It's just unique that, in this case, the experimenter is found more in an actual person, than the books or disembodied memes acting as experimenter for other protestants and Muslims and so on. All it'd take is a change of heart in the "experimenter". If one man, the leader of that church, tomorrow told his followers they should fight against Proposition 8, we all know what's right and what's felt to be done on free will would change for most of those activists. Still, the odds of that happening aren't large enough to guess at. Though, I've been surprised with the LDS change from the election 4 years ago to this year, a religion can't change on a dime without hurting its authority.
Eh, some days, not having a leader can be difficult; life is complicated and there are big questions on which most everyone would like guidance. But I think of the Milgram Experiment and many lessons taught to us through history and I'm glad to be unable to say I'm following orders (unless they're from my husband... or, if I'm really tired and off my guard, from my kids).