These 6 Same-Sex Marriage Supporters Also Support Religious Freedom

Supporters of same-sex marriage appear to increasingly hold the view that for gay rights to expand, religious freedom must shrink. Some same-sex marriage supporters, though, are pushing back against that trend.

Before states began recognizing some same-sex unions as a marriage, proponents of same-sex marriage made a "live and let live argument:" opponents of same-sex marriage will not be harmed, let same-sex marriages be recognized by the government and it will have no impact on anyone else, the argument went.

In a short period of time, that argument has been replaced with an effort to use the power of the state to punish some who believe that marriage can only be between one man and one woman. In the words of author Heather Wilhelm, "live and let live" has become "you will be assimilated" and all must become part of the Borg collective.

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Some same-sex marriage supporters, though, are pushing back against the Borg mindset. Here are six of them.

Conor Friedersdorf

Same-sex marriage should be legal in all 50 states, Friedersdorf believes. But he does not want to coerce those who disagree with him, and own wedding-related businesses, to do something they do not want to do.

Writing for The Atlantic, Friedersdorf said that he personally knows Catholics who would not only decline a same-sex wedding invitation, but they would decline invites for second marriages and weddings that do not take place as part of a Mass as well.

While he does not share those opinions, Friedersdorf said he "can respect their right to think differently," and he does not believe they would decline a same-sex wedding invitation "because they have anything against gays, but because they're committed to participating only in sacramental marriage as their church defines it, ...."

"I certainly don't think they should be coerced into doing otherwise if they own a wedding-related business," he added. "Is it really worth depriving a tiny religious minority of following their conscience or their livelihood to make a point that has little bearing on gay equality?"

Andrew Koppelman

Koppelman, professor of law and political science at Northwestern University School of Law, is a long-time supporter of gay rights and gay marriage. He also believes that those who disagree with him should have the freedom to live according to their beliefs.

"I've worked very hard to create a regime in which it is safe to be gay. I would also like that regime to be one in which it is safe to be a religious dissenter," Koppelman said in November at a Federalist Society conference.

"The strongest argument for accommodation (of wedding photographers who object to photographing a same-sex wedding) here is a pretty simple one: there are lots of other wedding photographers," he explained.

Douglas Laycock

During the debate over passage of Arizona's S.B. 1062, a bill that would have clarified the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act, critics claimed the bill would allow business owners to ban gays from public accommodations. A group of 11 law professors sent Ariz. Gov. Jan Brewer (R) a letter explaining that the bill would not do that and those critics are "trying to deceive you."

One of the signers of that letter was Douglas Laycock, Robert E. Scott Distinguished Professor of Law at University of Virginia School of Law, who supports same-sex marriage and religious freedom. He explained his position on the Arizona bill for The Volokh Conspiracy, a Washington Post blog.

The bill, he wrote, "was egregiously misrepresented both before and after the veto. ... These laws enact a uniform standard – substantial burden and compelling interest – to be interpreted and applied to individual cases by courts. They rest on the sound premise that we should not punish people for practicing their religion unless we have a very good reason."

Damon Linker

Linker, senior correspondent at, supports gay marriage and is "cheered" by all the recent gains by those who agree with him. At the same time, he is "troubled by the equally stunning lack of charity, magnanimity, and tolerance displayed by many gay marriage advocates."

Same-sex marriage supporters, he said, "don't just want to win the legal right to marry. They don't just want most Americans to recognize and affirm the equal dignity of their relationships. They appear to want and expect all Americans to recognize and affirm that equal dignity, under penalty of ostracism from civilized life.

"That is an unacceptable, illiberal demand."

In a liberal democracy, Linker concluded, "traditionalist religious believers are our fellow citizens and neighbors, and the United States is as much their country as it is ours."

William Saletan

Saletan, a writer for the liberal website Slate, says that he has long been a "fan of gay marriage" and was the best man in a same-sex wedding 23 years ago. Looking at how his fellow same-sex marriage supporters treat those who disagree with them, however, he is "disturbed by what I see today."

"We're stereotyping and vilifying opponents of gay marriage the way we've seen gay people stereotyped and vilified. This is a deeply personal moral issue. To get it right, we need more than justice. We need humanity," he wrote.

Andrew Sullivan

Sullivan, founding editor for The Dish, is a gay, married man who describes himself as a conservative and an Obama supporter. To supporters of traditional marriage, whom he refers to as "fundamentalists" and "bigots," Sullivan says, "live and let live."

"My view is that in a free and live-and-let-live society, we should give them space," he wrote. "As long as our government is not discriminating against us, we should be tolerant of prejudice as long as it does not truly hurt us. And finding another florist may be a bother, and even upsetting, .... But we can surely handle it. And should."

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