Right-leaning advocates of gay marriage called for acceptance at the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference, urging liberals to display more tolerance when addressing the issues of gay marriage and religious liberty.
“This conversation that we are having right now literally couldn’t happen at a left-wing conference, because we’d all be hounded off the stage and booed,” Guy Benson, Fox News contributor and TownHall.com editor, said during a religious liberty panel. “I think this speaks well of our movement and poorly of their movement.”
“They are hounding heretics ruthlessly from their midst to the point that if you’re a Democrat, if you’re a liberal and you might hold traditional views on marriage, you probably don’t want to talk about it very much for fear of the wrath and judgment of your fellow so-called open-minded leftists,” he added.
Benson, who came out as gay last year, told his three fellow panelists that he was “personally gratified” by the the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision but that he disagrees with the “mandatory celebration” of gay marriage
By “mandatory celebration,” Benson was referring to the small businesses owners who he believes have been forced by the government to provide wedding-related services to same-sex couples against their religious convictions.
“Agree with us or else,” Benson said. “Mandatory celebration or we’re coming after you. And that is where I say, ‘No, thank you, I am not aboard this train anymore.’”
Benson was joined on the panel by Ilya Shapiro, a fellow in constitutional studies at the Cato Institute. Shapiro, like Benson, supports gay marriage but draws the line at forcing bakers, photographers, florists, and other small business owners into providing services for events that go against their religious beliefs.
“It’s not like the gay couple that wants flowers or photography has no recourse if this particular vendor doesn’t serve them,” Shapiro said, referring to the case against Barronelle Stutzman, the Washington florist who was sued for refusing to make flower arrangements for a gay couple’s wedding. “Beyond the religious issues, there’s a free speech First Amendment issue there.”
Turning the tables, Shapiro added, “I can’t believe that you would force the gay bakers to bake a cake for the Westboro Baptist Church.”
Westboro Baptist Church is known for its hate speech against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.
The Heritage Foundation’s Ryan T. Anderson, who opposes the Supreme Court’s “redefinition of marriage,” disagreed with Shapiro on the fundamental definition of marriage but credited him and Benson for their willingness to respectfully engage in debate and defend Anderson’s ability to live out his religious beliefs.
“He doesn’t think that it’s a debate between his side and bigots and idiots,” Anderson said. “So as a result, Ilya [Shapiro] is also willing to protect my freedom now to live in accordance with my beliefs. Same with Guy [Benson].”
The fourth panelist, Mollie Hemingway, addressed how she changed her position. Formerly, she wanted the government not to be involved in gay marriage.
“When I had a different position … they didn’t say that I was this awful person, they didn’t try to call me names, they just tried to reason with me,” Hemingway said. “And that made a difference for me. If you are open-minded and you can have these conversations, we can come to agreement or disagreement if we do it civilly.”
Now, however, Hemingway said, “What we’re seeing more is a crushing of dissent at a tiny, local level.”
Instead, Benson and his fellow panelists said it’s time for same-sex marriage supporters to rethink the idea of “coexistence.”
Those “coexist” bumper stickers “that they love on the left,” Benson said, calling them “a little morality billboard on your fender to demonstrate what a wonderfully good person you are for fellow motorists,” need to be used to promote a more authentic form of tolerance.
“What coexistence really looks like in America today,” he said, “is disagreeing with someone on marriage and not trying to sue their business out of existence because they disagree.”