How growing support for gay rights restricts religious freedom

Politics in a free society shouldn't be used to stamp out the views of those who dissent from prevailing opinion

Same-sex marriage advocates at a sit-in protest in San Francisco on Feb. 14.
(Image credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Hardly a week passes without a major story documenting the march of homosexuality into the American mainstream. In the latest development, more than 100 prominent members of the GOP — a party that less than a decade ago spearheaded an effort to pass a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage — have signed a legal brief urging the Supreme Court to declare that gay people have a constitutional right to marry. This follows on the heels of news that the Obama administration has filed its own brief with the high court in favor of overturning the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage in federal law as a union between a man and woman.

We are living through an astonishing cultural and political sea change — one that looks likely to expand significantly the frontiers of liberty and equality in the United States. That's something that rapidly expanding numbers of Americans are prepared to accept and even applaud. But not all of them. A significant number of our fellow citizens (between a third and a half) affirm traditionalist religious views about sex and marriage that preclude them from embracing the new order. Some of these traditionalists have begun to worry — and not for frivolous reasons — that the widespread recognition of same-sex marriage will be followed by a public campaign to stamp out their dissent from the emerging pro-gay consensus.

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Damon Linker

Damon Linker is a senior correspondent at He is also a former contributing editor at The New Republic and the author of The Theocons and The Religious Test.