If opponents of same-sex marriage are bigots who discriminate against gays and lesbians, then they are also suggesting that President Barack Obama is a bigot, conservative leader Ralph Reed said during a spirited debate Sunday on "Meet the Press."
Reed, who leads the Faith and Freedom Coalition, was pushing back against comments made by MSNBC host Rachel Maddow that opposing gay marriage is discrimination.
"Gay people exist," Maddow said. "There's nothing we can do in public policy that makes more of us exist or less of us exist. And you guys have been arguing for a generation that public policy ought to essentially demean gay people as a way of expressing disapproval of the fact that we exist. But you don't make any less of us exist. You are just arguing in favor of discrimination."
"I really can't let that go," Reed interjected.
"This suggestion that somebody wants to affirm the institution of marriage, that they're ipso facto intolerant, by that argument Barack Obama was intolerant," Reed said.
Maddow's argument means that 342 members of the House and 85 members of the Senate, including Vice President Joe Biden, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, and former President Bill Clinton "were intolerant and motivated by an animus and hatred for gays," Reed said.
That's the checklist of politicians who supported the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, parts of which were struck down this week by the Supreme Court.
But Obama's opposition to gay marriage was more recent, 14 months ago. "Was he a bigot 14 months ago?" Reed asked.
Host David Gregory told Reed and former Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, the conservative leader of the Heritage Foundation, that "to oppose gay marriage is to deny dignity" and that the Republicans were "viewed in many quarters as being intolerant of gay rights."
Legalizing gay marriage, DeMint replied, would "deny dignity to millions of Americans who for moral or religious reasons believe gay marriage is wrong."
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