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A group of nearly 60 prominent same-sex marriage supporters recently signed a statement encouraging “a decent respect for differing opinions.”  The statement, entitled “Freedom to Marry, Freedom to Dissent: Why We Must Have Both,” was published on April 22nd and outlined the concern that some same-sex marriage supporters aim to punish dissenters rather than working to persuade them.

The statement primarily refers to the recent resignation of Brendan Eich as CEO of Mozilla after it was publicized that he made a $1,000 contribution in 2008 in support of California’s same-sex marriage ban, Proposition 8.

“We are concerned that recent events, including the resignation of the CEO of Mozilla under pressure because of an anti-same-sex- marriage donation he made in 2008, signal an eagerness by some supporters of same-sex marriage to punish rather than to criticize or to persuade those who disagree,” the statement says.  “We reject that deeply illiberal impulse, which is both wrong in principle and poor as politics.”

The statement goes on to affirm that open society and vigorous public debate are necessary for our society, and are part of the reason why the “last few years have brought an astonishing moral and political transformation in the American debate over same-sex marriage and gay equality.”  It brings up the point that Brendan Eich’s donation was a personal political action taken when “the majority of the American public shared his view” and that Eich was not accused of practicing any form of discrimination against Mozilla employees.

“We strongly believe that opposition to same-sex marriage is wrong, but the consequence of holding a wrong opinion should not be the loss of a job. Inflicting such consequences on others is sadly ironic in light of our movement’s hard-won victory over a social order in which LGBT people were fired, harassed, and socially marginalized for holding unorthodox opinions.”

Signatories to the statement include Margaret Hoover of the American Unity Fund, former Republican Representative Jim Kolbe, President of the R Street Institute Eli Lehrer, businessman Ken Mehlman, and Leah Ward Sears, former Georgia Supreme Court Justice.