My own instincts on the gay rights question have always been classically liberal/small-c conservative/libertarian. I think hate is an eternal part of the human condition, and that ridding oneself of it is a personal, moral duty not a collective, political imperative. I never want to live in a society in which homophobes feel obliged to shut up. I believe their freedom is indivisible from ours. Their hate only says something about them, not me. I oppose hate crime laws for those reasons. And my attachment to open debate means constantly allowing even the foulest sentiments to be expressed – the better to confront them, expose them and also truly persuade people of the wrongness of their views – rather than pressuring them into submission or silence. Others have a different vision: that such bigotry needs extra punishment by the state (hence hate-crime laws), that bigots need to be constantly shamed, and that because of the profound evil of such thoughts, social pressure should be brought to bear to silence them. More to the point, past sins have to be recanted and repented before such bigots are allowed back into the conversation.
The Quality Of Mercy « Andrew Sullivan. I’ve said it before, but maybe it’s worth repeating: no one ever holds the second position Andrew describes here without being very, very confident that none of their cherished views will fall afoul of the law. This goes for liberals and conservatives, the religious and the anti-religious, all parties on all issues. Those who are aware of the ebbs and flows of history will be reluctant to employ a weapon that could eventually be turned against them; those who believe in the permanent dominance of Our Side will move ahead boldly with their prohibitions.