Remember too that the battle for full equality will be won in the political center. Liberals are with us already; homophobes will never come around. We have made progress by persuading the persuadable center that our loves and our families pose no harm to others, no threat to mainstream values. Especially now that majority support is swinging behind us, going the extra mile to be reasonable, and to seem reasonable, is essential.
Not every religious accommodation is valid, and it’s not always clear where to draw all the lines. But the smart approach is to bend toward accommodation, not away from it, whenever we can live with the costs. Of course, any kind of discrimination exacts a cost, if only to our dignity. Tolerating intolerance is painful. But the Indiana University students who took their cupcake order to another bakery and called for dialogue got it exactly right. If evangelical students want to have a campus Christian group that requires allegiance to biblical (read: antigay) principles, we can live with that. If Catholic Charities doesn’t want to place children for adoption with same-sex couples in Massachusetts but lots of other agencies will make the placement, we can live with that too. Even if you don’t happen to believe, as I do, that religious liberty is, like gay equality, a basic human right, the pragmatic case for religious accommodations is clear: Being seen as a threat to religious freedom is not in our interest.